Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football
By: Rich Cohen
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 29, 2013)
Monsters, as the extended title eludes, is a book about the NFL’s 1985 Chicago Bears. Of course, that is how it starts. As you read, it becomes about the game of football itself. And then, in the narrative non-fiction way that Cohen writes, Monsters becomes a story about football, the town of Chicago, and Cohen himself. Cohen travels around and interviews old players and coaches from the team and intertwines these interviews with both the history of football and how he experienced the 1985 season as a fan. Back in 1985 Cohen even traveled to watch the game in person. Interestingly, Cohen grew up in Chicago and the 1985 Super Bowl was played in New Orleans, where Cohen later attended Tulane. I think this is not just a football book. This is a book for everyone.
Two of my favorite quotes:
For me, Chicago will always be as it was in the mid-1980s. That was the city as I loved it, the world at noon. It was Greek Town and Wrigley Field and beers at the Checkerboard Lounge. It was days at the beach and nights on the toboggan and house parties in Winnetka. It was being chased by the cops and sneaking out and the city in the distance. It was Howlin’ Wolf and red hots at Big Al’s and frosty malts and denim jackets and girls in penny loafers and stone-washed jeans. Every other place is measured against the city when the world was whole. That’s when I was young and my parents were young and my brother and sister were home and we huddled together when the big snows came. When I look at my own children, I am filled with envy. Everyone lives in Eden and everyone gets banished. Everyone falls from grace just for being alive.
Football is an angry game, played with punishing violence. People get destroyed on the field, lives end. It makes sense that its first star was someone who’d already lost everything, a ruined man, ill-treated, stripped to his essential qualities: speed, strength, power. Jim Thorpe is the spirit of the game. Every NFL hit still carries the fury of the disgraced Indian, prowling the field, seeking justice.