Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football

Rich Cohen

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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The gripping account of a once-in-a-lifetime football team and their lone championship season

For Rich Cohen and millions of other fans, the 1985 Chicago Bears were more than a football team: they were the greatest football team ever—a gang of colorful nuts, dancing and pounding their way to victory. They won a Super Bowl and saved a city.

It was not just that the Monsters of the Midway won, but how they did it. On offense, there was high-stepping running back Walter Payton and Punky QB Jim McMahon, who had a knack for pissing off Coach Mike Ditka as he made his way to the end zone. On defense, there was the 46: a revolutionary, quarterback-concussing scheme cooked up by Buddy Ryan and ruthlessly implemented by Hall of Famers such as Dan “Danimal” Hampton and “Samurai” Mike Singletary. On the sidelines, in the locker rooms, and in bars, there was the never-ending soap opera: the coach and the quarterback bickering on TV, Ditka and Ryan nearly coming to blows in the Orange Bowl, the players recording the “Super Bowl Shuffle” video the morning after the season’s only loss.

Cohen tracked down the coaches and players from this iconic team and asked them everything he has always wanted to know: What’s it like to win? What’s it like to lose? Do you really hate the guys on the other side? Were you ever scared? What do you think as you lie broken on the field? How do you go on after you have lived your dream but life has not ended?

The result is Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, a portrait not merely of a team but of a city and a game: its history, its future, its fallen men, its immortal heroes. But mostly it’s about being a fan—about loving too much. This is a book about America at its most nonsensical, delirious, and joyful.

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Book Excerpts

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1
THE SUPER BOWL SHUFFLE
 
 
 
In the winter of 1986, in a manner I won’t bother to go into, I came into possession of two tickets to Super Bowl XX. The Chicago Bears, the Monsters of the Midway, would play the New England Patriots in the Superdome in New Orleans. I was a senior in high school and this was my first great Chicago team, the Bears having last won a title in 1963, half a decade before I was born. The Chicago Cubs had last taken the World Series in 1908, when my Grandpa Morris was walking behind a mule in Poland.

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Praise for Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football

Praise for Monsters:

“Every year brings a Super Bowl, World Series, NBA, and Stanley Cup champion. All are duly noted and celebrated. But a memorable few have greater and more lasting resonance, a standing that excellence alone cannot explain. The 1985 Chicago Bears were such a team, a mélange of talents and outsize personalities that captivated and embodied a city. Rich Cohen experienced it as an obsessed seventeen-year-old. Almost three decades on, he remains obsessed—entertainingly and insightfully so, but obsessed nonetheless. His combination of reporting and remembrance is by turns evocative, revealing, quirky, and funny as hell—or at least as funny as Gary Fencik doing the Super Bowl Shuffle.” —Bob Costas

“For anyone from Chicago, or anyone with any sense, the ’85 Bears are the best team there ever was, and Rich Cohen has written the book we’ve always wanted. It’s got all the people you want to hear from: Ditka, McMahon, Singletary, Wilson, Fencik, and, thank God, the incomparable and too-often-forgotten Doug Plank. This book—full of soul and searching, and also knock-you-down funny—is not just a great sports book, not just a great Chicago book, but a great book, period.” —Dave Eggers, who grew up two miles from the Bears practice facility

“Rich Cohen’s Monsters is the best book on professional football I know—the best because the most truthful.” —Joseph Epstein, The Wall Street Journal

“A riveting account of one of football’s most iconic teams, the 1985 Chicago Bears, features frank interviews with the players and coaches.” —People Magazine

“As much as it is about the ’85 Bears, Monsters is an emotional education of football and ‘the Stone Age pleasure of watching large men battle to the point of exhaustion.’ At one point, Cohen attributes Halas for the development of football’s emphasis on the passing game: ‘It was Halas, as much as anyone, who invented the modern NFL offense and lifted the game from the ground into the air.’ You can’t help but think that Cohen’s doing the same thing here for sports narratives.” —Kevin Nguyen, Grantland

“Entire forests have given their lives to the pursuit of the truth about Mongo, the Fridge, Danimal and other larger-than-life characters on Da Coach’s rambunctious squad. The search ends with Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, out this week . . . Author Rich Cohen was a 17-year-old New Trier High School senior as the Bears were laying waste to the NFL in 1985 . . . his quest to understand the attraction 28 years later makes for a story that reflects Chicago—rough, tough and defiant to a man, the ’85 Bears are the embodiment of this city’s self-image . . . It is Cohen’s skillful compilation and shrewd interpretation of the total package that make the book work. He combines intelligence and insight with a reporter’s eye for detail and a novelist’s writing chops . . . What Cohen’s book does better than its predecessors is transform its subjects from cartoon characters—think Mongo McMichael’s boozy gentlemen’s club commercials—into real people with talents, flaws, loves, hates, fears, pleasures, anxieties, joys . . . human beings, just like the rest of us, only bigger, faster, stronger, tougher, braver, etc.” —Dan McGrath, The Chicago Sun-Times

“Rich Cohen writes the best stuff—people, scenes, sentences, drunks, big men, fine women, jokes, impressions, secrets—in America.” —David Lipsky, author of Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

“The Chicago Bears are one of the most fascinating franchises and compelling stories in football. From Mr. Halas to Mr. Ditka, from the Fridge to McMahon, it’s been one of the wild rides of the NFL. Rich Cohen has captured the spirit of a team and an era, its heart and mind, its great triumphs. It’s a wonderful story filled with characters with character. It doesn’t get any better.” —Joe Theismann, Super Bowl–winning quarterback, Washington Redskins

Monsters is a remarkable book, beautifully written, but that’s beside the point. You think you’re going to read a football book but you wind up reading about America, about who we are—you and me—and even why. And Rich Cohen has accomplished this feat through portraits of some of the greatest characters ever to have charged onto a football field and then left it.” —Ira Berkow, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

“Rich Cohen wrote it his own bleeping way and the result is a monster of a book. I’m a Packers guy, but I respect the Bears, our oldest rivals, and loved this book.” —David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered

“The triumphant and tragic saga of the 1985 Chicago Bears and the aftermath of their historic championship season is a subject worthy of epic poetry. In Rich Cohen, the Monsters of the Midway have found their bard. Joyous yet mournful, inspirational yet irreverent, celebratory yet unsparing, Cohen’s Monsters is an Aeneid for football lovers, blowin’ our minds just like we knew it would.” —Adam Langer, author of Crossing California, The Thieves of Manhattan, and The Salinger Contract

“A fan’s engaging yet ultimately melancholy love letter to his beloved team and his hometown. ‘Pick your team carefully, because your team is your destiny.’ Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone contributor Cohen’s father’s solemn advice can be easily understood by sports fans. However, other readers will enjoy this entertaining, if profane, history of the 1985 NFL champion Chicago Bears . . . Cohen’s telling of the Bears’ founding and its tradition of nastiness is by turns devastating, regarding the irreparable harm done to players’ bodies and minds, and moving, as when he explains that Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton was ‘Chicago as Chicago wanted to be: a fighter . . . who’s been knocked down but always gets back up.’ Cohen thankfully avoids sentimentality and doesn’t bog readers down in lengthy game reports or analyses. The author is at his best in the interviews with 32 retired players and executives who offer their impressions of the Bears’ famed ‘46’ defense, ‘the most devastating force in football,’ and its characters, including the Hit Man, Mongo, the Black & Blues Brothers and, most famously, the Fridge. Ideal for Chicagoans, both casual and die-hard sports fans and anyone who wonders, ‘What happens when you have a dream and that dream comes true?’” —Kirkus

“I just finished a book [Monsters] I thought was pretty close to perfect. Which simply means Rich Cohen picked a subject that matters to me and wrote exactly the book I wanted to read about it . . . Cohen writes one strong, creative sentence after another . . . Because the author understands football, he asks the former Bears intelligent questions and they open up to him. His explanation of Buddy Ryan’s fabled 46 defense beats anything I’d read before.” —Michael Miner, The Chicago Reader


Praise for The Fish That Ate the Whale

“Absorbing, nimble and unapologetically affectionate . . . Mr. Cohen is a wonderfully visceral storyteller . . . It’s a magnificent, crazy story, engagingly told.” —Aaron Gell, New York Observer


In the Press

Why the 1985 Bears Were So Perfect for Chicago
In an excerpt from his new book, 'Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football,' Glencoe native Rich Cohen remembers growing up with a team that destroyed its opponents and captivated the city.
- Chicago Magazine


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About the Author

Rich Cohen

Rich Cohen, a New York Times bestselling author, grew up on the North Shore of Chicago, where he died with the Cubs and was reborn with the Bears. He has written ten books and a host of magazine articles for, among others, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, and Vanity Fair, where he’s a contributing editor. Cohen has won the Great Lakes Book Award and the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, and his essays have been included in The Best American Essays and The Best American Travel Writing. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three sons, but is plotting his return to Chicagoland.

Rich Cohen

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Rich Cohen

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Available Formats and Book Details

Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football
Rich Cohen

Award

Amazon.com Best Books of the Year, Chicago Tribune Best Books of the Year

Hardcover

Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
October 2013
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780374298685
ISBN10: 0374298688
6 x 9 inches, 352 pages, 37 Black-and-White Illustrations/Notes/Bibliography/Index
$26.00

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
10/14/2014
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781250056047
ISBN10: 1250056047
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 352 pages, Includes 37 black-and-white photographs throughout
$16.00

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
October 2013
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9780374708955
ISBN10: 0374708959
352 pages, 37 Black-and-White Illustrations/Notes/Bibliography/Index
$12.99
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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