Party like it’s 1986

The 1985 Bears are having a pretty good season. The 2011 Bears? Not so much.

After the Bears won the Super Bowl in 1986, they were going to the White House to meet with President Ronald Reagan when the space shuttle Challenger exploded after liftoff in Florida. I still remember finding out about it in the lunchroom of the high school I attended, and then passing the news along to my younger brother in the hallway that day (“Dude, the space shuttle exploded” was how I put it, I believe). It was one of those “remember what you were doing when you heard the news” moments.

The Bears’ trip to the White House was cancelled, and the Bears–who were unique in so many ways–remained the only team that won the Super Bowl but did not visit the White House. And the first president to actually come from Chicago rectified this earlier this month. Walter Payton wasn’t alive to see it, Dan Hampton chose not to attend, and the Fridge has all kinds of medical issues going on, so not all of the team was able to be there. And the Bears aren’t unique anymore, at least not in this sense.

I wrote a piece about the 1985 Bears, where I argued that maybe they have passed their period of relevance, and it’s time to let them go as these larger than life heroes in Chicago. The sad ending of Dave Duerson, who killed himself earlier this year by shooting himself in the chest, is just one example of the trouble that a lifetime of head injuries can cause. They lived life at the highest level, these players did, and life might now be waiting to extract some revenge.

I’ve written about a recent rummage sale I went to here. But the most interesting thing I acquired there is a Chicago Tribune from the morning after the Bears won the Super Bowl in 1986. It’s not a reprint, and it’s not one of those “special commemorative edition” papers that always seem to come out nowadays. This was just the paper you would expect to find on your front porch way back in 1986. All of the sections are there, and the paper has yellowed some but is otherwise intact. It’s about has close to a historical artifact as you can get, at least in terms of Chicago sports.

Some people–maybe even most–would see this as an item that could be sold on eBay. After all, they aren’t making any more of these things. Back when people still subscribed to newspapers, saving a paper when something big happened was a way of remembering that day’s events. There was no internet back then, and it would have sounded weird if someone from today’s world went back to explain it to them.

Somebody who was around back in 1986 realized that the Super Bowl was a big deal, so they saved the paper from that day. And now, a quarter of a century later, it’s in my hands. I’d like to flip through it and read about some of the stories that were making news in the city I would one day call home.

I’m certain that life has changed a lot in Chicago since 1986, just as it has everywhere else. And this might be my chance to understand just what those changes are. But there are also a lot of fanatical Bears fans out there, especially when it comes to the only Super Bowl winner this city has seen. Perhaps selling it for ten bucks–or whatever it might actually bring–would be a good return on a $3 investment at a rummage sale.

It seems clear that whatever I decide to do with it will say something about my values as a person. A 1986 Chicago newspaper, especially this one, could be like Niagra Falls, powering the creation of lots of new material for this blog. It isn’t like too many other 1986 papers are out there, after all. But money is money, and the scarcity of similar items like this shouldn’t be ignored.

I’ll be content to leave it on a shelf in my basement for now. And if it leaves that shelf, one way or the other, this will be the first place to know about it.

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