President Obama meets with 1985 Bears
Twenty-six years after laying claim to the NFL's famed Lombardi Trophy, the 1985 Chicago Bears were recognized in a ceremony at the White House Friday.
The Super Bowl XX victors never took part in the customary event. The team's initial planned visit was derailed by the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster just two days after the Bears' 46-10 win over the New England Patriots in New Orleans.
Flanked by Hall of Famer Mike Ditka and renowned defensive guru Buddy Ryan, President Barack Obama — a devout Bears fan — finally paid homage to arguably one of the best teams in NFL history.
"This is about as much fun as I will have as President of the United States," Obama said as he stepped up to the podium on the White House South Lawn with the members of the 1985 Bears team gathered behind him.
"The day after Super Bowl XX half a million Chicagoans turned out in 25-below wind chill weather to welcome the champs back from New Orleans.
"But sadly the day after that we endured a national tragedy as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff. And so the moment for the Bears to visit the White House was postponed and the years went by. But shortly after I took office, someone at the NFL realized, 'Hey there's a Bears fan living in the White House' and they called my staff and asked if we could make this happen.
"And so today I'm proud to say to the players, to the coaches, to the staff of the 1985 Bears, welcome to the White House for this well-deserved and long overdue recognition."
Led by Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton and one of the fiercest defenses to ever play the game, the 1985 Bears dominated the competition that year, beating teams by a margin of 456-198 to go 15-1 on the season.
Even after the team's only loss against the Miami Dolphins in Week 13, the confident Bears recorded a rap music video entitled, "The Super Bowl Shuffle," which sold more than a half-million copies and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Obama, who in 1985 moved to Chicago at age 24 to work as a community organizer, was sure to honor the team's biggest star, Payton, who died in 1999 after a battling a rare liver disease.
Payton was "someone we all revered," the president said. "Even 12 years after we lost him, Chicago still loves 'Sweetness.'"
Despite fielding nine Pro Bowlers and four future Hall of Famers, the '85 Bears transcended their on-field play, with a roster of characters including flamboyant quarterback Jim McMahon and superstar rookie William "The Refrigerator" Perry, who bowled over opposing players when asked to carry the ball on the goal line.
Obama was sure to single out the outspoken McMahon, who showed up Friday wearing his trademark white headband.
"Don't break anything and keep an eye on McMahon," he quipped as he welcomed the players to enjoy the day's festivities.
Ditka presented Obama with a Bears jersey complete with his name and number 85 on the back.
"We're very proud you brought us here to honor us," Ditka said. "It's been 26 years after the fact and five administrations, but thank you."