Amazing Tales from the Chicago Bears Sideline (A Book Review)

Amazing Tales from the Chicago Bears Sideline, authored by retired player Steve McMichael and journalists John Mullin and Phil Arvia, is a look back through Bears history without the feel of a football history book. Instead of reciting historical facts, milestones, coaches and key players from start to finish, it focuses on capturing interesting anecdotes from players and coaches of past Bears team. The book has two distinct perspectives.

Part I of the book starts in reverse chronological order from the Dick Jauron era and works its way through the Dave Wannstedt years, the reign of Mike Ditka, the early seasons with George Halas and finishes with sections on Walter Payton, Dick Butkus and the Packers. It is a journalist’s effort of story telling from various sources and direct quotes from former Bears like James “Big Cat” Williams, Dan Hampton and Ed O’Bradovich. It tells some in-the-huddle stories about the extreme failures of Cade McNown, how Bears management dropped the ball when trying to hire Dave McGinnis and how Mike Ditka ‘toed the line’ between being a “player’s coach” and a disciplinarian. The majority of the stories are well written and flow nicely with one another. I was not around to watch the birth of the Bears so tales from the early years and a chance to learn more about players like Gayle Sayers and Dike Butkus was enjoyable. Some players like “Big Cat” Williams were over-quoted but, overall, the authors did a nice job of weaving together a lot of somewhat related anecdotes into a cohesive book.

Part II of the book is told from former defensive tackle Steve McMichael’s point of view. It isn’t as chronological as Part I but covers his own early years, many Bears he crossed paths with, Ditka’s impact in Chicago and the Super Bowl season. If you’ve ever heard McMichael speak on sports radio or in person, you feel his voice coming through in this book. Each time I read “baby” in one of his stories I could hear his Texas accent in my head. Steve McMichael’s player-perspective is both honest and appealing. Unlike the stories in Part I, the author’s emotions come through in his writing. He lived these stories and that is the way he wrote. From his respect of Walter Payton’s athletic ability to his initial reaction of Jim McMahon’s arrival in Chicago, McMichael reflects on all key Bears from his time in Chicago. Also he provides his recollections from each game of the historical 1985 season and playoff run. Fans mostly remember the Super Bowl Shuffle, the lopsided box scores, the regular season loss to the Dolphins and the final victory against the Patriots. This is a chance to hear from someone who was on the field during that season. Steve McMichael is an ex-football player, not a professional writer. It isn’t the most eloquently written collection of short stories I’ve read but he accomplished exactly what was needed. He emotionally chronicles on-the-field and off-the-field stories from the most exciting time in Bears history.

Amazing Tales from the Chicago Bears Sideline is available on Amazon and is a worthwhile read for any Bear fan that would like hear some of the not-so-well-known stories in Chicago football history.

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