11.11 Football Sunday: The 1985 Bears: A Different Kind of Celebrity
Celeb Buzz: A Different Kind of Celebrity: Pro Athletes of the 1980’s & the 1985 Bears
Watching football every Sunday, has been one of my favorite hobbies for as long as I can remember. My dad, Brian Cabral, played football in the NFL for nine years with the Atlanta Falcons, the Green Bay Packers, and most notably for the Chicago Bears. He won the Super Bowl as a member of the 1985 Chicago Bears, regarded by many as the best football team of all time. I was born in November of 1981 in Chicago, and was just 4 years old when he played in the Super Bowl. He was a Linebacker, and played on the Bears Defense, which was revered and feared by all who faced them.
My dad grew up in Kailua, Hawaii, and started his professional football career as a fourth round draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons in the 1978 NFL Draft. He played two seasons with Atlanta, one season with Green Bay, and lastly six years with Chicago. He was a second string linebacker, definitely not the star and titled his own book, “Second String Champion.” But being second string was nothing to sneeze at, he was also the Captain of the Bears’ special teams, as member of the Super Bowl XX championship team in 1985. And of course, he earned a fantastic Super Bowl ring, he only wears for special occasions.
When people meet me, they are surprised I come from such an athletic family, known for their athletic excellence. I admit it, I didn’t even play any sports in high school, other than Cheerleading. My only few actual memories of Super Bowl XX are that one, I was left at home and didn’t go the game. And that two, I got the most amazing Barbie house in the world to play with, and my pom poms were the same as the actual Bears Cheerleaders. Important details, right?
It wasn’t until much later in my life that I realized or learned the awesomeness that was they 1985 Bears. Before there were athletes like Nelly, and Shaq who rapped about their athletic-ness, there were the 1985 Bears, in the “Super Bowl Shuffle”. They were celebrities, just like many professional athletes are today, but it a much different way. Pro football in the 1980’s was different than the current NFL for so many reasons. Mostly, the players simply didn’t make as much money. The Super Bowl bonuses were pretty awesome, enough to buy a Lamborghini if you wanted to, but nothing like the multi-millions given to players today. The other main difference has resulted in over 3,000 NFL veterans to sue the NFL, for health issues related to brain injuries received due to multiple concussions. More on this later.
I remember reading somewhere that the Bears victory season in 1985, touted a 15-1 record, with a combined score of 91-10, including two shutouts. The Bears defense, which my dad played on, gave up only 10 points, in their entire season. Much of this credit goes to Buddy Ryan, and his revolutionary “46 Defense”. Some of the most famous players, OF ALL TIME played on this team, including Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, “The Fridge”, and Jim McMahon their quarterback. But there was also Brian Cabral, a special teams Captain, who was awarded the Frito Lay “Unsung Hero” award after the Super Bowl. While players like Walter Payton wrote, “Sweetness” on his sweatband for games, my dad wrote my name, “Maile” on his.
One of the saddest things that happened to the 1985 Bears, was the explosion of the space shuttle, Challenger just two days after Super Bowl XX, killing all seven aboard and plunging the nation into mourning. A customary, and celebratory visit to the White House for the 1985 Bears just didn’t seem appropriate and the visit was cancelled. It wasn’t until October, 11th, 2012 that the Bears would get their invitation to visit the white house, from President Barack Obama. The Bears chartered planes and flew in players like Steve McMichael, Jim McMahon, Richard Dent, and Brian Cabral. After the entire group took a tour of the White House, players and coaches met privately with President Obama before heading outside onto a stage in front of the oval office for a 30-minute ceremony. During the ceremony, President Obama, a Chicago native, then declared the ’85 Bears the greatest team in NFL history, adding “I know that may get me into some trouble in some cities that I visit, but I believe it is the truth. Welcome to the White House for this well-deserved and long-overdue recognition.” During his speech, President Obama continued, “None of us had ever seen what happened that fall,” the President said. “Nobody had ever seen anything like it. The city was invigorated and brought together by this team. This team ruled the city and riveted the country. They were everywhere. They were like the Beatles. We loved this team. What made this team so captivating wasn’t just that they won, wasn’t just that they dominated. It was the way they did it. Yes, they were punishing. Yes, they were dominant. But they also had a lot of fun. You could tell they enjoyed playing together.”
In addition to Cabral, Dent, McMahon, McMichael and Butler, other players who visited the White House included Brad Anderson, Tom Andrews, Brian Baschnagel, Brian Cabral, Jimbo Covert, Pat Dunsmore, Gary Fencik, Jeff Fisher, Andy Frederick, Steve Fuller, Willie Gault, Shaun Gayle, Dennis Gentry, Mike Hartenstine, Jay Hilgenberg, Stefan Humphries, Tyrone Keys, Mitch Krenk, Ken Margerum, Dennis McKinnon, Emery Moorehead, Jim Morrissey, Reggie Phillips, Dan Rains, Thomas Sanders, Matt Suhey, Ken Taylor, Tom Thayer, Calvin Thomas, Cliff Thrift, Keith Van Horne, Henry Waechter, Otis Wilson and Tim Wrightman.
After his White House visit, I talked to my dad. He noted how hard it was for him to see his former coaches and fellow team mates in such poor medical health. These men, who had been at the peak of their career, in the best physical shape, during Super Bowl XX weren’t looking so great. Former team member Walter Payton had passed away. And, members of the team had battled cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and severe memory losses most likely due to repeated head trauma and permanent brain injuries. All this in addition to the men in wheel chairs, walkers and crutches from all kinds of hip and knee problems, replacements and joint degeneration.
It probably wasn’t a surprise to many when just about a year after their White House visit, a mega lawsuit was filed by approx. 3,000 NFL veterans for claims the League hid brain injury links from players. Even I remember my dad opening his speeches at speaking engagements with a story about being hit so hard, his helmet had turned around and he could only see out of the vent holes of the helmet. He briefly thought that it was perhaps the “white tunnel light” many have reported seeing when close to death, and the crowd always rawred in laughter hearing him describe how really, it was just his helmet that had been turned sideways in a tough hit. The joke was funny enough then, but not so funny now that research is bringing to light how much damage is done to the brain from repeated concussions.
Jim McMahon, the Bears 1985 quarterback and star, released in September of this year that he is battling early dementia. He toldsportingnews.com, back in the 1980’s, “They’d ask you questions, basic questions. Where are you, what day is it? Stuff like that. And if you were able to answer that and seem like you were OK, they would let you back in.” And, he continues that he now wishes he played a much safer sport, like Baseball, instead.
My older brother Kyle, my younger sister Mele, and my mother, Becky have all watched my dad age with grace. But he’s had multiple surgeries on his shoulder and knee, among other back issues, undoubtedly caused by his time playing in the NFL. Time will only tell if he develops any of the dementia or memory problems that have plagued his teammates. I pray to God, that he doesn’t.
Today my dad is a football coach, in his 24th season at the University of Colorado, for the same team he played for in college. He has coached for 5 different head coaches starting as a Graduate Assistant in 1989 and working his way up to Linebacker coach, and Assistant Head Coach. With the changing of each head coaching regime, from Bill McCartney, Rick Neuheisal, Gary Barnett, Dawn Hawkins, and Jon Embree each have rehired him back onto the staff. Anyone who knows the industry of coaching, staying with a team for 24 years, is simply un heard of for an assistant. In an eerily similar fashion, he has served as a “Second String Champion” at CU, ready to step up when they needed him. Just as he did in the NFL, as a self described “Second String Champion” he has stepped in as Interim Head Coach when both Gary Barnett and later Dawn Hawkins were fired. Hawkins was fired with just 3 wins and 6 loses in the middle of the season. When Cabral took over, he had won 2 games and lost one heartbreaking game to Nebraska. The head coaching job was then awarded to his long time friend and former colleague, Jon Embree. Together, my dad and Jon Embree have to rebuild the program at CU, but I have every belief that they can do it.
Many people have asked why he hasn’t left college football for the glitz, and money of the NFL. My guess would be that he enjoys mentoring the young and impressionable players he coaches in college. He can teach them about life, and not just about football. Some of his top players coached have earned some pretty amazing awards and have gone on to have impressive NFL careers. His former players include three All-Americans, Jordon Dizon (Butkus Award runner-up), Roman Hollowell (punt returner), Matt Russell (Butkus Award winner). He has coached twelve All-Big Eight/12 Performers including: Greg Biekert, Chad Brown, Dizon, Hollowell, Ted Johnson (Butkus Award runner-up), Michael Jones, Russell. And, Big 12 Defensive Players of the Year: Jordan Dizon. His roster of NFL Players/Draft Picks includes Greg Biekert, Greg Brown, Jordan Dizon, Ted Johnson, Ron Merkerson, Hannibal Navies, Russell, Jashon Sykes, Sean Tufts, and Drew Wahlroos.
During his career at Colorado, he had 297 tackles in his CU career (120 solo, 177 assisted), a number that still has him tied for 16th on Colorado’s all-time list. A unique fact is that he has coached 10 of the players, who have been ranked above him in this list including eight players on the list ahead of him: Matt Russell, Greg Biekert, Ted Johnson, Chad Brown, Michael Jones, Jashon Sykes, Thaddaeus Washington and Jordon Dizon.
I have always been a daddy’s girl, and am so proud to call myself a Cabral. I may not find a career in football, or athletics, but I hope I can live up to his excellence, and find my own “Super Bowl” to win. Brian Cabral was a celebrity in the 1980’s, as a member of the 1985 Bears Super Bowl Championship today. Today, he may not qualify for the term “celebrity” but he remains a star to me, a celebrity in his adoring daughters eyes.
* This post is from a Girl Power Hour featured blogger. It is not written, edited or endorsed by Girl Power Hour. The authors are solely responsible for content.