I can't remember the year, it was either the late sixties or very early in the 1970's. I was a huge Bears fan inspite of the fact that the team was, shall we say, less than good. In fact in all of 1969, the team managed to win only one game despite the fact that they had such great players as Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, and of course, Ed O'Bradovich.
O'Bradovich was nearing the end of his career in the late 60's. He was a defense stalwart for the Bears who anchored the defensive end position from 1962 until his retirement from football in 1971. I can remember to this day the passion and ferocity that he brought to every game, the type of player that makes others around him rise to the occasion and play harder due soley to their proximity.
Chicago football has never been primarily about offense or scoring. Of course we cheer for our team to win and expect nothing less than victory, but the real point of Bears football is the hitting. Teams can score and win without ferocity, but nobody hits without heart and this is what has always singled out Bears football. It's what we love about our team, and what we expect from our players. Often we've consoled ourselves over a loss with the knowledge that the other team would feel their pain in the morning.
Ed O'Bradovich, as much as any Bear, is both responsible for this tradition and worthy of our praise. So when my buddies and I heard that Mr. Obradovich would be at Wilson School in Arlington Heights one fall night in 1971 to give a talk and show some old Packer Game highlights there was no question that we'd be there.
I can still remember the room like it was yesterday. We got there early, and still could only get seats about halfway up the room because so many other kids had already arrived. On schedule O'Bradovich came out and gave us a talk. He said things about life, winning, the importance of sports, and what it was like to be a Bear. We came a little closer to becoming men that night, just to hear this real Chicago Bear talk to us.
When he was done, Mr. O'Bradovich asked if there were any questions. One hand shot straight up:
Kid: What do you think about Bart Starr? (For those not in the know, Starr was the Packer QB at the time.)
O'Bradovich: He's alright. He's a Packer, so I don't think about him much. Any other questions?
The same hand.
Kid: Do you think Bart Starr will get the Packers to the Superbowl?
O'Bradovich: You some kind of Packer fan kid?
Kid: Oh yes. I really like Bart Starr!
O'Bradovich: I can see that.
Kid: So will he take the Packers to the Superbowl?
O'Bradovich (becoming obviously irritated): Not if I can help it kid!
O'Bradovich: I've got some game films here, but before we do that are there any other questions?
O'Bradovich: If you ask me one more question about Bart Starr I'm coming over there kid!
Kid (bless his Packer lovin' heart): Uh....do you think Bart Starr will go to the Hall of Fame?
O'Bradovich: Roll the film! Roll the film! I'm done!
The room despite being full of Bears fans went up for grabs. O'Bradovich made a great show, which was not entirely inauthentic, of being quite beside himself, and I know I had to respect the kid's courage a little that evening. He had the guts to take on the biggest Bear, and came out ahead on that day. I always wonder what happened to that kid, and if he remembers the moment as vividly as I do.
As for O'Bradovich he is as passionate about the Bears today as he was 35 years ago. One of my favorite things to do is tune in Ed and his partner, former Bear great Doug Buffone after every game to listen to their review. If you haven't heard them, it's worth a listen. When the Bears lose they are angrier than anyone, and win the Bears win, they're still angry that they didn't win by more points. Tune them in here is the link
Thanks for memories Mr. O'Bradovich.
Tomorrow: Walter sends a victory from above, and I was there.