Champion Bears hold up a lot better than Super Bowl XX ads

Updated 2/5/2016 10:09 AM
  • Thirty years removed from his days as a backup linebacker for the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera prepares his team to take on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday.

    Thirty years removed from his days as a backup linebacker for the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera prepares his team to take on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday. Associated Press

It's not surprising that bitter Chicago Bears fans cling to their Super Bowl XX and 46 defense as a way to explain their frustrations. Many fans old enough to remember that Super Bowl 30 years ago will watch the "30 For 30" film "The '85 Bears," at 8 tonight on ESPN and remember all the drama and fun as if it happened yesterday.

Ron Rivera, a young, second-tier linebacker for that dominating 15-1 Bears team that won the 1986 Super Bowl, now coaches the dominating 15-1 Carolina Panthers that are favored to win Sunday's Super Bowl.

A few of the old Bears stars from that Super Bowl-champion team still have regular media gigs as NFL commentators.

A few more have made news because of lingering injuries to their brains and lesser body parts.

The biggest star, Hall-of-Fame running back Walter Payton, died of bile-duct cancer and other complications in 1999. Hard-hitting defensive safety Dave Duerson suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy and died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest in 2011.

A lot has changed between 1986 and 2016, and Super Bowl XX and Super Bowl 50, which will be remembered as the year we LXXXVI-ed Roman numerals because no one wanted to wear a Super Bowl cap sporting a big L on the crown.

Football has become faster, bigger and more violent. Bears rookie William "The Refrigerator" Perry was the only 300-pounder to play in Super Bowl XX. There are 23 players topping the 300-pound limit in this year's Super Bowl.

Even the halftime show has changed. Sunday's extravaganza features Coldplay with special appearances by Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. The 1986 halftime show gave viewers "Up With People," with neon-clad, hunky-dory, perky, clean-cut youngsters serenading us with: "Up, up with people. You meet them wherever you go. Up, up with people. They're the best kind of folks we know." Their show was dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and included hits from the era, including "Born in the USA," "Power of Love," "Footloose" and "I Just Called to Say I Love You,"

Even the commercials remind us how much has changed. The premier ad for Super Bowl XX, costing $550,000 for 30 seconds, starred a Charlie Chaplinesque character with cane and bowler hat introducing an IBM personal desktop computer with 16 mb of memory. Sprint pitched its WATS long-distance phone service. Hertz, the rental car company that showed O.J. Simpson running through airports, hyped its new service offering customers a printout of computerized driving directions. McDonald's promoted its McD.L.T. sandwich. GTE hawked its telenet data network, which could transmit "the equivalent of 1 million typewritten pages" a day.

A sexy woman cooed about how Right Guard aerosol spray turned monsters into Mr. Right. Gillette made a pitch for a shaver with two blades. And John Hancock talked about how it had retirement plans, even for retiring NFL stars making $75,000 a year.

Our nation's most-beloved comedians in 1986, Lily Tomlin and Bill Cosby, did a public service commercial for a "Hands Across America" event that was sure to be a smashing success.

NBC, the network for Super Bowl XX, ran several commercials for its new sitcom "The Last Precinct," a cop show starring Adam West of Batman fame and a sexy blond sergeant named Mel, who got laughs by boasting, "I used to be a guy," and might have been TV's first transgender character.

Commercials at this year's Super Bowl cost about $5 million for 30 seconds and pitch cellphones, a car with a top speed of 205-mph, Pokémon, beer, soft drinks and snacks, and star Kate Upton, Alec Baldwin, Liam Neeson, dachshunds wearing hot dog buns, Seal singing with generations of Super Bowl babies conceived on previous Super Bowl Sundays, and an off-putting creation known as #PuppyMonkeyBaby.

The game will pit legendary Peyton Manning for Denver against new-generation superstar Cam Newton for Carolina.

In 30 years, ESPN might do a "30 for 30" about both teams. Or maybe not. Those Super Bowl Bears still grab our attention, but you don't hear many folks asking about the New England Patriots team they beat 46-10.

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