Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it - George Stanley Halas
If you have ever sunk into your couch on a Sunday afternoon, cracked open a cold one, turned on the Bears game and thought, "Why do they have those letters 'G-S-H' on their sleeves?", I'll tell you they stand for George Stanley Halas. Between 1920 to 1983, the Chicago Bears WERE George Stanley Halas. Some people will tell you that the Bears are George Halas to this very day... and I am one of them. I would even go as far to say that the Chicago Bears will forever be George Halas and I think he gave this town a sports identity it will carry and it should carry for a long, long time.
Chicago Fire, please win Saturday's game for George Stanley Halas.
George Halas was born in Pilsen in 1895. Like many great Chicagoans, his parents were immigrants who of all places in the world to choose from, chose to settle down near the banks of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. From a very young age, Halas had a knack for being near danger but avoiding disaster. At 20 years old he worked for Western Electric and never get electrocuted but he almost drowned.
Western Electric held an annual picnic for their employees and while George worked there they wanted to have it on a boat. They contracted the SS Eastland which proceeded to capsize in the middle of the Chicago River near the Clark Street bridge. 844 people drowned in the Chicago River and yes that is somehow more than the number of people who drowned in the Atlantic Ocean from the Titanic. The tragic details are at the link and here. Basically, there never is a good reason to scoff at those people who wear life jackets on ferry boats. Halas had a ticket for the boat party but as fate would have it, he never boarded that morning. In what might be one of the most bizarre pieces of history I've ever heard, Halas AND the SS Eastland went on to serve in the US Navy at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. I could not track this down for sure, but in all likelihood George Halas served his country at some point on a boat that could have killed him years earlier. Halas did not fight in World War I but he did manage to become the MVP of the 1919 Rose Bowl playing for the Great Lakes Navy team. He was rewarded with a 'discharge' from the Navy and went on to have a short stint with the New York Yankees. Realizing that baseball was not his thing, George Halas came home to Illinois and found his life's calling - da Bears.
A.E. Staley Company founded the Decatur Staleys as a football team in 1919. The company couldn't turn a profit in Decatur, IL (I wonder why...) so Halas bought them and moved the team to Chicago in 1921. Outside of being owner, Halas played the role of wide receiver, defensive end, coach, player contracts, ticket sales - I wasn't kidding when I said he WAS the Bears. As a player, his ultimate success was winning the NFL Championship in 1921. As a coach, he won 318 games, lost 148, had 31 ties, and won 6 NFL Championships. As a Chicagoan, he gave this town a sporting identity to live up to. This six minute clip does a great job of giving you an idea of what it was like to play against a George Halas Chicago Bear team. I could write a 5 page essay and still not come close to the video. Be sure to watch it but I'm going to take this quote out:
I don't care whether you won or lost, you gonna know you were in the damndest game you ever been in your whole life.
The Bears have continued that unofficial motto by always having a great defense. In the past it was guys like George Halas, Dick Butkus and today it is guys like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs. Chicago itself represents the defensive mindset outlasting disasters and unpredictable shifts in a world that has changed so drastically from 1837 to 2010. We aren't a river boomtown like St. Louis. We aren't an automotive boomtown like Detroit. The capital of the Midwest did not have to be a gleaming example for the rest of the world but the people before us made it that way by fighting off everything that took down the other cities around us.
When the Bears have a bad season, they still play with that same 'damndest game' mentality but I wouldn't say that's what it was like to play against the Chicago Fire this year. Even this Tuesday, the Kansas City Wizards announcers were saying it used to be much harder to come into Chicago. Toronto FC came to Toyota Park with playoff hopes on the line for both teams and TFC managed to foul their way to a 0-0 draw. Chicago teams should not get outfouled 22-7. The game plan should not be to play dirty but it can't be to play dead either. Even in the team's darkest hour, we need to live up to that famous Chicago mindset. We need to play like George Halas is on the sidelines ready to rip into any player that isn't sticking up for someone else in Fire Red. It's the Chicago Way, it used to be the Fire Way, and there's no time to set the mood for 2011 than the last home game of 2010.