For what turned out to be my grandparents' last Christmas, the task of procuring gifts for my grandfather somehow fell to me (money-wise we all went in together on most of their gifts but I usually didn't do the shopping). I found The 50 Greatest Plays in Chicago Bears Football History and thought it was something he would like as a lifelong fan. It was something I thought I'd like, too, and I hoped to read parts of it when I went to visit. Alas, I don't think he ever got to read it since it was sitting in the same spot on the piano in the living room every time I went over there. After he died, I got the book.*
I didn't plan it when I chose August as football month, but when I found myself looking for the next book to read a couple days before my grandfather's birthday it seemed fitting to choose this one. Plus I had just finished a book about the Steelers, and I felt that I had to read at least one Bears book this month.
The title of this book is inaccurate. Mostly it's the greatest games, not plays. From the X-O diagrams I saw while flipping through, I was hoping for something more technical, a book that took apart the Bears' best plays and analysed why they succeeded.** Instead it's just a gimmicky format used to tell the history of the team while shaking up the chronology.
This scrambling can be jarring to the reader (going from 1926 to 1973 to 1925 to 2006), but maybe it makes the team's long history more accessible by mixing the old and unfamiliar with newer games that readers may have seen. In spite of its misleading title, The 50 Greatest Plays in Chicago Bears Football History works pretty well as an informative, easy-to-read account of the team's finest performances.***
* I ended up with almost everything I gave to my grandparents. That's how things were divided up. Do all families do this? It's like gifts are on loan until death or something. And what am I supposed to do with a thank-you card I sent to them in 1988?
** Ironically, I have shied away from reading Ron Jaworski's The Games That Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays because it looks too technical. I hope to read it someday, but I won't have time this month.
*** Freedman also wrote Chicago Bears: The Complete Illustrated History which was released by a different publisher only two weeks after this book. Way to milk one research project for two books, dude!