CHICAGO — All year long we’ve been celebrating 100 seasons of Chicago bears football and as we approach the big game on Sunday, we’re looking at how the Bears influenced the super celebration.
Everyone knows about the legendary ’85 Bears, but the less-celebrated ’84 Bears also made quite a splash claiming to have created the now ubiquitous Gatorade bath is now one of the most beloved traditions in sports.
“There has been some confusion over the origins of the bath,” Jack Silverstein, a Chicago sports historian and author, said. “It is a question between the New York Giants, and our Chicago Bears. It goes back to 1984.”
Steve McMichael was a defensive tackle on that 1984 Bears squad. It was the year before the iconic ’85 bears captivated the country. On Sunday Nov. 25, 1984 in Minnesota, the Bears were closing in on their first division championship in 21 years.
“Jim Osborne was actually crying on the sideline,” McMichael said. “Dan Hampton said, ‘Well, what are you crying about?’ he said, ‘I’ve been here 13 years and never won the division. This is the first time.’ Well, how are you going to commemorate that?”
With the final seconds ticking away, and the Bears leading 34-3 against the Minnesota Vikings. McMichael and Hall-of-Famer Dan Hampton had an idea to really ‘pour it on.’
“The first time we could even smell a championship,” he said. “Most teams get in the locker room and start spraying champagne everywhere — we didn’t have any champagne on the sideline. All we had was a Gatorade bucket. So, we were going to spray Ditka.”
Although the Gatorade bath was chilly, Ditka said he enjoyed it — most of it “I’ll tell you what made me mad, was it messed up my hair,” Ditka said. “My hair was so nice.”
But a closer review of footage from that 1984 season may throw some cold water on the Bears story. Video shows the 1984 giants used a Gatorade bath as a tongue-in-cheek tactic of revenge against head coach Bill Parcells for running hard practices almost a month before the Bears doused Ditka.
“It started as an antagonistic measure,” Silverstein said. “Nose tackle Jim Burt of the Giants was a little bit frustrated with Bill Parcells, their head coach.” He says the Giants and Bears used the Gatorade with different purposes “The Giants, October of ’84 — aggression, and the Bears November of ’84 – celebration.”
The 1985 Bears of course celebrated their resounding Super Bowl win by carrying Ditka and Buddy Ryan, the beloved defensive coordinator off the field in triumph, a development that pleased Ditka. “Oh, I didn’t want a Gatorade bath,” Ditka said. “No. Who in the hell wants a Gatorade bath?”
Then the 1986 Giants forever popularized the bath when the team won the Super Bowl — but the Bears can rightfully say they were the first to celebrate a championship — a division championship — with a Gatorade bath.
Now, virtually every football team (and teams in many other sports) celebrate victory by dumping a tub of Gatorade on the coach. “It’s my privilege and honor that it lives on to this day,” said McMichael.
But there’s one more twist to the story, the first “Gatorade bath” didn’t actually use Gatorade. McMichael said the cooler was filled with water.