Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football

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The gripping account of a once-in-a-lifetime football team and their lone championship season

For Rich Cohen and millions of other fans, the 1985 Chicago Bears were more than a football team: they were the greatest football team ever—a gang of colorful nuts, dancing and pounding their way to victory. They won a Super Bowl and saved a city.

It was not just that the Monsters of the Midway won, but how they did it. On offense, there was high-stepping running back Walter Payton and Punky QB Jim McMahon, who had a knack for pissing off Coach Mike Ditka as he made his way to the end zone. On defense, there was the 46: a revolutionary, quarterback-concussing scheme cooked up by Buddy Ryan and ruthlessly implemented by Hall of Famers such as Dan "Danimal" Hampton and "Samurai" Mike Singletary. On the sidelines, in the locker rooms, and in bars, there was the never-ending soap opera: the coach and the quarterback bickering on TV, Ditka and Ryan nearly coming to blows in the Orange Bowl, the players recording the "Super Bowl Shuffle" video the morning after the season's only loss.

Cohen tracked down the coaches and players from this iconic team and asked them everything he has always wanted to know: What's it like to win? What's it like to lose? Do you really hate the guys on the other side? Were you ever scared? What do you think as you lie broken on the field? How do you go on after you have lived your dream but life has not ended?

The result is Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, a portrait not merely of a team but of a city and a game: its history, its future, its fallen men, its immortal heroes. But mostly it's about being a fan—about loving too much. This is a book about America at its most nonsensical, delirious, and joyful.

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About the author

Rich Cohen, a New York Times bestselling author, grew up on the North Shore of Chicago, where he died with the Cubs and was reborn with the Bears. He has written ten books and a host of magazine articles for, among others, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine, and Vanity Fair, where he's a contributing editor. Cohen has won the Great Lakes Book Award and the Chicago Public Library's 21st Century Award, and his essays have been included in The Best American Essays and The Best American Travel Writing. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three sons, but is plotting his return to Chicagoland.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Oct 29, 2013
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9780374708955
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Sports
Sports & Recreation / Football
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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It happens once a year, creating a seismic divide throughout the country. It pits brother against brother. It breaks up business deals. It ruins relationships. And once it’s finished, all both sides want is for another year to pass by so they can do it again. It is the Texas/Texas A& M football game. And in the football-obsessed state that is Texas, no single game resonates more.

Every year during the Thanksgiving holidays, the two teams meet for something that has become much more than just a game. It’s a blood feud that represents a tremendous cultural divide in the state. It’s city against country, a rural agricultural school against an urban university. And yet both sides come from the same family, warring cousins who roll up their sleeves once a year in the backyard to settle the question of who’s number one—at least for the time being.

In Backyard Brawl, W. K. Stratton takes you through this rivalry and its history, covering the years when the game was postponed because the fans were just too violent, the branding of UT’s beloved steer, Bevo, by a renegade Aggie, the kidnapping of A&M’s beloved Reveille by boisterous UT students, the theft of UT’s cannon, Old Smokey, and its unceremonious dumping into the murky waters of Austin’s Town Lake, and the fistfights that broke out when celebrating UT fans rushed A&M’s nearly sacred Kyle Field after Texas won the last-ever Southwest Conference title on the Aggies’ home turf.

Stratton also relates the more serious side of the rivalry, particularly the way both schools came together after tradition turned to tragedy in 1999, when the A&M bonfire collapse killed twelve students. And in a touching epilogue, he captures the angst that hit the College Station campus when officials decided to cancel the return of the bonfire in 2002.

Stratton drew a bead on the 2001 season and followed both teams through their schedules leading up to the big clash in College Station. Taking you inside a renowned Aggie Yell practice and introducing you to fervid yet often zany orange-blooded Texas fans through their elaborate tailgating rituals, he creates revealing portraits of the two teams, including head coaches R. C. Slocum and Mack Brown, both of whom are legends in their own time, destined for the Hall of Fame.

Backyard Brawl is a fascinating examination of the greatest war in college football, destined to become a classic for students of the game.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
A panoramic narrative history that will give readers a new understanding of the Rolling Stones, viewed through the impassioned and opinionated lens of the Vanity Fair contributor—and co-creator of HBO’s Vinyl—who was along for the ride as a young reporter on the road with the band in the 1990s

Rich Cohen enters the Stones epic as a young journalist on the road with the band and quickly falls under their sway—privy to the jokes, the camaraderie, the bitchiness, the hard living. Inspired by a lifelong appreciation of the music that borders on obsession, Cohen’s chronicle of the band is informed by the rigorous views of a kid who grew up on the music and for whom the Stones will always be the greatest rock ’n’ roll band of all time.

The story begins at the beginning: the fateful meeting of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on a train platform in 1961—and goes on to span decades, with a focus on the golden run—from the albums Beggars Banquet (1968) to Exile on Main Street (1972)—when the Stones were prolific and innovative and at the height of their powers. Cohen is equally as good on the low points as the highs, and he puts his finger on the moments that not only defined the Stones as gifted musicians schooled in the blues and arguably the most innovative songwriters of their generation, but as the avatars of so much in our modern culture.

In the end, though, after the drugs and the girlfriends and the rows, there is the music. The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones makes you want to listen to every song in your library anew and search out the obscure gems that you’ve yet to hear. The music, together with Cohen’s fresh and galvanizing consideration of the band, will define, once and forever, why the Stones will always matter.

Praise for The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones

“Fabulous . . . The research is meticulous. . . . Cohen’s own interviews even yield some new Stones lore.”—The Wall Street Journal

“[Cohen] can catch the way a record can seem to remake the world [and] how songs make a world you can’t escape.”—Pitchfork

“No one can tell this story, wringing new life even from the leathery faces of mummies like the Rolling Stones, like Rich Cohen. . . . The book beautifully details the very meaning of rock ’n’ roll.”—New York Observer

“Masterful . . . Hundreds of books have been written about this particular band and [Cohen’s] will rank among the very best of the bunch.”—Chicago Tribune

“Cohen, who has shown time and time again he can take any history lesson and make it personal and interesting . . . somehow tells the [Stones’] story in a whole different way. This might be the best music book of 2016.”—Men’s Journal

“[Cohen’s] account of the band’s rise from ‘footloose’ kids to ‘old, clean, prosperous’ stars is, like the Stones, irresistible.”—People

“You will, as with the best music bios, want to follow along on vinyl.”—The Washington Post

“A fresh take on dusty topics like Altamont and the Stones’ relationship with the Beatles . . . Cohen takes pilgrimages to places like Nellcôte, the French mansion where the Stones made Exile on Main Street, and recounts fascinating moments from his time on tour.”—Rolling Stone

“On the short list of worthwhile books about the Stones . . . The book is stuffed with insights.”—San Francisco Chronicle
A captivating blend of reportage and memoir exploring the history of the Chicago Cubs

When Rich Cohen was eight years old, his father took him to see a Cubs game. On the way out of the park, his father asked him to make a promise. “Promise me you will never be a Cubs fan. The Cubs do not win,” he explained, “and because of that, a Cubs fan will have a diminished life determined by low expectations. That team will screw up your life.”

As a result, Cohen became not just a Cubs fan but one of the biggest Cubs fans in the world.

In this book, he captures the story of the team, its players and crazy days. Billy Sunday and Ernie Banks, Three Finger Brown and Ryne Sandberg, Bill Buckner, the Bartman Ball, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo—the early dominance followed by a 107 year trek across the wilderness. It’s all here—not just what happened, but what it felt like and what it meant. He searches for the cause of the famous curse. Was it the billy goat, kicked out of Wrigley Field in Game 5 of the 1945 World Series, or does it go back further, to the very origins of the franchise? Driven mad with futility, he went on the road with the team in search of answers, interviewed great players present and past, researched in libraries but also in the bleachers, double-fisted, a frosty malt in each hand, demanding answers. He came to see the curse as a burden but also as a blessing.

Cubs fans are unique, emissaries from a higher realm, warning of hubris and vanity. The blue cap with the red C said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” He interviewed the architects of the 2016 Cubs, the team that broke the curse. Here’s what he asked: How the hell did you do it? He was at (almost) every game of the 2016 playoff run—a run that culminated in (maybe) the single greatest baseball game ever played. He was excited but also terrified. Losing is easy. What would it mean to win? Wearing a Yankees hat meant corporate excellence. Wearing a Mets hat meant miracles. But wearing a Cubs hat meant loving the game on its most humdrum afternoon—September 13, 1979, say, 14 games out of first place, Larry Bittner driving in Ivan DeJesus. Would we lose that? Would being a Cubs become ordinary?

A mix of memoir, reporting, history and baseball theology, this book, forty years in the making, has never been written because it never could be—only with the 2016 World Series can the true arc of the story finally be understood.

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