Over 26 years later, Super Bowl champion Bears honored at White House

Story highlights

  • The Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears celebrate at the White House
  • Their initial visit was postponed due to the space shuttle Challenger explosion
  • Obama, a die-hard Bears fan, says "this is as much fun as I'll have as president"
More than one quarter century after dominating the New England Patriots in New Orleans, the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears finally got their chance to celebrate at the White House -- much to the joy of one of the team's biggest fans, President Barack Obama.
In remarks in front of the team and onlookers, Obama said that he was a newcomer to Chicago in 1985 when the Bears posted a 15-1 record en route to capturing the NFL title in January 1986. But just days after their Super Bowl win, the squad's ceremonial visit to mark the occasion in Washington was postponed after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.
The president welcomed the Bears on Friday for what he called a "well deserved and long overdue" visit, calling them "the greatest team in NFL history."
He admitted, too, that the ceremony was a thrill for him personally.
"This is as much fun as I will have as president of the United States," said Obama.
Coached by defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, their ferocious defense is still considered one of the finest in NFL history. Their offense, while overshadowed, also ranked among the league's best that year behind quirky quarterback Jim McMahon, whom Obama said Friday played "with no fear and lived life with very few rules." McMahon was among those in attendance Friday, sporting his distinctive head-band as he did during his playing days.
As much as their play, the team also captured America's attention with their over-the-top personalities as well as the "Super Bowl Shuffle," a rap performed by the team just after its lone loss that became omnipresent in Chicago and beyond.
Head coach Mike Ditka stood alongside the president, flanked on the other side by Ryan, during the White House ceremony.
There had once been an effort to draft the Hall of Famer and current ESPN commentator to run against Obama when he was seeking a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. But on Friday, the two were all smiles -- with Ditka even presenting Obama with a Bears uniform with the number 85.