The 1985 Chicago Bears team finished a dream season by winning the Super Bowl, 46-10, over the New England Patriots. But unlike recent championship teams, the Bears didn't make it to the White House — their trip was pre-empted by the Challenger shuttle disaster, which occurred on Jan. 28, 1986, two days after Super Bowl XX.
Now, some of the team's surviving members have made up for that lost chance, but it was Bears fan President Obama who greeted them at the White House, instead of President Ronald Reagan.
"This is as much fun as I will have as president of the United States. This is one of the perks of the job, right here," Obama said. He then called the Bears, who went 15-1 in their championship campaign, "the best team in NFL history."
The team reportedly chartered a flight for the occasion, bringing some 100 former players and staff to Washington, D.C.
Running back Walter Payton wasn't there — he died of cancer in 1999. Neither was William "Refrigerator" Perry, who is ailing from an immune disorder.
But former coach Mike Ditka made the trip, along with Super Bowl MVP Richard Dent and receiver Willie Gault. So did quarterback Jim McMahon (and his trademark headband) and defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan. As a recent article on Bleacher Report notes, it was Ryan's imposing "46" defense — and stars like Mike Singletary, Dent, Perry, and the late Dave Duerson — that propelled the team to legendary status.
NPR's Scott Horsley, who was also at the White House, reports that in meeting the team, Obama recalled that when he first ran for Senate, some Chicagoans tried to recruit Ditka to run against him.
"I will admit I was a little worried, because he doesn't lose," Obama said.
The president then added that he would like to host another Super Bowl-winning Bears team at the White House next year, reports Scott, who filed a story for All Things Considered about the event.
According to The Chicago Tribune, it took two years to set up Friday's meeting:
After Obama took office, the NFL contacted the White House and asked if the '85 Bears could have their reception at long last. Obama, a Chicagoan who reads coverage of the Bears and watches games when he can, was eager to oblige.
In keeping with tradition, Ditka presented Obama with a Bears jersey — but the jersey had number "85" on it, instead of the "1" that appears on most team jerseys given to the commander-in-chief.
And here, for no reason other than it's Friday, is video of the 1985 team's famous "Super Bowl Shuffle," recorded early in that legendary season:
You could say it's something of a sports week at the White House. Thursday, President Obama hosted Texas A&M's women's basketball team, which won the 2011 NCAA championship.
And on the same day, first lady Michelle Obama welcomed the U.S. Women's Soccer team, which made it to the title game of this year's World Cup.
Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.