Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, shown in action against the Green Bay Packers, never was 100 percent again after being body-slammed illegally by a Packers defender in 1986. / File/Press-Gazette Media
I feel your pain, Green Bay. Really, I do.
Watching a promising football season turned upside down because your quarterback got hurt? Not fun.
I know. I have been there.
Growing up in Chicago during the 1960s, I became a Chicago Bears fan. I remained ever loyal to our loveable losers. Even with such gifted players as Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, it seemed we could not avoid one disappointing season after another.
But soon, things turned around in a big way.
In the 1980s, our team started winning — a lot. Led by a ferocious defense and a punky quarterback named Jim McMahon, the Bears went all the way in 1985 and won Super Bowl XX. The following season, the team started out strong again, and hopes were high for a repeat performance.
Then the Green Bay Packers came to town.
With the Bears on offense in the second quarter on Nov. 23, 1986, Packers defensive tackle Charles Martin got hold of our punky quarterback and knocked him out of the game. Long after the quarterback had thrown a pass, Martin grabbed McMahon from behind and body-slammed him, leaving him crumpled on the turf with an injury to the shoulder on his throwing arm.
Martin was ejected from the game and later suspended for two more games. But the damage was done. Our quarterback’s season was over. He would not lead the Bears to another Super Bowl that year or any other year.
In fact, he was never the same football player again.
I thought of Jim McMahon last week when a Chicago Bears defender tackled Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the first quarter on Monday Night Football. Landing hard on his non-throwing arm, Rodgers was hurt and could not continue.
The following day, Green Bay fans learned that their hero from Super Bowl XLV had a broken collarbone and would need a few weeks to heal.
Some people have suggested that Rodgers was the victim of a dirty play, just like McMahon back in 1986. I have to disagree. Rodgers got injured during a clean, routine tackle.
Bad stuff just happens sometimes. Football is a rough game.
I know that is of little consolation to you, Packers fans. Your team was really on a roll before Monday night. Even with injuries to other key players, Rodgers seemed to have it all together, didn’t he? And then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.
Trust me, I feel your pain.
For your sake, I hope Rodgers makes a full recovery. I hope he comes back and dazzles you for many more years to come. If he does, take my advice: Enjoy every minute of every game he plays. If you learn nothing else from this near-tragedy, let it be an appreciation for how easily a football player’s career can be snuffed out in a single reckless moment.
Count your lucky stars, Green Bay. It sounds like your quarterback is coming back.
Mine never did.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @pgscottwilliams.