Davis Takes a Fresh Approach to Halas, McCaskey History

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 14, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Davis Takes a Fresh Approach to Halas, McCaskey History

Byline: Barry Rozner

"Halas is the greatest name in the history of this game. No question. He is the father of professional football."

- Paul Hornung

"Papa Bear: The Life and Legacy of George Halas" might just as easily be titled, "The Legacy of George Halas, and How the McCaskeys Tried to Erase It."

Local author Jeff Davis - a former sports producer at Channel 5 for the likes of Johnny Morris, Greg Gumbel, Chet Coppock and Mark Giangreco - has penned the first serious look at the life and hard times of the man who invented the NFL and the family that has kicked dirt on his name.

"The McCaskeys have never seen the Bears as a public trust, whereas Halas and his brethren founded the league on that very idea, and that's the only reason it succeeded," Davis said. "College football was king until Halas changed the dynamics.

"He made it possible for a working man to see a game, and the local pro teams became the Notre Dame and Michigan and Illinois for the people who couldn't afford college after World War I."

"Papa Bear" takes you all the way from Halas' upbringing, the son of immigrants raised on Chicago's lower West Side, through the current dysfunctional Bears ownership, which Davis agrees will sell the Bears as soon as Virginia can't prevent it.

Hardly what Halas had in mind for the future of the team, which was supposed to be passed on to his son, Mugs, and his children.

"From the death of Mugs Halas, it's a Shakespearean play," Davis said. "Everything seems to be going in one direction after Halas starts the league on a shoestring and makes it a huge success. After all those years, he's supposed to turn the coaching over to George Allen, and the ownership to his son.

"But neither happens because he couldn't give up coaching. That costs the team George Allen and that changed the direction of the team forever. Then, Mugs dies and all of a sudden the McCaskeys, who were not factors at all, are involved.

"Halas couldn't stand Ed McCaskey. He wasn't even allowed in the offices. They gave him money and Ed went to the racetrack. But when Mugs died it fell to Virginia, and Ed did all the maneuvering.

"Halas knew the family was incapable of running the team. He was a visionary in that respect, and that's why he twice refused to let Michael get involved when he was alive.

"So it shouldn't be surprising that when they opened the new stadium, they never mentioned George Halas' name once."

Davis dives into Mike McCaskey's firing of GM Jerry Vainisi - Halas' hand-picked selection - which was the beginning of the end of a dynasty that never was, the 1980s Bears, and all the McCaskey missteps, from before Dave McGinnis and after.

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