CHICAGO | Where in the world do you begin with the Super Bowl XX champion Bears?

Moody, short-tempered coach Mike Ditka and pompous defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan blended like water and oil.

Hall of Fame-bound running back Walter Payton was a devious prankster worth the price of any ticket when carrying the football.

"Punky QB" Jim McMahon was the rebel with a cause who did it his way, thumbed his nose at authority, and couldn't spell etiquette, let alone practice it.

Their smothering defense was pure nasty and would pancake a Walmart greeter if he had the ball at their 1-yard line.

They held 11 of their 16 opponents to 10 points or fewer and allowed only 10 -- total -- in three playoff routs.

They featured the NFL's most lovable 300-pound defensive tackle in William "The Refrigerator" Perry, whose three rushing touchdowns didn't set well with opposing defenses.

They were so confident, so cocky, they taped their infamous "Super Bowl Shuffle" video in November.

"And we still kicked everybody's a--," McMahon said.

Their 46-10 blowout of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX drew a 63 rating and 87 share -- highest ever for a Chicago sporting event.

Has it really been that long?

This season marks the 25th anniversary of Ditka's world champion Bears, a love affair that continues burning white-hot with their fans.

"Until they win again, that's the only thing Chicago fans can hang their hats on right now," McMahon said. "That was a helluva team. Everybody still talks about it. Not only did we have great players, but a lot of great personalities.

"We won a lot of games and had a helluva lot of fun, too."

Most agree the party should've carried over to the 1986 (14-2), '87 (11-4) and '88 (12-4) seasons.

"We weren't the same after '85," McMahon said. "It's not like we fell off the earth; we just kept screwing up at home in the playoffs and that was tough to swallow because you work all year to get that home-field advantage."

The Bears followed up their championship year by going 1-3 in the postseason, with all four games played at Soldier Field.

"To play the way we did at home was frustrating," McMahon added. "We don't have a seven-game series like other sports. You have a bad day and you're done.

"We kept having bad days at the wrong time."

Pounding people and lovin' it

There were no bad days in '85, other than the 38-24 loss at Miami Dec. 2 that kept Chicago from running the table.

"We had a lot of guys who not only wanted to win, but pound people, and they did," McMahon said. "We had a different style of defense with Buddy Ryan that nobody figured out until (Washington's) Joe Gibbs did (in '86 and '87).

"Everybody talks about our defense, but we had a helluva lot of offensive firepower, too. We scored the most points (456) in the league, we held the ball for almost 40 minutes a game, and that's a pretty lethal combination to have."

Ditka coached the Bears from 1982 to 1992, compiling a 106-62 record, but he was only 6-6 in postseason play.

"We had a five-year run where we could've easily run the table," McMahon said. "We just needed a couple breaks here and there."

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Breaking up the old gang

The start of free agency and ownership's shallow pockets slowly tore the Bears' franchise apart.

"After a while, we started trying to add by subtraction," Ditka said. "We got rid of a lot of players, the guys we had brought in to help the team. Even Jim went. (Richard) Dent went. Perry went. (Willie) Gault went and you can't do that.

"I didn't make those decisions. I wasn't privy to that, but it's no excuse. We probably should've won more (Super Bowls), but we didn't. We won one, but look at the teams that have never won one."

Ditka said a roster deep in talent isn't why he's wearing a Super Bowl ring. It went beyond that.

"It was a special chemistry that made 'em special," he said. "They had fun together. They bonded. They believed in the mission and they accomplished the mission."

Strong safety Dave Duerson said Ditka allowed his eclectic group of players to be themselves and they happily responded like kids at recess.

"When you look at all the various characters that exist in the NFL today, they owe a sense of allegiance to the '85 Bears," Duerson said. "I don't think any team prior to us had the kind of fun we did.

"We enjoyed each other off the field and executed to near perfection on it, particularly in the Super Bowl."

Dent, the MVP of Super Bowl XX as the right-side defensive end, said the camaraderie and commitment of the '85 team made it nearly unbeatable.

"I'd walk through fire every day to come to work. It gave me a good outlook on life," he said. "We had a loose coach and loose players so it was a good fit."

'85 Bears were bigger than life

Place kicker Kevin Butler, nicknamed "Butthead" by teammates, added: "That Chicago Bears team did what no other team had done by bringing the marketing value of individuals to a new level.

"We had guys who were bigger than the logo." 

Willie Gault and Dennis "Silky" McKinnon were two of the NFL's top receivers, and the Bears had both.

"The fact the Bears haven't won since we did still makes us a hot item," said Gault, who pursued a career in acting, modeling and as a bobsled pusher in the 1988 Winter Olympics after his football days.

He also wrote lyrics to the wildly popular Super Bowl Shuffle.

"If we had kept our team together, we could've won two or three more Super Bowls. It was a time of free agency and that certainly had something to do with it," Gault said. "It was a financial decision to let certain players go like Wilber Marshall, who would've been a steal today."

Left defensive tackle Steve "Mongo" McMichael loathed the media and always was in a foul mood on or off the field. But, oh, what a beast each time the ball was snapped.

When the durable McMichael finally retired after appearing in 191 consecutive games, he did a complete turnabout and became a media darling.

"I've got a 2 1/2-year-old at the house, I'm changing diapers, I've got an indoor football team -- the Chicago Slaughter -- and I'm opening two restaurants. My life is a stress sandwich," he chuckled.

"Yeah, I miss playing. Back then, I could hit somebody in the head and not go to jail for it. But I couldn't play now. Not a chance."

All it took was baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson's recent charity celebrity softball game to convince McMichael.

"Otis (Wilson) hit one in the gap and I'm on first, so I got to run home," McMichael said. "Two days later, I got 100 cc's of fluid on my knee and had to get it drained.

"Golf is all I've got left, baby."