'Fog Bowl' memories a lot clearer now than the game was then

'Fog Bowl' memories a lot clearer now than the game was then

December 19, 2013, 8:00 am
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Maybe the best measure of the Fog Bowl is a touch of amusing irony. Nobody could really see much and yet everybody there remembers vividly the game they could barely see.

Bears fan Mary-Lou Leidheiser had a very good view for the Fog Bowl. More or less.

She and a friend with season tickets were in the stands for the Bears-Philadelphia Eagles, Mike Ditka-Buddy Ryan get-together, and watching the game, when suddenly they weren’t.

“You couldn’t believe how fast the fog came in,” Mary-Lou recalled for CSNChicago.com. “All of a sudden you couldn’t see the players.”

[RELATED: CSN looks back at 1988's New Year's Eve "Fog Bowl"

Fans started leaving early in significant numbers. After all, if you can’t see a game, why not? It was perfect cover, though, for others made of sterner stuff.

“We just kept moving down [in the stands], getting closer to the field,” Mary-Lou said. “We just kept walking the whole time, like we were leaving. As we got lower in the stands, we could see a little more but sometimes it was just legs.”

What fans and players could – and couldn’t see – will be there to see on Dec. 26 at 7 p.m. when Comcast SportsNet premiers Bears Classics. The first in the series will turn back the clock to December 31, 1988 when the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles faced each other in that divisional playoff match-up ... a game that literally no one ever truly saw as a dense fog rolled into Soldier Field just before halftime…and remained there for the rest of the game.

For the players, the spectators in attendance, and certainly for all who watched from home, the second half of the game simply became a state of mass confusion. CSN will go deep inside the fog, interviewing all the key players and witnesses connected to this unforgettable event – both on and off-the-field – telling first-hand, behind-the-stories that were never heard before…until now.

Once again, local/national television broadcasting legend/multiple Peabody & Emmy Award winner Bill Kurtis narrates this installment of Bears Classics. CSN's Chuck Garfien is the documentary series writer/director and Willie Parker is the series’ producer.

[MORE: Why did the Cardinals kick to Devin Hester?

As for what Mary-Lou and others could or couldn’t see, more than legs were running around out there but you couldn’t always tell.

“It was the strangest game I ever played in my life,” Bears middle linebacker Mike Singletary told my former Tribune colleague Fred Mitchell. “We could see down there on the field. Once you went to the sideline, you couldn`t see inside.

“The referees kept asking: ‘Can you see? Can you see?’ It was like we were inside a bubble. That is what it was like. You couldn`t really see the coaches or anything like that. It was just us. It was pretty crazy.”

Dave McGinnis, then the Bears’ linebackers coach and now assistant coach of the St. Louis Rams. 

“The Fog Bowl was unbelievable,” Dave told me. “You couldn’t see anything. It was such a surreal feeling. Plus, it was a big game, and you had Buddy coming back. There were so many elements to it and then for the fog to come rolling in over the south end, it was an unbelievable feeling.”

The game reverberated long after with those who played in it. Dave went on to become head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and had on his staff Louis Zendajas, who kicked four field goals for the Eagles that day.

He and Dave still have laughs over that game, “and Louis has a picture of himself kicking the ball into “the white,” Dave said.