My dad was a true Chicagoan. He spoke with the accent, loved the Cubbies, even the White Sox, but most of all DA BEARS! Back in the day when we didn’t have the NFL Sunday Ticket, anytime the Bears would play on national television it was a family event.
So when Jim McMahon signed on as starting quarterback in the 80’s it was doubly exciting – he was a BYU
Utah guy AND joined the Bears! Sundays couldn’t get any better. It didn’t hurt that he was one who brought the team to many victories. As much as my parents enjoyed sports,
Bears Sunday football at that time is something I hold dear in my heart. Jim wasn’t just a great quarterback, he also was an irreverent player within the league. He played his own way, made his own calls, and watching Coach Ditka get frustrated on the sidelines was a part of the game that always made us laugh.
Fast forward 30 years, I’m at Overstock, overseeing the process of making our national commercials. I was having a conversation with a colleague, who also was from Chicago, and he mentioned offhand that he thought it would be epic if we made one with Coach Ditka and Jim McMahon. And I thought to myself, why not? And that was the beginning of my friendship with Jim. The year was 2013…ish.
Meeting Jim it seemed not much had changed. He said what he wanted to say in the way he wanted to say it, and the on-field respect I had for him grew to an all-around respect. He was kind, funny and direct, but I also learned that he would
steadfastly march to the beat of his own drum regardless of the situation, which is so rare. He told stories about many things, and he also talked about his football days, parenting and life. He always shared his opinion, even if it wasn’t the most popular one. And he was careful to respect other peoples’ opinions, even when they were wildly different from his own.
If I sound a bit starstruck, it’s because I loved him for being a badass athlete from my favorite team, while when meeting him he proved every second to be just a humble and everyday guy.
We crossed paths again 5…ish years later in the cannabis industry. I knew he was a
medicinal and recreational user from our previous time together, but here we both were, advocating for the same issue. His voice within the cannabis community has been a powerful and needed one – crucial because of the benefits cannabis offers in pain management and how helpful it can be for athletes; and powerful because he's unapologetic in his advocacy. He’s not sorry he was a ‘rebel without a pause’. He’s not sorry he was a recreational user. He’s strong in his beliefs and not sorry to believe them. That’s what I have come to love him for. There were many more things I wanted to ask during Lunch, but the time went quickly. What I can now unequivocally say, is regardless of being a superstar quarterback, I could’ve met him in a coffee shop and would have appreciated him as much as I do today.
Thank you, Jim for the decades of being in my bubble!