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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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November 6th, 2013
06:11 PM ET

Lead Read: 'Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football'

In his new book "Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football," author Rich Cohen describes the legendary NFL team's coach Mike Ditka as a gruff savior for the Windy City:

He looked like a bear and behaved like a bear ... He was a Kodiak rooting through trash on the edge of a national park. He was a grizzly enraged by a swarm of bees ... Every junior high school has that gym teacher who wants to be called Coach, who makes you run an extra ten laps for being a wisea** ... Ditka was that guy for the entire city of Chicago.

"He's like the guy that actually makes you get up and work," said Cohen. After multiple losing seasons, the residents of Chicago needed someone like Ditka "to snap you out of this funk."

Ditka was brusque with reporters, fans, and players alike. Cohen writes of the time one woman was heckling him, and Ditka's reaction was to take a ball of bubblegum and throw it at her, the wad of gum lodging itself in the fan's hair. The coach also famously made a zero gesture at a fan, and told him that was his IQ level.

"Punky" quarterback Jim McMahon, the first football player to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, had a tense relationship with Ditka.

"If you'd go to the games, you could actually see these guys yelling at each other, or giving each other the silent treatment. It always gave you something else to watch other than what was going on on the field," said Cohen.

At the time, football lacked personality, it was a "buttoned up, almost military serve environment," said Cohen. "In Chicago it was very straight and stiff."

But the 1985 Chicago Bears changed all that. They were transcendent in their sport, and became a part of American history and pop culture, said Cohen. These guys dreamed big, they dreamed of winning the Super Bowl. But when the dream of a lifetime comes true when you're 28, what happens to the rest of your life? That's a question Cohen's book seeks to answer.

"I interviewed and met with as many of these guys as I could now, figuring out how they go on with their lives," said Cohen.

"For me, they're a model for how everybody faces the big transitions, even at the end of their life, because the pro-football player dies twice," said Cohen. "They die when the rest of us die, but they also die professionally in their dream, when they're very young and have to deal with it."

CNN's Edward Meagher contributed to this report.

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