Sunday Treat 

Are you ready for some football? Are you ready to bear down? Well, I am. Yes, it is that time of year again when preseason football becomes the harbinger of fall.

Ever since I was a little boy, I've enjoyed watching football with my Dad. To me, it was a right of passage to discuss the Sunday game with him and actually know what I was talking about. A lot of families come together to celebrate their favorite team and share a Sunday meal. Or, in some cases, the football fan goes into the basement and screams at the tv for several hours, and the family stays away. However you look at it, you will be with the emotions you've held in for a week.

My blog today will be about one of the founding members of the National Football League, George Stanley Halas. Not just the fact he built America's number one sport from the parking lot of a starch factory but how he has impacted families over the past 101 years.

George Halas 1952

Do You Have a Pen? 


The NFL is worth some $30 billion today and is still growing. They signed new media rights agreements with CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN, and Amazon, collectively worth about $110 billion over 11 years. These contracts are nearly doubling the value of their previous agreements.  

Nevertheless, is the NFL just about the money? How did a college sport like Football, get so popular with Americans? Who dreamed up the idea of franchising teams?


George Halas was an intelligent young Chicagoan attending Crain Tech Prep High School, on the West side of Chicago. His grades were good enough to get him into the University of Illinois, where he studied civil engineering. George was very athletic and good at all sports. He played football, baseball, and basketball while attending U of I. Halas even helped Illinois win the 1918 Big Ten Conference football title. 

After his senior year, George joined the Navy as an ensign during World War I, and played for a team at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, and was named the MVP of the 1919 Rose Bowl. Halas scored a receiving touchdown and returned an intercepted pass 77 yards in a 17–0 win over the Mare Island Marines of California. As a victory prize, the winning team received their military discharges. How's that for an incentive?! 

george halas 1919 yankee

Fresh out of the Navy, Halas played baseball with the New York Yankees and was released after 12 games due to a hip injury. He then got hired to play for the Hammond Pros (football team) and received about $75 per game.

George Halas 1922 inside the cubs field lockeroom

Do You Want Starch in That? 

He loved football, but need more money and decided to move back to Illinois and work for the  A. E. Staley Company, a starch manufacturer. George served as a company sales representative, an outfielder on the company-sponsored baseball team, and the player-coach of the company-sponsored football team, the Decatur Staleys. While he was managing the team, he used his alma mater's colors—orange and navy blue—for the team's uniforms. Those beautiful colors remain to this day.   

In 1920, Halas represented the Staleys at the first pro football meeting in a Canton, Ohio auto dealership. Ralph Edward Hay was the owner of the dealership and the pro football Canton Bulldogs from 1918 through the 1922 season. He and Halas worked with eight other pro team owners on Friday, September 17, 1920, to create the American Professional Football Association before its name changed to the National Football League in 1922. The ten original franchises were from four states. The Akron ProsCanton BulldogsCleveland Tigers, and the Dayton Triangles from Ohio; the Hammond Pros and Muncie Flyers from Indiana; the Rochester Jeffersons from New York; and the Rock Island IndependentsDecatur Staleys, and Racine Cardinals from Illinois. These ten men had a vision for what professional football could become in the 20th century.   

Fun Fact: After the Staleys' season ended, Halas and teammates George TraftonHub Shoemake, and Hugh Blacklock joined the Chicago Stayms for a December 19 match against the Chicago Cardinals, marking the only time Halas would be on a different NFL team other than the Staleys/Bears. The game ended in a 14–14 tie.

George Halas 1920 staleys

They Must be Bears

In 1921 Halas and the Staley's moved to Chicago (Cubs Park, now Wrigley Field) after their first game of the season. Augustus E. Staley gave ownership of the team to Halas and a check for $5,000 ($75,892 today) to keep the name Staleys franchise name for the entire 1921 season.  

After the 1921 season, the NFL Championship went to the Staley's however there was a controversy. It was known among Buffalo sports historians and fans as the Staley Swindle and is a dispute in which the Buffalo All-Americans unintentionally surrendered the 1921 APFA Championship title to the Chicago Staleys. The controversy began after the 1921 season when the All-Americans finished the season with the best record in the American Professional Football Association. However, after the All-Americans lost what the owner thought was an exhibition game to the Staleys on December 4, 1921, the All-Americans had lost their title to Chicago on a tiebreaker. Welcome to the world of Papa Bear, it's the Chicago way.  

In 1922 George needed a name that would convey strength and size. He wanted to honor his friendship with William Wrigley Jr. and Bill Veek Sr. of the Cubs. He reasoned that football players were far larger than baseball players, and concluded, "if baseball players are cubs, then football players must be bears!

Here's the Scoop

Halas would play offense, defense, and coach the Chicago Bears for 40 years (1930-1932, 1942-1945 [to serve in the military], and 1956-1967). He also ran the day-to-day business and knew he needed a national college hero to lift the Bears and the league into legitimacy. In 1925 Halas gave the college all-star Red Grange a contract that earned him a salary and share of gate receipts that amounted to $100,000 ($1,552,548 today). All this during an era when typical league salaries were less than $100 ($1,550 today)/game. The NFL as we know it had begun! 

Red Grange December 1925

What Can I do For You? 

George Halas was one of the most important voices in the NFL. He supported small market teams like the Greenbay Packers by loaning them money to continue to operate and stay in the NFL. Halas even offered to share the team's substantial television income with teams in other small cities, firmly believing that what was good for the league would ultimately benefit his team. He was the first to have integrated roommates when traveling for road games. He started with Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo. 

George was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. His career ledger reads as follows: 63 years as an owner, 40 as a coach, 324 wins, and 8 NFL titles as a coach or owner. The Chicago Bears won their first Superbowl in January 1986, three years after his death.

Trust in What You Don't Understand

His 324 victories stood as an NFL record for nearly three decades, and are still far and away the most in Bears history. Hallas is the second most winning coach in all of professional football, second only to Don Shula. However, I think that George Halas' most incredible gift was his belief in integrity and honesty in himself and others, believing that a handshake was sufficient to finalize a deal. He just trusted people.
Imagine if you will, a multi-billion dollar deal being done on a handshake today. I think we can all learn a little bit of grace from this man and recognize what he was a part of creating.


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