Caleb Williams and ‘Hard Knocks’ will help bring the Bears out of their beige shell

One of the reasons for the 1985 Bears’ decades-long hold on a fan base and a city was its cast of uninhibited characters. Mike Ditka, Buddy Ryan, Jim McMahon, Steve McMichael, Dan Hampton, William Perry and Walter Payton never tiptoed into a room.

Yes, there certainly was a Super Bowl title attached to that team and, no, there certainly hasn’t been a title since for the franchise. But without that mix of big personalities, the ’85 Bears are just another champion. Champions are crowned every year; champions that live in zoos are not.

Since then — since the McCaskey family dug their sensible shoes in — fun has been in short supply at Halas Hall. A franchise can reflect its owner, and, in this case, that means decorum, self-restraint and moderation in all things.

But now the Bears are going to be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,’’ a behind-the-scenes look at how NFL teams go about their business in training camp. For years, ownership made its aversion to the team appearing on the show clear. The NFL finally said, ‘‘Too bad,’’ and forced the franchise to fly its freak flag, such as it is. The Bears’ appearance on the documentary series has everything to do with Caleb Williams, a rookie quarterback who apparently can’t keep anything in. Not his painted fingernails. Not his intention to win multiple Super Bowls. Not his joy of life.

Not only is the No. 1 overall pick in the draft being asked to change the fortunes of the franchise, he also is being asked to do what the ’85 Bears did to Chicago: He’s being asked to captivate.

Caleb Williams, miracle worker.

It’s a lot to ask. The Bears’ corporate culture is built around the McCaskey family’s culture. Most of the focus is on the team’s history as one of the NFL’s original franchises. Owner Virginia McCaskey, 101, is the daughter of founder George ‘‘Papa Bear’’ Halas. Once you understand the franchise is a shrine to him, you understand the family. Halas Hall is more a church than a locker room.

The McCaskeys never have known quite what to do with the ’85 Bears, who were built by general manager Jim Finks. Too wild and crazy. Too much Ditka.

Are they going to know what to do with Williams? It probably doesn’t matter because he knows what to do. And league officials certainly know what sells. They don’t know yet whether Williams can play, but they do know that he fascinates people. Hence, the Bears and ‘‘Hard Knocks.’’

The show will give Bears fans a chance to see players in their natural element, not at news conferences. Having camera crews in meeting rooms will change those meetings in some way and will affect how the participants act, but still. It’s something out of the ordinary. This franchise has fed us a strict diet of ordinary for decades.

Will it be too much for Williams? I sense there’s no such thing as too much for him. I don’t know if he was born for this, but he thinks he was. The only thing that matters and the only way any of this works is if he was born to be a great NFL quarterback. If he’s talented enough, he’ll be an icon; if he isn’t, he’ll be just another social-media peddler. There are meaningful calories and empty calories.

Williams will be the subject of tremendous scrutiny. The franchise hasn’t had a great quarterback in eons. Worlds are colliding here. Everyone will be watching to see who wins: the brash rookie or the football team with a history of quarterback malpractice.

Learning how to be an NFL quarterback in camp and being the star of a TV show during camp is a load. Maybe this is crazy. Maybe we need some crazy in our lives.

I was listening to sports-talk radio the other day, and, during a discussion about ‘‘Hard Knocks,’’ the hosts said that Bears chairman George McCaskey actually is a funny guy. If he is, he has been hiding his comedy routine under a bushel.

A recent article told me George (to repeat, the team’s chairman) was umpiring a high school baseball game on the third day of the NFL Draft in April. That sounds more like our guy. He never has pretended to know much about football, and a side gig during the draft is the logical expression of that.

‘‘The No. 1 reason I officiate is I don’t get second-guessed enough in my regular job,’’ McCaskey told ESPN.

OK, that’s pretty funny. Maybe they’ll give him a five-minute open-mic set on ‘‘Hard Knocks.’’

Hell has frozen over. The Bears will be on “Hard Knocks.”

The Bears are going to Max out their television time.

The Bears have had plenty of forgettable seasons in the four decades since they won the Super Bowl. The fact they’ve climbed back to national relevance is a positive.

The Bears were chosen for the HBO show for the first time since its launch in 2001.

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