Jun 4, 2021

Team Mongo: How Bears Nation is rallying behind Steve McMichael

Team Mongo: How Bears Nation is rallying behind Steve McMichael

This piece is from Midway Minute, the newsletter that makes you a better Chicago sports fan. To get it free in your inbox every weekday morning, click here.

It's been six weeks since Steve McMichael shocked us by revealing that he's living with ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease.

The time since has seen an outpouring of love and support for the Chicago Bears great: The start of a GoFundMe account that's raised over $200,000 for Mongo's medical care, a high-profile fundraiser with former teammates at a Wrigleyville rooftop and $34,076 (and counting) raised by the sale of "Team Mongo" shirts at Obvious Shirts.

This weekend also brings the latest effort: "Mongopalooza," a concert at Mongo McMichaels in Romeoville. Scheduled to run from 3-8 p.m. on Saturday. the event will be headlined by the 'Chicago 6" — a band made up of '85 Bears including Dan Hampton. There is a suggested donation of $20 per person for the event.

"There's been so much love ... so much love," said Betsy Shepherd, McMichael's longtime publicist and close family friend. "Steve has always been a guy that would give you the shirt off his back. Now it's all coming back to him."

While the last six weeks have been a whirlwind, the story started back in January when McMichael received the earth-shattering diagnosis. A force of nature who never stopped moving, McMichael was suddenly locked into a fight with a devastating nervous system disease for which there is currently no cure.

Shepherd was one of the first to find out and McMichael requested she start calling his former teammates and coaches to deliver the news. Teammates from Richard Dent to Kevin Butler were floored by the news that the leader of their pack would be confined to a wheelchair. Several cried.

As word spread, Shepherd worried that news might leak out before an announcement or that Mongo might find himself in a situation similar to Walter Payton with people wondering or making jokes about his changed appearance without knowing all the facts.

That never happened. While teammates and friends began regular pilgrimmages to Steve and Misty McMichael's home, word never spread outside of the team's tight circle until Dan Wiederer's article in the Chicago Tribune on April 23.

The Bears fanbase didn't take long to start showing their support.

The GoFundMe account organized by Shepherd quickly started drawing donations while Joe Johnson of Obvious Shirts pledged to donate 100 percent of all proceeds to the fund for McMichael's care.

Teammates, meanwhile, mobilized for the $500 a head private fundraiser in Wrigleyville on May 17. Willie Gault got on a plane from California to be there. Jim McMahon arrived from Scottsdale. Ric Flair and Joe Gomez, friends from McMichael's pro wrestling days, drove up from Georgia.

Mike Ditka was there. So was Bobby Hull.  George and Brian McCaskey, too.

It was an emotional night and McMichael cried at least three times, something Shepherd said she hadn't seen him do since his daughter Macy was born.

Shepherd snapped one touching photo at a particularly emotional moment. In it, Dent, Gault and Otis Wilson comfort their teammate during a taped appearance by Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saint who's also battling ALS.

(Photo by Betsy Shepherd)

"Steve's a really proud man and I think it was a little difficult for them to be in a position where they needed help," Shepherd said. "But I told them that if we're going to go public that Bears fans are going to want to help. And they have and it's really eased a lot of the worries from a financial standpoint. All of their income since he retired was from Steve working in the media and doing personal appearances. He hasn't been able to do that."

In addition to helping pay household bills and costs not covered by insurance, donations will help the McMichaels move into a wheelchair-accessible home they recently found.

"This is a very expensive disease to fight," Shepherd said.

The burden has been eye-opening to McMichael and he's pledged to help other families fighting the disease that don't have the resources afforded by his fame.

Shepherd said plans are being made to start a foundation in McMichael's name.

That, of course, will take more money and fundraising. Shepherd is working on "a roast, a boast and a toast" for McMichael in the late summer or early fall, They will also look for other opportunities going forward.

Ironically, McMichael had done a lot of work for ALS before his diagnosis, even presenting an award for courage to Gleason a few years ago.

And while his newfound fight has been nothing short of sobering, McMichael has maintained the sense of humor that's made him so beloved in these parts the last four decades.

"Tell Steve Gleason I'm taking that award back," he joked to Shepherd.

To donate to Mongo's GoFundMe, click here.
Main photo provided by Chicago photographer Will Byington

Get more stories like this one in your inbox
Ric Flair, Steve McMichael, Mike Ditka and Bobby Hull (Will Byington photo)

Thursday's results
Sox 4, Tigers 1
Giants 7, Cubs 2
Mercury 77, Sky 74 (OT)

Today's schedule
Tigers at Sox (7:10, NBCSCH)
Cubs at Giants (8:45, Marquee)

Courage at Red Stars (1, Paramount+)
Tigers at Sox (1:10, NBCSCH)
Sky at Sparks (2, ABC)
Cubs at Giants (6:15, Marquee)

Tigers at Sox (1:10, NBCSCH)
Cubs at Giants (3:05, Marquee)

News and results

Sox 4, Tigers 1

It might be time to start betting some home run stacks on the South Side with the temperatures heating up. Yasmani Grandal, Tim Anderson, Jake Lamb and Yoan Moncada all hit solo shots in Thursday's win.

  • Don't look now, but Lance Lynn should be your current favorite to start the All-Star Game for the AL. He improved to 7-1 with a 1.23 ERA with six innings of one-run ball.
  • Tony La Russa will tie John McGraw for second on the all-time managing wins list (2,763) with the next Sox win.

Next: Dallas Keuchel (4-1, 4.53) gets the Friday night start against Spencer Turnbull (4-2, 4.93).

Giants 7, Cubs 4

Joc Pederson parked his second career homer in the bay, but it was nowhere near enough to beat a Giants team playing as hot as the Cubs have been. Brandon Crawford's three-run homer off Rex Brothers in the fifth broke the game open.

Next: Jake Arrieta (5-5, 4.41) faces a Giants starter to be named later.

Mercury 77, Sky 74 (OT)

The Sky got Allie Quigley back for this one, but the losses keep piling up. A 13-point lead in the fourth quarter was erased by Phoenix, as was an early five-point advantage in overtime. Sky are 2-6 to start a season they entered with championship hopes.

  1. Aramis Ramirez says Bob Brenly made a point of unfairly criticizing him on the air. The Athletic
  2. James Fegan with a great deep dive on Yoan Moncada's exceptional performance so far this season. The Athletic
  3. In honor of the USFL's return: The Chicago Blitz and the craziest trade in football history. NBC Sports Chicago
  4. Has the bubble on the Michael Jordan Fleer rookie card burst? Eric Edholm investigates. Yahoo Sports
  5. 19-year-old Shyla Heal had a much classier response to getting cut out of the WNBA after just four games than I would have at her age. Twitter

Thank you for reading today's issue of Midway Minute!
Did someone forward you this email? Sign up here
Support Midway Minute: Become a member or leave a tip
Want a free coffee mug?: Recommend this newsletter to some friends
Have a link, story idea or want to advertise? Email Kevin

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

Join the conversation

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Midway Minute.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.