Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Frig is still stocked with memories

The first thing I saw this morning when I logged onto Yahoo! Sports was sad news that the Frig was on the blink.

According to the Associated Press, former Chicago Bears’ defensive lineman William “The Refrigerator” Perry had been hospitalized in South Carolina in serious condition. He has an immune disorder called Guillian-Barre syndrome.

What’s amazing to me is the Frig hasn’t been forgotten. It’s been almost 25 years since he burst onto the scene as a football phenom. He was a defensive tackle by trade but Bears coach Mike Ditka turned him into running threat on goal-line situations. Five times Perry carried the ball during the Bears’ 1985 season, none for more than two yards, yet the Frig became the world’s most popular fat man this side of the Pillsbury Doughboy. He starred in the Bears’ infamous “Super Bowl Shuffle.”  You could say it was the inspiration for “Dancing With The Stars.” It was that much of an international sensation.

I had the fun and privilege of covering the Frig that season when I was sports columnist at the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star. My favorite Frig story was in New Orleans at the Super Bowl. The Bears’ players’ wives and significant others were staying in the same hotel as some media. One night, I was riding down to the lobby in a packed elevator when it stopped at a floor. The doors opened and the Frig appeared, ready to step on.

Talk about feeling like sardines preparing for a whale to invade. Fortunately, the Frig backed off and decided to wait for the next elevator. My luck.

Almost 25 years later, the Frig is still a prominent figure in sports, and it has little to do with his weight, which was reported to be 382 pounds at one time. He could have been heavier.

The fact is the Frig had the same impact on football in 1985 that the late Mark “The Bird” Fidrych had in 1976. They were one-hit wonders, colorful characters that transcended their respective sports.

I’m just glad they are not forgotten.


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