The history of the Chicago Bears and the NFL was fraught with peril. Professional football had to overcome Wars that would take their players and fans away, terrible economic times like the Great Depression, and then every time things looked good, new competition would come out of the shadows.
If you think the first half of the Bears 2019 Season has been tough, take a peak at history and you will see plenty of other threats and problems that the team has managed to live through.
During World War II, the NFL teams had a smaller stock of qualified players and gate receipts were down. A few teams joined forces and consolidated during war time. Thus during the war years, the NFL had the Card-Pitts and the Steagles.
Before television, an NFL franchise was not where the smart money people invested. Yes, men were men, and some relished the challenges of making the game work financially, but franchises were a big gamble.
World War II had come to an end, but before NFL owners could take a breather, Arch Ward, the powerful Chicago Tribune Sports Editor, formed a new league. The All-American Football Conference (AAFC) operated during the 1946-1949 NFL seasons. This was not the first alternative league combatting the NFL and it would not be the last.
For the NFL, the post war years were a period of financial weakness. Many NFL players were not under contract during the war and it was a players’ market as the conflict was drawing to a close. Former NFL players were courted by the new league and there was AAFC competition for players coming out of college. Financially, NFL teams were hurt by competition with AAFC teams—this was more acute in cities that had teams from both leagues.
AAFC teams had their problems as well. As had been the case with new leagues, there are some strong teams and weak teams who drag everyone down financially. The Cleveland Browns dominated its competition in the new league and several of the lesser teams had difficulty holding on to fan support. Late in 1949, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell announced a merger agreement. Under the agreement, the AAFC Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Baltimore Colts would join the NFL in 1950. Other AAFC teams would disband.
The NFL was still licking its wounds in the early 50s, but televised games were on their way and finally some security would follow for most owners.