Chicago, hog butcher for the world. Stormy, husky, brawling. City of the Big Shoulders. Wicked and brutal, yes, Carl Sandburg had seen that in the streets and on the faces. But, he wrote, "Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning." Chicago, bareheaded and smiling, a Ditka, a Dent, a Duerson, a Grabowski.

For 22 years Chicago had gone to bed hungry for a champion. The nation's Second City rarely finished even that high. Chicago's Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Black Hawks, De Paul, they had each and all occasionally flirted with greatness, but any embrace was momentary. Now, with a sudden and terrifying strength, the Bears have reasserted themselves as those fabled Monsters of the Midway. "Our job wasn't to come here and play a game," their Ditka said contemptuously. "Our job was to come here and win a game." And having punished New England, 46-10, in the Super Bowl, the Bears returned home to the city in whose image they were created, and in whose heart they live.

The best team won. If they played again next week, the margin would be just as wide. "There's no question who the better football team is. We are the better football team," instructed the frosty Ditka. "I laughed hearing about how New England strips the ball. They got two turnovers. We got six. We don't have to strip the football. We flat knock it out of their hands. You want to coach that way, to strip the ball? Fine," Ditka said, sneering at what seemed to him a blatantly sissified approach. "We'll coach our way."

Even if the Bears aren't as humble as you might wish, there should be no doubt that the decisiveness, the overwhelmingness with which they won was right, just and good. In a league where parity is a stated corporate goal, a 15-1 record deserves admiration. That the Bears then went through two playoff games without permitting any points to be scored against them was unprecedented. "The secret of our defense," Dan Hampton said, "is we find out what offenses can't handle, then we give them a large dose of it."

The way the Bears subjugated the NFL this season, they would have been too cheaply demeaned had they lost to the Patriots. "We wanted to prove a point, that we were the most dominant team in pro football," said Jim McMahon, their snippy quarterback. They have left no cracks in the doorway. The room is sealed.

Raymond Berry didn't have to look at game films to know what had happened: "We got our rear ends handed to us." Mosi Tatupu pronounced it "a nightmare." For Raymond Clayborn it was "a terrible embarrassment." Of 13 Super Bowl records set in the game, the most significant is one New England nows holds for fewest yards gained rushing: seven. Supposedly a running team, the Patriots passed -- or attempted to pass -- their first six downs. Tony Eason hasn't gained a yard yet. Berry decided on that strategy, he said, "to get (the Bears') attention." He'd have been better off sending them roses. In three previous playoff games the Patriots threw a total of 42 times. On Sunday, they threw 36. "We tried to change our personality," Ron Wooten said. "If we had to do it again, I'd like to see us run right at them." Considering their grand total of seven yards on the ground, that seems an idiotic preference. On the other hand, it would at least shorten the game.

Several Bears remarked that the Patriots appeared nervous on offense. "I could see it in their eyes," said Dave Duerson. "We cause havoc. Eason was bewildered, but it wasn't just him, it was John Hannah and Brian Holloway and the rest of them." In the middle of the third quarter the Bears had a prohibitive 37-3 lead. By then, Gary Fencik admitted, he was "getting a little bit bored," Steve McMichael was "ready for Bourbon Street," and Buddy Ryan was probably musing on what to wear to his own canonization.

The danger in the Bears ascending to football's pinnacle is that we will be overwhelmed by the imitators. Next season all the quarterbacks could be wearing stupid sunglasses on a rope. Next season everyone over 295 pounds might come to camp with only one front tooth and nicknamed for a household appliance.

There is little danger, however, that Ditka will change much. He was a cave man as a player, and he remains rather the same as a coach. Yesterday, when he should have been overflowing with contentment, he was testy with reporters about imagined slights. He actually claimed that the Bears had not been given their due credit all season, an absurd charge unless he confines his reading to the Albania Gazette. He implied Jim McMahon would have been a better choice than Richard Dent for Super Bowl MVP, a comment that may have been aimed more at the growing myth of Buddy Ryan than at either player. Ditka seemed to wince when Ryan's name was mentioned and he once again had to listen as Ryan's genius was celebrated. Asked about the prospect of Ryan leaving the Bears to become a head coach elsewhere, Ditka first admonished the questioner to "get the tape" from a previous news conference, then later said defensively, "We're capable of going on without any one person." Ditka would seem to see Ryan as a loaded gun casually pointed in his direction. Which is not, gangland historians will note, a wholly inappropriate symbol in Chicago.