With 3:30 remaining in the third quarter of Super Bowl XX, the Chicago Bears led the New England Patriots 37-3. The Bears’ offense lined up on New England’s 1-yard line prepared to put the final sprinkles on their Super Bowl championship sundae. At the snap, William “Refrigerator” Perry, the Bears’ rookie defensive lineman, jumped from his stance in the Bears’ backfield, took a hand-off from quarterback Jim McMahon and lumbered across the unnaturally green turf of the New Orleans Superdome. He split the defenders and, like an appliance tumbling from the back of a truck, fell into the bright red end zone, the final touchdown of the season for the fabled ’85 Bears on their way to a 46-10 victory.
After the game, amidst the locker room celebration of one of the most dominant seasons the NFL had seen, the only cloud in sight hung above Walter Payton. Payton, the long-serving veteran of the Bears and one of the great running backs in league history, bristled at not scoring a touchdown in his only Super Bowl appearance. He believed coach Mike Ditka had been swept up in the hoopla over Perry, who during the season had generated Kardashian-esque amounts of hype as an over-sized and very part-time running back.
But Payton wasn’t the only person disappointed by Perry’s touchdown plunge. Fifteen hundred miles to the west in Las Vegas, the moment Perry theatrically spiked that ball, sportsbook managers up and down the Strip cringed and cursed.