The phrase “Black Monday” is most widely recognized in pop culture today for its connection to the NFL, but it is certainly not its origin.The Irish believe “Black Monday” dates to the Monday of Easter week in 1209 and denotes the slaughter of hundreds of English settlers who had migrated to Dublin.
In America, it is first noted to have been used by a Democratic congressman from Mississippi, John Bell Williams, on the floor of the House on May 17, 1954 in response to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education.
It is likely most widely recognized in association with October 19, 1987, a day on which the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 508 points.
Though it has since lost more points in a single day, the 22.6 percent drop still represents the greatest single day crash in history.
All that is interesting, but my beat is still the National Football League. Most credit the coining of “Black Monday” as the day after the NFL’s final games of the regular season to a pair of writers from the Associated Press whose names I have been unable to track down who used it in a story for The New York Times in 1998.
In NFL circles it is used to refer to the firing of multiple coaches and general managers on the same day immediately after the season ends, but in reality it could also be used to refer to the moods and emotions of hundreds of players around the league from the 20 teams that will not be in the playoffs.
For example, by the time the doors of the Chicago Bears locker room were opened to the media Monday morning, many of the players were already gone, but of those that remained, most were in dark if not completely black moods.
It had little to do with not being in the playoffs, as that reality became clear a couple of weeks ago.
Of the 53 players on the Bears active roster at season’s end, nine on injured reserve and 10 on the practice squad, only 40 have contracts for the 2020 season.
Some of the 22 free agents and 10 practice squad players will be re-signed by the Bears, and others by other teams, but on “Black Monday” there were technically 32 unemployed players in the room.
Additionally, players under contract like Adam Shaheen, J.P. Holtz, Charles Leno, Javon Wims, Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Josh Woods, to name a few, have to know their Bears futures are uncertain, while still more like Leonard Floyd, Prince Amukamara and Taylor Gabriel face the possibility of being 2020 salary cap casualties.
Even for those almost certain to return, looking around that locker room at friends and teammates they have lived, played, laughed, perhaps cried and gone to battle with, and knowing they are unlikely to be teammates with again made for a really dark day.
It’s a part of the business most of us not only never experience but have little context to fully understand and often don’t even think about.
Kevin Pierre-Louis has made a case to stay, but he is one of those free agents who described “Black Monday” this way.
“It is difficult because you grind with these guys every day.
“You get close to certain players, so knowing that you might not be there next year or someone else might not be there next year, it’s definitely tough.
“But it’s tough because you do blood, sweat and tears with these guys, you build these bonds, and it’s hard to let them go.”
Nick Williams knows the feelings of “Black Monday” all too well after stints in Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Miami and being out of the league altogether in 2017.
“We’ll see what happens in the future.
“Obviously, I want to be back here. I want to be a Bear. I love this organization. They’ve afforded me a lot of great opportunities. I like this locker room. I like my teammates. We’ll see what happens.”
Fifty-one weeks ago, fresh off the “double doink” that ended last season, the pain in the room was palpable, but the mood more gray than black, and it quickly turned sunny off the great accomplishments and expectations for this season.
Monday it was just sad.