LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago’s hottest club isn’t located in some trendy part of downtown.
The city’s top party scene resides inside the Chicago Bears' Soldier Field locker room, which, after victories, is temporarily transformed into "Club Dub." It's a postgame celebration with players and coaches dancing to loud music with lights and a disco ball.
"Dancing puts you in a good mood and it's a way for people to celebrate," Bears first-year coach Matt Nagy said on Wednesday.
There's been a lot to celebrate this season for the 10-4 Bears, who went 7-1 at home and won their first NFC North title since 2010 last week. And they're hoping "Club Dub" doesn't close its doors anytime soon.
"In this business sometimes you overlook ... how special a win is," Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. "But you have to remember to enjoy this. And I think the dance parties; ‘Club Dub’ in the locker room after the games has made this experience so much better. It’s become something very special for this team."
Inspired by the Cubs
The concept of "Club Dub" started with Nagy’s visit to Wrigley Field on April 14.
Invited by the Cubs to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before a game against the Braves, Nagy struck up a conversation with Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who is well-versed in postgame celebrations.
Since winning the World Series in 2016, the Cubs have famously held dance parties inside their clubhouse after wins, complete with drinks, music, lights and even a smoke machine.
Nagy credits Maddon for instilling in him the importance of savoring each victory.
"He's awesome. I absolutely love him, I think he's great," Nagy said of Maddon. "We talked again over the summer about a lot of different things. And we just, we believe in a lot of the same philosophies and one of them is having fun and so the second we started talking for the first time about what we believe in it was easy for me to pick his brain and figure out ways that we could make it ours as well."
"We believe in a lot of the same philosophies and one of them is having fun and so the second we started talking for the first time about what we believe in it was easy for me to pick his brain and figure out ways that we could make it ours as well." Matt Nagy on meeting Joe Maddon
Most expected the Bears to improve under Nagy -- Chicago finished 13-34 in the John Fox era from 2015 to 2017 -- but few anticipated an immediate turnaround. The Bears took over sole possession of first place in the NFC North in late September and never looked back.
As wins began to pile up, the vibe inside "Club Dub" got crazier.
"At the beginning of the year there might have been one or two guys in that circle," Nagy said. "But I think now what's happening is you're getting into everybody and they're all doing it together. And they got the Macarena and stuff like that going on. It's pretty cool. And I love the fact that everybody else likes it. That’s a good thing. We like having fun."
Trubisky said he finally unleashed his dance moves around the midpoint of the season.
"I was in the middle, but they were usually pushing me out because they don’t want to see me dance," Trubisky said. "But yeah, everybody’s getting in on it. It’s absolutely hilarious. And I mean, guys are going nuts. You’ve got choreographed dances going down. You’ve got waves. Somebody might have been wave-surfing last game. I don’t know. But there are some videos that are floating around. It’s just getting crazy in there. So we just have to keep it under control. And yeah, keep 'Club Dub' rolling. It’s a lot of fun."
Offense vs. defense dance-off
Nagy upped the ante around six weeks ago.
Players enjoyed "Club Dub" so much that Nagy decided to schedule a dance-off between the offense and defense on Saturday mornings.
Every Tuesday the names of all the Bears’ offensive players are placed in a hat and the names of the all the defenders are put in another.
Two names are picked -- one offense and one defense. A selected player has the option of passing if someone else on that side of the ball is willing to take his place. If not, it’s go time.
The players then pick a partner and have a 2-on-2 dance-off inside the Halas Hall locker room in front of the entire team, coaching staff, support staff, basically any team employee with locker room access who happens to be inside the building on a Saturday morning.
"We have a little 'American idol' stand down there where three people, I won't say who those are but they're top-level execs now, one might be in this room, and they're voters," Nagy said. "We have it on video, but there's only one person that gets that video -- me. No cell phones."
The players love the new Saturday ritual, except some of those who have to perform.
"It’s great to laugh at teammates that can’t dance," Bears running back Tarik Cohen said. "Everybody who’s not in it looks forward to it a lot. The contestants don’t look forward to it at all."
Cohen speaks from experience.
"The week Tarik and I went, neither of us actually got picked out of the hat," Woods said. "The person’s name that got picked on offense was injured. So they got Tarik to go because the offense really wanted to win since the defense had won the previous couple dance-offs.
"The defense said, 'Let’s put Josh in.' So, I said OK. Michael Joseph and I then picked a song to perform to like the night before."
What followed was an upset on the scale of Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas.
"We won the coin flip, deferred, and made them go first," Woods said.
"They’re performing ... and Tarik was killing it. He did like a 2000’s KRUMP routine. Then he does his famous Tarik Cohen backflip. I saw the backflip and I said, ‘Damn, the last time I did a backflip was about 35 pounds ago.’
"So, then we went, and everyone went crazy because of our song choice, even the offense went crazy. We danced to the Instagram challenge song -- 'I Bet U Won’t' by Mouse and Level. So we did stuff similar to the Instagram challenge but then we just freestyled it. But then, I don’t know, something came over me, so I looked up, nothing was above me ... and I hit the backflip.
"Once I did that, it was over."
‘They don’t do it like us’
Internet and social media videos of players dancing inside postgame locker rooms are fairly common in college football.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, for example, has for years encouraged his players to celebrate big wins by dancing to the music of artists such as Migos and Drake.
But the phenomenon is relatively new in the NFL.
Since the success of "Club Dub," however, imitators have sprung up across the league.
"I was on Instagram and I saw the Saints players 'Swag Surfin' in their locker room, but they don’t do it like us," Bears wide receiver Josh Bellamy said. "The other teams are trying to do it, too. But we started it and are riding the wave right now."
The wave has taken the Bears all the way to the playoffs.
There are multiple reasons why the Bears went from worst to first in 2018 -- Chicago has five Pro Bowlers and seven Pro Bowl alternates on the roster -- but hiring Nagy in January may have been general manager Ryan Pace’s best move to date.
A head coach sets the culture.
And in just over 11 months on the job, Nagy has turned the Bears' culture from one of the league’s worst to one of the best.
"It’s incredible," Trubisky said. "Just like the small things that Coach Nagy has brought to this organization to create that camaraderie and bring the offense, the defense and the special teams together, it’s something we’re doing as a team. And like I said before, it’s not about individuals. It’s about enjoying this whole thing and then winning together as a team. And celebrating as a team is just as important."