When Mike Ditka took the podium at Soldier Field Monday night to give a brief, yet powerful final farewell to the freezing capacity crowd, he offered us a reminder of why we gather at sports arenas in Chicago in the first place. Much like MJ, who a couple years ago gave us an unrivaled Hall of Fame speech about his competitive drive, Ditka gave us a no frills explanation about commitment, passion, and loyalty, as only he and MJ could represent for the city of Chicago.
The unfortunate thing about these moments is how ephemeral they've become. As we slide back into watching the current Chicago teams in each respective sport, we are stuck watching lackluster combinations of players who will never approach anything that we were so spoiled to have in the 80's and 90's. Michael Jordan, now in his 50's and stationed in Charlotte, and Mike Ditka, 74, very rarely, if ever again, will take the stage to remind us all of their time while representing the Windy City.
So what's next? The unfortunate return of Derrick Rose has put the Chicago Bulls near rebuilding mode. The Chicago Bears defense, still somewhat in tact from their 2006-2007 Super Bowl run, is running on fumes, relying on stop gap players that aren't ready to be in the situation they've been asked to this year and frankly never will. And though the Bears offense has been close to spectacular at times, it seems odd not seeing our defense at least complement the offensive side of the ball occasionally.
So what happened? Ditka and Jordan represent two guys who never settled for anything less than the best. They demanded it, even though it eventually was their undoing. Ditka, taking over the New Orleans Saints franchise, assumed too much responsibility and tanked the team before aiding the Saints in showing him the door. MJ, though showing signs, has been a subpar GM. This after a 2 year stint in Washington where he failed to make the playoffs as a player in the twilight of his career.
But so what...If you have followed the careers of these guys and listened to them, you'd know that they've never been afraid of failure. They've met it head on, accepted it, but never shyed away from it. They've been outspoken about it. No one can tell MJ or Ditka they are a failure first because they've accepted the blame before anyone else ever could.
The current Chicago Bulls and Chicago Bears franchises have become franchises in denial. There's no one giving us an outspoken view into these two teams because no one has the strength to do it. At a time when the Bulls should be making tough moves, and the Bears should be making tough decisions, we are getting the same treatment we've gotten for a decade - a quiet front office, a passive management, a total attempt of quelling the situation and appeasing fans and media.
This Bulls team is done - they will never win a ring as they are currently assembled. Derrick Rose said the same thing last year about coming back as he did this year and even though he disobeyed doctors who said his next step in rehab was to play, only get get hurt again 7 months later, we are still clinging to the thought of him coming back in May? To shoot, what, 35% and turn the ball over 5 times/ game?
Jay Cutler's time in Chicago is done. He can't manage a team better than a 34 year old mediocre QB. Trestman's system is to complement, but the fact that McCown's rating is 20 points higher than Cutler suggests we've been wrong about this guy for a long time. And much like the Bulls team, the Bears defense is done. Peppers, Briggs, Tillman, all had nice runs in Chicago, but what value are they to us now? Tillman and Briggs on the sidelines, and Peppers playing invisible Defensive end, while commanding large salaries, is worthless.
So to all you sports fans in Chicago, this is a simple reminder to demand more, way more. No, demand everything. You pay for it, you are loyal to it, and you've been treated to both teams reciprocating that respect before.
Demand more, Chicago.