The Chicago Tribune is reporting the Chicago Bears will retire former head coach Mike Ditka’s number, 89, in the upcoming season.
What da hell took dem so long?
Mike Ditka, like late owner Geroge Halas, epitomized Da Bears. He played for Da Bears, set records for Da Bears, and won a Super Bowl, as coach with Da Bears. Ditka, like Halas, came from hard working Eastern European stock. The kind of people who did not pick up any bad habits like the eight hour day with weekends off. These people worked. They worked hard. They expected their children to work hard in school too. Chicago was a hard working town. People were judged by how hard they worked not what they did for a living. Mike Ditka may not have been born in Chicago but he was of Chicago.
George Halas created professional football. Mike Ditka recreated the Chicago Bears, both as a player and coach. Ditka, like Halas, knew the only way path of success open to him in America was through education and sports. At the University of Pittsburgh, he started all three seasons of his college career. He played tight end and was a punter. He is considered one of the best tight ends in the history of college football.
Ditka was drafted by Da Bears. Like George Halas, he never left his blue collar upbringing behind. He brought his tough, hard work ethic to the field. He played tough. He played hard. The 1960s produced some of the toughest, meanest, most animalistic football players in the history of the game. These were no gentlemanly sportsmanlike weenies. They were maulers and killers. They were blood letters, bone crunchers, and meat eaters. They were predators. They were lions, and tigers, and bears, oh s#$t!
Mike Ditka redefined the role of tight end. He was no mere blocker. He had 58 pass receptions during his first season with Da Bears. He was named Rookie of the Year. He played on Da Bears 1963 Championship Team. He was named to the Pro Bowl all five seasons he played with the Bears. Mike Ditka was the first tight end inducted into the Pro Foot Ball Hall of Fame.
After spending nine years as an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys, George Halas brought Ditka back to Chicago as head coach for the 1982 season. Halas wanted and needed a guy like just him to build a winning team. He was tired of Gentlemen Jims. He needed someone with grit, dirt under his finger nails, soot under his collar, a work ethic and fearsome reputation. Someone who would give no quarter. Someone who hated losing as much as he loved winning. Halas needed a tough guy to turn his team into tough guys in a tough guy city.
Ditka came, he saw, and he conquered. He was not a nice guy. Nice guys finish last. He was brash, bold, contrarian, and told it like it was. He turned the sportsmen into “Grabowskis”. Hard working, hard playing, hard charging blue collar Chicaga guys. Salad eating, wine sipping, cheese nibbling punks need not apply. He wanted meat and potato, shot and beer drinking, bar brawlers. Ditka also knew when to leave well enough alone. Though he and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan had explosive chemistry, he let Ryan build the defense his way. Ryan built the best defense in the NFL.
Mike Ditka transformed the Bears into his own image. Rough, tough, battlers. He put the monster back into the Monsters of the Midway. He turned his team into a pack of feral animals and unleashed them every weekend. For the first time in years, the fans loved the Bears, they loved da coach, and they loved the old man, Halas, who many wanted put out to pasture.
After George Halas died, his grandson, Mike McCaskey took over the team. He had as much business running a football team as the Teletubbies. He was a bespoke clad bean counting, wine sipping, and cheese nibbling, yoga practicing gentleman. He was a spoiled fancy pants. There was bad chemistry between da coach and Little Lord Faunleroy. Thanks to Momma Bear,Virginia McCaskey, Ditka remained and led the team to a Super Bowl victory. There were credible rumors at the time that Little Lord Fauntleroy did not want a championship team. He supposedly did everything he could to sabotage da coach. Supposedly, Ditka, with the backing of Fauntleroy’s mother, did what he did best. He coached, he won, and he conquered, ignoring the kid in short pants.
Fauntleroy did everything in his power to get rid of his volatile coach. When he finally succeeded, he hired a series of Gentlemen Jims in his own mold. Fauntleroy was eventually stripped of day to day management of the Bears and kicked upstairs into management, where he found his own level of incompetence.
You can hate Mike Ditka because he was loud and abusive. You can hate Mike Ditka because he did not talk like a polished public relations weasel. You can hate him because he was a sore loser. You can hate him because he was a volatile hot head simmering with violence. Then, you can pack your bags, cross the border, and go live in that fourth world country called Suburbia with the Brie nibblers and wine drinkers. You do not belong in Chicago.
Mike Ditka deserves to have his number retired. He deserves to be enshrined as Brother Bear, like his famous former boss, Poppa Bear. Mike Ditka is the Chicaga Bears. He is da coach, da man, and da head Grabowski.
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