Mike Ditka the real Grabowski

Chicago is a town based on hard work. Throughout its history, people came to Chicago from other parts of the country and world to work hard. No matter the job, blue collar, white collar, menial, servile, or powerful. Chicagoans worked hard. People, no matter their station in life, were proud of their jobs.


Mike Ditka (Chicago Tribune photo)

Chicagoans played hard too. For many generations Chicago was a two-fisted town. It bred colorful characters from all classes. One of those characters is Mike Ditka.

Ditka adopted Chicago and Chicago adopted him. Ditka came from the bluest of blue collar backgrounds.

In Chicago, blue collar was better than blue blood.

Mike Ditka came from a background of hard work. As a Chicago Bear he played hard. When he became the coach of the Chicago Bears he worked hard. He worked his players hard.

Ditka was as blue collar as they come.

"There are teams that are fair-haired, and those that aren't so fair-haired. Some teams are named Smith, some Grabowski. We're Grabowskis." Mike Ditka, January 1986

Grabowski was a reference to hard working blue collar regular guys. "Da Bears".

Ditka was brash, bold, and outspoken. Chicagoans are like that. He was not some Ivy League shrinking violet, faux Southern gentleman, or West Coast Milquetoast.

Ditka yelled and screamed. At his team, reporters, and even fans. He suffered no fools. He was tough on his players, himself, and his critics. He did not care about the oh so tender sensitivities of others.

For those who remember the 1985 Bears, they were Chicago. They played hard on and off the field. They were a colorful bunch of ruffians coached by a colorful guy called Ditka. That year, Da Bears and their coach could do no wrong all the way to the Superbowl and beyond. They made Chicago proud.

The only thing that could have made that Super Bowl victory sweeter were two other sons of Chicagos who could not be there. Mayor Richard J. Daley and George Halas. Daley died nine years before. Halas died two years earlier.

Both of these Chicago boys would have shared great delight in that victory. Halas built the Chicago Bears and the NFL. Daley, the long time mayor, was the epitome hard working blue collar politics.

On Monday night the Chicago Bears will formally retire Number 89. 89, the number Mike Ditka wore as a Chicago Bear and in college.

The only question is, what took so long?


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