So Long Lovie and Hanging Out with Iron Mike

    Lovie Smith bites the dust.  I am NOT ho-hum about this at all.  Why?  You might ask?  I now have to CHANGE the name of my Fantasy Football Team from LovieBears to what?  Who are they wooing for the job? John Gruden? JohnnyBears?  Marc Trestman?  MarcBears?  Darrell Bevel?  BevelBears?  Rick Dennison? RickyBears?  Nothing is working for me.  I’ll probably have to go in a whole different direction.  How much “thought time” am I going to have to devote to that?

     Actually, his name is kind of all he has going for him – the one perky thing – you’ve got to LOVE the name LOVIE.  What I mean by this is I’m sure he is a very smart,  nice, respectable and caring man. I’m simply referring to the fact that (with all due respect) he has the public personality of a door knob.  Bland, stoic, expressionless, Steppford-Wife-like.  His after the game commentary was usually delivered with all the passion of reading an optician’s Eye Chart.    

     And, I’m not talking about his coaching – because I really don’t know a lot about coaching.  In fact, I know NOTHING about coaching…except that his team – our Bears – probably WATCHED the PLAYOFFS from their cushy Lazy Boys in their respective man caves or maybe on the wide screen in the Bar at Pebble Beach as opposed to PLAYING in them…for the majority of the years that he ran the show.  Was that all Lovie’s fault?  I have no idea.

     But, I do know that Football – is an exciting game.  The Fans are exciting – the roar of the crowd – the cheers – the jeers – the bets going down…We like the Stars of the Team – the Players AND the Coach to have some PIZZAZ – They are Celebrities…it’s a Game/Theatre and they are all part of the show.  I guess we’re not going to hear that Lovie will be giving up coaching to do Stand-Up anytime soon.  All right – enough Lovie Bashing.

     So, here’s hoping that the new guy will be kind of a character…an interesting, edgy guy…maybe even a little controversial – fine – just not such a BORE.  You know,a fun guy... like gee…who comes to mind…I know…like MIKE DITKA!  Ya think?  Iron Mike, Da Coach – now he was entertainment.

     “If only Ditka would do a Swan Song with the Bears – now that would be a party!”  I blurt out to My Guy from across the table.

     “Yeah – my Buddy Mike…and you know what he says about me!” he puffs up.

     Let me explain:  My Sports Celeb Worshipping Guy just happens to have his very own Mike Ditka story that he loves to brag about.  He has told it a thousand times.  Invariably if the talk is about the Bears and there is some remote chance that the present company hasn’t heard it…I’ll prompt him (although he doesn’t need prompting – trust me).  “Honey, tell them about you and MIKE DITKA.”

     “Oh yeah – listen to this,” he’ll beam.  And so it begins with…..

     A few years ago he walks into Ditka’s (famed restaurant/bar on Chestnut owned by you know who) for lunch and a beer, and who is sitting alone at a table by the bar  – none other than Iron Mike himself.

     My Guy is totally awestruck when, all of a sudden, Da Coach yells over to him, “Hey – How are you? Welcome! What’s going on? And a few lines are exchanged between the two of them….”Doing great. “I can’t believe this – I am a huge fan… How’s it going with you?”  Then, “Enjoy your lunch.”  Or something like that.

     Shortly after this unexpected conversation, a camera crew and a reporter enter and Mike departs with them into the restaurant.    

          Now, My Guy is pretty excited – who wouldn’t be – he’s just ben chit- chatting with a Sports Icon.  So he’s talking to a couple at the bar from out of town about the historic Ditka and the Bears and all things related. The place is pretty empty and now, he must have gotten a little loud and carried away in his exuberance – because after a while he turns around to find MIKE – in his face – yelling, “SHUT THE (BLEEP) UP! We’re trying to tape an interview over here. Keep it down.  DO YOU HEAR ME?”

     Whoa – I can just picture My Guy, like a deer caught in headlights – quietly mumbling something like…”sorry, OK Sir, sorry, didn’t know.”

     But actually this provided one of the highlights of the Me and Mike” Saga, because in the perpetual retelling of the story, he very proudly interjects at this point, “Do you believe it?  MIKE DITKA YELLED at ME.  How cool is that?” He has proudly joined the ranks of those who have incurred Da Coach’s wrath.

     That night we went to the Bulls Game and, still reeling from his earlier encounter, on the way home, he says, “Let’s stop at Ditka’s – maybe Mike is still there.”  I just roll my eyes at My Groupie Guy, but nevertheless, soon we are scanning the bar…no sighting.  We hike up the stairs, and Yes – there He is sitting at a large round table with an entourage of six or eight others.

We go to the bar and with our stools reversed – My Guy is trying to catch Mike’s eye.  Not working.  He breaks his steady stare for a second and turns to me and says, “You go over and ask him if you can take a picture with him.” 

     “Nooooo,” I plead.  “Please don’t make me do that,” I whine.  “He’s with friends.  What if he yells at me?”  My anxious man just gives me THE LOOK, and I knew if I didn’t make this move, I would never hear the end of it.  “All right, but you’re going with me,” I negotiate.

     We sheepishly edge our way over to his table.

     “Hey Mike,” he calls out, “Remember me – met you downstairs at lunch today?”

     Mike looks up and says, “Oh yeah” and gives another “How you doing.”  He seems quite mellow – the infamous “Yelling Incident” apparently forgotten.  Possibly a byproduct of tipping a couple in the hours since the classic reprimand.

     My gushing Guy introduces me and states that I would like a picture with him…and says that he didn’t want to bother him…blah blah.  I give Him THE LOOK with that one.  Seriously?

     “No problem,” says friendly Mike.  Photos are taken, and now My Guy is telling him that we’re on our way back from the Bulls Game and soon he’s talking Bulls and Bears and Sports with MIKE DITKA.  Totally cool

     Now, thank you’s, and handshakes (I think I got a hug) are exchanged.  THEN, Mike turns to me and says, “You know what…He’s a REALLY GREAT GUY!”  Drum roll,  please. 

     So, from that day forward, My Guy will constantly remind me by posing the leading question, “So what does Mike Ditka think about me?”  But AHA, there was One More Quote that Mike delivered which I like to substitute…

     You can almost guess that we weren’t going to leave before Mike left…what if he asked us to join him, or asked us to come back to his place and watch old Super Bowl tapes…you never know.  So, at some point that night, inevitably after killing time with serial cocktails, My Guy gets up to go to the men’s room.  I am watching him as he hovered by the hallway – then MIKE looks up – sees him and then shouts over to me, “HEY, Is he OK?” And these are Da Coach’s exact words:   “BECAUSE I’M WORRIED ABOUT THAT GUY,” he said laughing. 

     Now, we’ll never know exactly why he would be so worried.  At any rate, I decided that I was going to run with that one.  So, when Mike is doing his TV thing – I like to say, “I wonder if he is still worried about you?” to which My Guy retorts, “No, remember – he thinks I’m A REALLY GREAT GUY!   And, that’s his Me and Mike Ditka are Best Buds Story.

     So, back to the renaming of the LovieBears.  Ironically, in view of all of the above, a visiting nephew was in Chicago last week.  We all were talking about the team and Lovie – and I related my dilemma of having to change my team name.  Then he revealed the name of his Fantasy Team…Now Danny is a diehard Bears Fan and so he named his team: S---k My Ditka.  Really.  (For the record, I know that he didn’t mean this to be disrespectful in any way…just guy talk/humor, of course) But, I am thinking that my new team name will have to be a little more demure. 

     On with the task at hand, this morning, I asked My Guy, “Is there any new contender for our new Coach named Bubba?”  He gave me THE LOOK, which meant that he wasn’t going to answer such a stupid question.  Too bad, I thought, I really like the name BubbaBears.

     Have any ideas for my new Fantasy Team Name?  Would LOVE your input!


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