Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011
Posted: 6:35 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
He is without question one of signature figures in Chicago sports history, at once one of its most polarizing and yet somehow unifying in some sort of bizarre emotional contradiction. He was the personality the personalities really of the greatest single team in NFL history.
While I was working on The Chicago Bears and Super Bowl XX: The Rise and Self-Destruction of the Greatest Football Team in History for Triumph Books, Richard Dent and I sat over a long dinner of story telling.
The Colonel, finally a member of the Hall of Fame and frequent target of Ditkas, summed it up perfectly: Ditka is the reason we won that Super Bowl, and the reason we didnt win three.
He left his players feeling betrayed in 1987 when he declared that the replacement players were the real Bears. Yet few members of the NFL community have fought harder for his needy brothers-in-pads through his work with Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund than Ditka. When the 85 Bears gathered in 2004 to plan activities for the 20th anniversary of XX, Ditka said whatever he made from those activities was being put into the players pool. Without you guys, Ditka said, none of this ever happens for me.
Players held him in contempt and also regarded him with the kind of respect reserved for their own.
You couldnt go to him even with the doctor and say, Coach, I fractured my hip in a drill and I cant go, said safety Shaun Gayle. He said, Oh, I did that. Hurts, too. How many coaches can say they did that? You had to respect that. You had to respect him.
He was nicknamed Sybil by his players for a reason.
A great notion Dent gave me was that on your tombstone there will be the years of your birth and of your death. In between will be a dash. Life is about what you did with that dash.
Ditka was Bear from 1961-1966. He was Bears coach from 1982-1992.
Respect or revile him, few in the annals of sports in Chicago have done more with their sports dashes than Mike Ditka.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.