Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Da Coach Gets Dissed

The Chicago Bears recently unveiled a sculpture honoring George Halas at Soldier Field. It features great players like Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, Dick Butkus, Walter Payton, et al, but Mike Ditka is curiously missing. In addition to Ditka's outstanding career as a tight end, including a role on the 1963 championship team, this is the man Halas picked to lead the Bears as his own health was fading, a man to carry on the tradition. Ditka rose to the challenge, of course, by coaching the team to its only Super Bowl victory. By then, Halas was gone and Michael McCaskey was in charge. McCaskey never liked Ditka, and he got rid of him as soon as the team faltered.

Chicagoans love Ditka. The big story in August was whether Ditka would run for senator in place of Jim "Sex Club" Ryan. Ditka wisely declined, and the GOP foolishly chose Alan Keyes to run instead.


Tribune sports columnist Rick Morrissey wrote today about Ditka's exclusion, placing the blame squarely on the personal biases of the McCaskey family.
The Bears say Ditka didn't fit the concept of the sculpture, which, in part, focuses on the lineage of great running backs and linebackers in team history. They say they already had two players from his era, Butkus and Sayers. They also say that most of the players on the sculpture played their entire careers for the Bears. Ditka played six of his 12 seasons in Chicago, then went to Philadelphia and Dallas. The only way they could have narrowed their criteria anymore would have been by saying that anyone with the initials "M.D." was ineligible.
For what it's worth, only four players in Bears history have had those initials (don't ask me why I look up such things). The bottom line is that if Halas himself had chosen the players for the sculpture, Ditka would be there. Ditka would never admit it, but I'll bet he's disappointed to be left out. If he were running for the U.S. Senate, this flagrant dissing would probably be worth 10% in sympathy votes. One can only hope that Ditka will get his own statue once Michael McCaskey is gone.

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