Chicago icon Ditka gets Bears jersey retired

Updated: December 9, 2013, 11:55 PM ET


By
Jon Greenberg
| ESPNChicago.com


CHICAGO — There will never be another Mike Ditka, a football coach who became a cultural force of nature, and now there will never be another No. 89 for the Chicago Bears.

Ditka, who won an NFL championship as a tight end for George Halas in 1963 and coached the Bears to a Super Bowl in 1985, finally got his jersey retired Monday night in a halftime ceremony in a game against his other franchise, the Dallas Cowboys.

“I think Mr. Halas would approve,” he said in a news conference.

Without a hat to cover his trademark mane of hair, Ditka shivered through a brief ceremony in the frigid cold — the wind chill was minus-9 degrees at the start of the game — that included his Hall of Fame bust and a Super Bowl trophy. He ended it by saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” and with a thrust of his fist, “Go Bears!”

After that was over, Ditka came into the Bears news conference room with a clear message.

“OK, we’re going to do this like the old days, real quick, c’mon,” he said, before speaking from the heart for eight minutes.

The 74-year-old Ditka is still ubiquitous in Chicago, and throughout football. He has steakhouses around Chicagoland, a variety of commercials and is a weekly contributor to ESPN 1000 radio and ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” studio show. He makes big money from speeches across the country.

“I’m just having fun with it,” he said of his never-ending popularity. “I can tell you honestly, probably the best thing that can happen is when you stop taking yourself so damn serious. And I quit. I don’t take myself serious.”

Because of the worldwide popularity of the shuffling 1985 Super Bowl team — not to mention those “Saturday Night Live” skits — Ditka’s fame far outstrips any Chicago athlete, past or present, outside Michael Jordan. Few fans have tired of Da Coach.

“Going through airports is pretty interesting,” Ditka said. “I think I have an obligation to do those things. I think when you don’t have time for people, you’ve got a problem.”

Once a notorious grouch, Ditka is now America’s Grandpa. He doesn’t plan on leaving the public eye anytime soon.

“I want to stick around in the present for a while and try to figure out what the heck’s going on,” Ditka said. “Whatever the future brings, I hope I can accept. I have no regrets about the past. I shouldn’t say that. Like Sinatra said, regrets, I have a few, but too few to mention.”

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

Leave a comment

300-101   400-101   300-320   300-070   300-206   200-310   300-135   300-208   810-403   400-050   640-916   642-997   300-209   400-201   200-355   352-001   642-999   350-080   MB2-712   400-051   C2150-606   1Z0-434   1Z0-146   C2090-919   C9560-655   642-647   100-101   CQE_Exam   CSSLP