It's time to speak out for the mean, tough guy

MIKE ROYKO

January 11, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

What a disappointment. Was that really Mike Ditka, with the tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat, acting like a guy who has just been given a pension and an engraved watch for loyal service to the company?

I'm sorry, but as someone who has admired Ditka since his days as one of George Halas' most fearless players, I don't rate his exit speech as one of his better moments.

What should he have said? Let's give it a try:

"I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is that I've just been fired by this weenie. The good news is that I don't have to work for this weenie anymore.

"You have just heard the weenie say that he wants to make a fresh start with fresh ideas. That from a Yale bookkeeper who knows as much about football as I know about ballet.

"I'll tell you why I was fired. It's very simple. He is an Ivy League stiff and I am not an Ivy League stiff. He does not drink, swear or raise his squeaky voice in anger. I drink, swear and sometimes bellow like a crazed bull. Especially when people throw dumb interceptions.

"So he wants to hire a coach who will stand on the sidelines like someone perusing paintings at the Art Institute. Hey, that's a war out there, not a cricket match.

"I suppose you want to know how I feel about being fired. So I'll tell you: Yeah, it hurts. But what makes it even more painful is the humiliation of being fired by this cupcake.

"Not to brag, but let me remind you how I got to be the coach of the Bears.

"As a mere lad, I knocked opponents on their butts in high school. That earned me a scholarship to college, where I knocked more people on their butts. That made me an All-American, so I went to work for George Halas and I really knocked people on their butts while catching passes, and we won an NFL championship.

"Then I learned the coaching trade by working as a low-pay, long-hours assistant coach in Dallas.

"Finally, I got a shot at being a head coach. And, once again, not to brag, but I put together some pretty good seasons. Check it out: There are a lot of coaches still working who haven't done half as good.

"And that wasn't easy, with this cheapo bookkeeper here, biting the nickels and pinching the dimes on players' salaries.

"Now, let's consider how the weenie got to be in a position to fire me.

"Did he build this team from nothing to one of the most valuable franchises in football?

"Nah. That was his grandfather, George Halas, the guy who hired me because he was a tough, mean SOB, and he liked me because I am also a tough, mean SOB.

"This Twinkie is in position to fire me only because the old man died and the Twinkie and his family inherited the franchise.

"But because he is a weenie -- did you know this guy won't even let guests drink beer in his skybox? -- his feelings were hurt that some of the players and I didn't treat him with proper reverence.

"That's why Jim McMahon was traded. He was the best quarterback I ever had. But Jim was kind of rude, crude and goofy. All he could do is win games.

"Winning games wasn't enough. Because McMahon knows a weenie when he sees one, and said so, he had to go. So then the weenie tells me that I have to win with a quarterback of his choosing, a kid whose main qualities are that he is polite, flosses regularly, never says anything worse than 'gosh' or 'gee whiz' and asks permission to go to the bathroom. None of which helps when he throws dumb interceptions.

"So you're finally going to have a polite coach. And you'll probably have polite players. It wouldn't surprise me if the weenie's first four draft choices are from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Vassar. If he can hire them cheap enough.

"Now all the nasties that his grandfather hired are gone. So he's going to rebuild this team in his image. From the Chicago Bears to the Chicago Poodles.

"Do I have any regrets? Yes, one. Instead of waiting around for him to can me, I should have gone in his office yesterday and said: 'Boo.' Then when he woke up, I should have quit.

"By the way, did I mention one guy that his grandfather never did hire? Him, the weenie. That ought to tell you something."

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