When someone like Ditka is fired, forget profundity

MIKE ROYKO

January 13, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

A deep thinker stopped me on the street to pass along thi profound thought: "The media overreaction to this Ditka thing is ridiculous. My God, there are so many more important things going on in the world. This is just a wealthy coach in a stupid sport losing his job. With all the other problems in our society, shouldn't you people . . ."

At that point, I interrupted to say that he was absolutely right: At any given moment, people are dying or being told they have fatal illnesses; children are being born; marriages are collapsing and divorces granted; jobs are lost and bills go unpaid; mortgages are being foreclosed; stomach acids are eating out linings; cops are walking dark alleys; firemen are barging into burning buildings; newly made widows and widowers weep; and scientists say that in about 110 years a big comet might slam into this planet and make our descendants obsolete.

So, yes, there are more tragic, frightening and important events occurring in our city, state, country and planet than the firing of Mike Ditka by Chicago Bears owner Michael McCackey.

Which is precisely why the firing of Mike Ditka grabbed the

attention of most of the 7 million people in the Chicago metropolitan area, and millions more in other parts of the country.

We can't spend all of our time worrying about the big issues of our day. If we did, we would all go crazy.

That's what happened in the 1960s, when social revolution of every kind hit this society.

We had wealthy suburban offspring discovering to their shock ++ and horror that there was racial and economic discrimination in our society. Wow! Who would have thought?

After smoking a couple of joints and pondering the injustice of it all, they couldn't think about anything else. They became obsessive injustice junkies. So they became revolutionaries. They decided to build bombs and blow up buildings to express their outrage. However, they had gone to wealthy suburban schools, where they didn't take shop classes, and they goofed up the bombs and blew themselves up. That ended the ` revolution.

What they needed was balance. Yes, there are serious problems in our society, our planet and maybe in our galaxy, although I can't bring myself to worry about whether ET got home OK.

And this balance is provided by the diversion of a Mike Ditka being fired. It gets our minds off the problems we can't solve and lets us pound our fists on the bar about something we can understand.

Studs Terkel, the author-philosopher, was lunching in a restaurant on Wabash Avenue, the day after Ditka got the boot. "The guy who owns the place came up to me," Studs says, "and he asks: 'Well, what do you think about him?' I said, 'Who, Clinton?' He looked at me like I was nuts. He says: 'McCaskey.' A lady comes up to me as I'm leaving and says: 'Studs, what do you think?' I ask, 'About what?' She says, 'About Ditka?' I get out the door and a guy says to me, 'Studs, can you believe it?' I ask, 'Believe what?' He says, 'What they did to Ditka.' "

Is that bad? Does that prove, as a Sun-Times columnist suggested, that Chicago Bear fans are a bunch of morons?

No, it doesn't. We are aware that a starving child in Somalia has a tougher life than Mike Ditka. We know that there is much more tragedy on the obit pages than at Halas Hall. We know that we live in a world filled with death, danger, conflict and uncertainty.

Which is why every so often we need a simple morality tale like the firing of Mike Ditka. It gets our minds off those things we can't do a damn thing about, and it lets us rant and rave about something we can at least understand and take a position on.

If people care about Ditka, it means that what happened to him touched them in some way. And it has nothing to do with won-and-lost records or his tendency to shout at delicate quarterbacks.

Yes, there are more important things going on in the world, this city, your neighborhood and maybe your kitchen, than Ditka and McCaskey.

What I don't understand is why someone who understands that would waste time explaining the obvious.

Go think about holes in the ozone.

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