There is an interesting controversy brewing in Chicago that few folks outside of the Windy City or perhaps Green Bay would understand. Like most of my family and friends in Chicago, I was shocked recently to see former Bears coach Mike Ditka putting on a Packers sweater to get free French fries for four whole weekends. Of course, Ditka was not doing it for French fries but another cash in on his relationship with the Chicago Bears. The problem is that there are some things that a Bears coach is never expected to do. There is the killing of a child. Then there is the bombing of a place of worship. And finally there is wearing a Packers sweater. To make matters worse, Ditka’s number was just retired and he has been honored repeatedly by fans. He is even put on television despite being truly dreadful in any conversational setting beyond monosyllabic responses. Ditka says that he has no problem is donning a Packers sweater if it will get him fries. That is hard to swallow for fans that have stuck with the team through both good and bad seasons. Making it worse is Ditka’s later response to the outcry where he seemed to blame the Bears for not getting him sufficient love. So, Ditka is dead to me. Enjoy the fries.
Look, I actually love Packers fans and admire the team. The fans in both cities are actually very similar in many respects and have enjoyed the long-standing rivalry. (Indeed, the Turleys have even inter-married with Cheeseheads). However, there are certain things one does not do with football’s oldest rivalry. This is one of them. Ditka’s desire to grab a few more bucks does not sit will with many of us, particularly with the Bears struggled to rebuild after a disastrous period. I would understand Packers fans feeling the same way about McCarthy donning a Bears sweater. These guys have made millions of their teams. All that is requested is that they forego a few more bucks by insulting the fans that made them.
Ditka responded to the controversy with the same unintelligible babble that has become a virtual signature for his post-NFL career. He told the Sun Times: “I had no problem at all putting it on. It’s a commercial. I thought it was kinda funny and and kinda cute. Frankly, if people were offended by that, then get a life. Com’n. It’s no big deal.” Chicago fans understand that it is just a commercial. We understand this is just a guy who cannot resist grabbing any dollar at any cost of personal or team pride. Of course it is not a big deal to Dikta. I expect there are folks in Minneapolis debating what he would charge to don a Minnesota Vikings thong and prance around the U.S. Bank Stadium.
What is even weirder is Ditka’s suggestion that he is only striking back out of a sense of abandonment. In a statement that sounds like my mother didn’t hug me enough, Ditka insisted:
“I would say that I’ve honestly been more loyal to the Bears than they’ve been to me, so I don’t think I have to apologize to anybody if I dress up in a Packers sweater or Detroit Lions sweater or Minnesota Vikings sweater. I will not apologize to anyone for that. I think when you look at loyalty, it’s a two-way street,” Ditka added. “But this had nothing to do with anything. It’s a commercial. They came to me and said will you make the commercial, will you do it this way.”
Come again? They just honored you with a huge celebration and retired your damn number. People treat Ditka like a king in Chicago. Yet, Ditka comes across as a pouting child caught stealing cookies and blaming it on the lack of loving from his parents. Give me a break.
So Ditka is dead to me. He can just as well take his new wardrobe to Green Bay and have all of the fries that he can enjoy with his Cheesehead fry-cook overlords.