Like him, dislike him, be captivated by him, be disgusted by him. Be whatever by him.
Just recognize Mike Ditka for who and what he is.
The Bears certainly recognized Ditka when he attended practice Tuesday, presumably for the first time since he was fired as head coach 20 years ago.
Ditka addressed the players, and hopefully what he told them signaled the return of a pulse to the Bears.
Players mentioned that Ditka told them to value their teammates and the camaraderie of the locker room.
Current head coach Marc Trestman added that Ditka added that the money wasn't important. No word on whether Ditka, of all people, was able to keep a straight face as he said that.
This wasn't a day to quibble, though. It was a day to celebrate Ditka's homecoming to the Bears' practice field. Players surrounded him like he was a religious figure returning to the cathedral, though he reportedly refrained from sprinkling them with holy water.
Now that Ditka is back in the Bears' good graces and they are in his -- the former tight end's No. 89 jersey will be retired in December -- maybe he'll bring back some of the fun, too.
The 1985 Bears that Ditka coached remain beloved not only because they won a Super Bowl but also because they were so eventful on and off the field.
If Ditka makes these practice appearances a habit, maybe next time he can express to the Bears what they need to hear.
"Hey, No. 6," Ditka could tell Jay Cutler, "enough with the smirks and sniping. If you feel like being nasty, be nasty loud and clear, like a Punky QB should be."
Jon Bostic could use some advice now that he appears primed to replace Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker: "Hey, rookie, don't lapse into those one-word Urlacher answers. If you're (bleeped) off, chew someone's head off."
Too bad Ditka didn't come around much when Lovie Smith was his condescendingly irritable and irritating self, but maybe a message can be delivered to the bland Trestman:
"Hey, coach, loosen up a little. If a player stinks, say he stinks. If a reporter annoys you, bluster at him. If a fan gets on you, announce that his IQ is zero."
Maybe whoever wrote the material for Ditka's weekly media briefings back in the day could reassemble to write for Trestman. If, that is, the writing team didn't give up after trying and failing to inject personality into Smith, Dick Jauron and Dave Wannstedt.
Seriously, football around here hasn't been much fun since the '85 Bears won a title, underachieved the next several seasons and then joined the media.
A new anthology of Chicago sports writing will be released in September. Some of the headlines about those madcap '85 Bears read, "Ex-coach hasn't mellowed one bit," about Ditka's crankiness; "William Perry: Fat is where it's at," about the Fridge at running back; and "The bottom line: Acupuncture puts Jim McMahon's troubles behind him," about Mad Mac's treatment for a sore rear end during Super Bowl week.
You won't get stuff like that these days about the likes of Lance Briggs, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte.
Everything is much too serious now.
The players on the Bears' only Super Bowl championship team loved to be noticed, and it would be great if another fun bunch of loudmouth, blowhard, showoffs came along to give us reason to notice them.
Yes, it would be cool if the best parts of Mike Ditka's zaniness could be instilled in a new generation of Bears.
firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.