Michael Keller Ditka:
Coach, analyst, endorser, actor, philosopher, agitator, motivator, clipboard tosser, shoulder-pad grabber, quote machine … but Monday night at Soldier Field it's supposed to be all be about one thing: Ditka, the football player.
And what a player:
In helping to redefine the tight end position, the Hall of Famer earned All-NFL honors four straight seasons from 1961-64 and was a Pro Bowl choice after each of his first five seasons. He wound up his 12-year career with 427 receptions for 5,812 yards and 43 touchdowns.
Oh, and also:
He played on that 1963 Bears championship team and with the 1972 Super Bowl champs, the, ahem, Dallas Cowboys.
We all know Monday night is about much more than Ditka the player.
This is the guy who led the Bears to the promised land -- the Super Bowl.
He's the one who taught us:
It's pronounced DEE-troit.
And it's WAR-shing-ton.
Heck, he even taught us how to chomp gum properly, and toss it … but only when necessary.
This is the guy:
Who fielded questions about Matt Suhey from fans in the studio audience who would then promptly sit down and wait for their answers.
He gave us quotes like:
"Aw, shut up!" and "Dikith? See that? That's your IQ buddy. Zero."
And the saddest one of all:
"This, too, shall pass."
Big screen, little screen:
He has appeared in numerous movies, guested on "The Tony Danza Show" (what??), and even starred as Coach Mafferty in a very special episode of "3rd Rock from the Sun."
Cars, bars, cigars … and a gazillion other things, yet after all these years he couldn't be in higher demand as a spokesman.
"If there were 48 hours in a day, he could work them all. There are so many people who want a piece of him."
-- Ditka's agent, Steve Mandell
He was adored by Superfans:
Fan 1: If Da Bears were to enter the Indianapolis 500, what would you predict would be the outcome?
Fan 2: How would they compete?
Fan 1: Let's say they rode together in a bus.
Fan 2: Is Ditka driving?
Fan 1: Of course.
Fan 2: Then I like Da Bears!
He's still adored by Bears fans:
As all those dressed like him Monday night will attest.
But a weather tip: Layers!!
Minimum three sweater vests.
Always Da Coach:
Admit it: if the Bears are struggling at halftime Monday night, would it surprise you in the least to see Ditka grab Marc Trestman's headset and take over on the sideline?
Didn't think so.
What a night in store:
Sixty thousand freezing souls and millions more throughout the area -- and across the country, for that matter -- getting all warm and fuzzy watching as good ol' No. 89 sees good ol' No. 89 take its rightful place in Bears history.
The man who talks fast, golfs faster and sings even faster -- perhaps at a world-record pace -- will take this moment to slow down and let it all soak in.
A closing thought:
"I don't think anything is unrealistic if you believe you can do it,"
-- Michael Keller Ditka