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updated: 8/20/2014 6:46 PM

Imrem: This is no time to sour on Da Coach

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  • Mike Imrem says it's OK that former Bears coach Mike Ditka has a difference of opinion with him on the use of "Redskins" as Washington's nickname.

    Mike Imrem says it's OK that former Bears coach Mike Ditka has a difference of opinion with him on the use of "Redskins" as Washington's nickname.
    Associated Press


Sure Mike Ditka is a crank but don't ever forget that he's our crank.

For better, for worse and sometimes for both in the same sentence.

Look, I can't turn on Ditka now just because he believes "Redskins" isn't offensive and some of us think he's wrong.

(For the record, this newspaper's policy is to refer to the team as "Washington," but it's my understanding that "Redskins" is OK when writing about the issue.)

Personally, I can't turn on Ditka now just because he insulted liberals like me -- whatever the definition of liberal is -- in what essentially was a rambling, incoherent rant that another conservative could have articulated better.

Nor can I turn on Ditka now just because he is some old guy who insists on chasing much younger kids like me off his lawn.

I was a Bears' fan when they won the 1963 NFL championship and a sports writer when they won Super Bowl XX.

Ditka was a tight end nicknamed "Iron Mike" on the former and the head coach nicknamed "Da Coach" of the latter.

But gratitude isn't why it would be inappropriate to turn on Ditka now just because he has strong feelings for the Redskins.

The reason is that in so many ways Ditka is our creation and we licensed him to be outrageous.

We cringed, then forgave and then forgot after Ditka was cited for driving while intoxicated on the way home late one night.

We giggled, chuckled and outright laughed when Ditka put the tips of his thumb and forefinger together and shouted at a fan, "See that? That's your IQ, buddy. Zero."

We nodded, winked and approved of Ditka throwing a wad of gum at a fan who provoked him.

So whenever Ditka says something we disagree with, it might as well be us putting words in his mouth.

Ditka always had my endorsement to blabber anything he wanted as long as he didn't grab me by the neck and begin choking the journalist out of me.

Let's face it: Quite a few of us liked that somebody as confrontational as Ditka was head coach of the Chicago Bears.

Mike Ditka was George Halas all over again. In fact, Halas hired Ditka to coach the Bears expressly because Ditka was Halas all over again.

So we enjoyed "Saturday Night Live" doing an unflattering characterization of Chicago sports fans worshipping Ditka.

It was fun having someone as unique as Ditka be the face of the town as much as it was when Chicago was spelled C-a-p-o-n-e.

Ditka had free rein around here. He was someone to laugh with and laugh at as he laughed all the way to the bank.

Now we're supposed to be outraged because Ditka insulted half the voting population and decried political correctness?

No, though it would have been better if Ditka didn't belittle the other point of view -- my point of view that "Redskins" should be erased -- but I'll defend his right to express an opinion any way he wants.

Heck, a case could be made that Ditka provided a service by reigniting the debate.

Anyway, I plan to keep going to Ditka's Restaurant at Arlington Trackside for lunch because the burgers and designer pizzas are excellent.

(I would try the steaks and pork chops at dinner, but they're out of my price range.)

Finally, one compelling question is raised when Ditka invokes tradition as a reason the "Redskins" shouldn't be changed to "Red Hawks" or "Red Klotzes."

Why then was it all right for his family name to be changed from "Dyczko" to "Ditka"?

Doesn't really matter, of course, because this crank by any other name is still our crank.

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