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Back Room

Mike Ditka

Da Coach, 76, on Buddy Ryan, life after ESPN, and how he’d eliminate terrorism

Illustration: Stavros Damos

Go ahead and ask your questions. But you might not like my answers. I’m not politically correct, and I’m not liberal.

I grew this beard for no other reason but me. It’s not really any kind of statement. I think people like it. But they might just be trying to make me feel good.

Listen, I know who I’m going to support for president. I’ve made that clear. We’ve gone through eight years of crap. You get what you tolerate in life.

It’s a different world today than it’s ever been. These people who live by these rules of killing and jihad and all that—it’s absolutely insane. That’s what you’re going to get until you have the guts to wipe these people out. It’s going to take extermination. Reagan would’ve done it. That’s all I’m gonna say.

I love the game of golf, but it doesn’t love me. I wish I was as good at it now as I was when I was in my 30s and 40s. But I’m not. That happens. What you have goes away.

I’m trying to live in the present now. “Yesterday’s history. Tomorrow’s a mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.” Yeah, I know it’s corny. So are a lot of true things.

I had nothing but respect for Buddy Ryan. The problem came because I got the Bears job he wanted. I inherited Buddy, I inherited his defense, and it’s a good thing I did. We won a championship with that defense. But I never disliked Buddy.

I’m not a funeral guy. I went to Buddy’s because I thought it was the right thing for me to do. He doesn’t know I came. But his sons do.

Motivation is nothing that you can give anybody. It’s something that you have to figure out for yourself.

I don’t like snakes. I don’t have a fear of them. I just try to stay away from them. No good can come.

Toughest guy I ever played against, game in and game out, was Ray Nitschke. It got pretty physical between him and I. He tried to kill me. I had to defend myself. We talked about it years later. But by then we had mellowed a lot.

People used to tackle with their shoulder. Nowadays, the helmet and facemask are so good people have no fear in striking with their heads. My grandkids right now, if I had a choice, I’d put a golf club in their hands.

If you want to impress a woman, be honest with her. If the thing that’s gonna impress her is buying her stuff, take off. Get out of town. Get away from her.

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If I didn’t love Chicago, I’d move to Florida totally.

I did live in the suburbs for a long time, but I’m living downtown now. And it’s good. I just drive into the garage, park my car underneath my building, go up in an elevator to the lobby, go up another elevator, and I’m in my condo. It’s simple.

I’ve enjoyed being at ESPN. And I think they’ve enjoyed what I’ve done there. But now it’s time to move on.

What else would I want to do? I don’t want to be a rocket scientist. I don’t want to invent anything. I was a football player. So I’m limited to what I can do.

Actually, I took piano lessons when I was a kid, but I had to quit. My dad ripped my butt for quitting. But those nuns were too tough on me.

I just played 18 holes. I’m with a bunch of guys and we’re playing cards right now. Then I’m gonna go get a bite to eat and go to bed. That’s what I do best.

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