Mike Ditka has been in the news a lot these days. First he was trashed for wearing a Packers sweater in a McDonald’s commercial, and more recently he told Colin Kaepernick to “Get out of the country” if he won’t stand for the National Anthem.
Ditka is a professional curmudgeon, and always has been — one of his more infamous moves was throwing a wad of gum at a 49ers fan who had been heckling him at Candlestick Park (1987, after the 49ers had beaten his Bears 41-0). Thin-skinned and easily baited? Yeah, you might say that.
The real coaching legends in pro football, however, for the most part had a much different demeanor. Don Shula, Tom Landry and Bill Walsh were more from the steady and calm school of coaching, and their teams adopted their personalities. That’s one reason why, although the Bears had a very successful run in the 1980s, they were overshadowed by the 49ers, who were even better.
Now let’s listen as my fried Neate Sager, a writer for SportsNet who lives in Ontario, Canada, tells a pretty awesome story about Walsh and his philosophy on coaching. Without knowing it, Walsh perfectly pegged a certain Donald Trump and how he’s running his presidential campaign. From Sager’s Facebook page:
For no reason at all I have been leafing through David Harris’ bio of the late great football coach Bill Walsh. In his final year, Walsh gave Harris incredible access that included a stash of tapes of his talks to his teams.
In January 1985, the 49ers were about to play the Chicago Bears, coached by Mike Ditka (and hasn’t Ditka been in the news recently)? The winner would go to the Super Bowl. Chicago was feeling pretty confident, not without reason. As Walsh told his team:
“With all this tough talk, they’re just selling themselves. Anytime a guy thinks he’s rough and tough, four out of five of those guys get their asses kicked. Most of those guys are kind of dumb.”
Damned if that does not describe the wholly unqualified person aspiring to be elected the 45th president of the United States.
That doesn’t mean it’s relevant, but it’s a reminder of why one tries to aspire to something greater than shouting people down and pushing them out to the fringe. (Very tangential. I know.)
I probably flatter myself, but this is one of those times where it feels like to pay attention to the part of sport that doesn’t involve every current player’s cap hit or his fantasy value.
Or to put it another way, let’s look up a scene from the late, great HBO series Deadwood:
Seth Bullock (addressing George Hearst): “Can’t shut up! Every bully I ever met can’t shut his fuckin’ mouth… except when he’s afraid.”