You too, can dress like Da Coach, my friend
If anyone deserves to ride the 1985 Chicago Bears gravy train,
it’s the engineer of the team’s dream season: Mike Ditka.
But 20 years after Ditka coached the Bears to the franchise’s
only Super Bowl victory, are silk camp shirts with embroidered backs what
die-hard fans want from Da Coach?
Judging from the long line of Ditka faithful who waited as
long as an hour to get some face time with the football legend during a Friday
appearance at Von Maur, and upscale department store in Lombard, the answer
might be yes.
Most of the fans who lined up in the sportswear department,
dished out $65 to $98 to buy a shirt from the Mike Ditka Hall of Fame
Even though Ditka was supposed to autograph only clothes from
his line and an official photograph, he repeatedly made exceptions—signing
everything from footballs and helmets to cereal boxes and Ditka bobble heads.
Friday’s appearance marks the gum-chomping tough guy’s latest
move to expand his resume, which already includes entries for TV sports
analyst, restaurateur and motivational speaker.
So what do fans think of Ditka the clothing designer?
“I love it,” said Rick Schneider of Bartlett. “It’s a good
idea. You have to have different ventures if you have a popular name.”
It also makes sense, fans say, that the apparel line hit
stores this spring—in time for the 20th anniversary of the 1985 season.
Ditka, 65, played for 12 seasons in the NFL, became an
assistant coach and then was a head coach for 14 seasons with the Bears and the
New Orleans Saints. But because of the 1985 Super Bowl win, Bears fans will
always love Ditka, says Roy Taylor, author of “Chicago Bears History” and
creator of the website bearshistory.com.
“If they buy Ditka hot dogs, they will buy just about Ditka
anything,” said Taylor, referring to Iron Mike’s failed “Ditka Dogs” restaurant
The makers of Ditka’s new line of high-end apparel are hoping
Da Coach’s status in Chicago translates into high sales—something that hasn’t
“It hasn’t taken off as quickly as we thought,” said Bill
Reese, president of Nashville-based Eagle Dry Goods Co.
Reese said his company would love to sell the clothes
nationwide, but have had some trouble getting into stores in other states. Even
Von Maur—largest purchaser of Ditka’s apparel line—is selling the clothes only
in its six Illinois locations.
Ditka didn’t seem concerned after Friday’s appearance.
“This is the style I wear,” said Ditka, who was sporting one
of the black camp shirts. “They’re great shirts. Whether people buy them or not
is their business.”
Of course, Ditka has other ventures to keep him occupied. In
addition to his popular downtown Chicago restaurant, he owns a piece of the
Chicago Rush arena football team, does motivational speaking and is a football
analyst with ESPN.