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Of Love and Ditka

(by popular demand...)

My brother informed me on Wednesday (11/28) that on Friday Mike Ditka would be signing autographs at the Schererville Strack & Van Til. Mike fucking Ditka. "Iron" Mike. The man who led The Greatest Team in NFL history, the '85 Chicago Bears to a SuperBowl victory. The man who responded to his defensive coordinator's lack of cooperation by beating the shit out of his at halftime. The man that inspired "Da Superfans" SNL skit. The only man for whom I can overlook being a super-rightwing conservative. THE COACH.

The aforementioned supermarket is less than a halfmile from my brother's place so he was understandably excited. I, however, was scheduled to work Friday- which would seriously interfere with my government approved USDA serving of Ditka. I finagled my way into switching with a coworker to get the day off. I'd have to work a double-shift on a monday but that's a small price to pay for Ditka, obviously.

We arrived to a signing that wasn't scheduled to start until 6:30 at about 5:30. As we pulled into the lot we realized the car in front of us was a limo. "You think it's him?" My brother asked. "WHO THE FUCK ELSE ARRIVES AT A GROCERY STORE IN SCHERERVILLE FUCKING INDIANA IN A LIMO!?!?!?! I, uhh, calmly stated as we both observed that the limo had Illinios license plates. I quickly scrambled for my camera and snapped a couple shots of the Ditka-mobile. We quickly grabbed a parking spot and RAN to the line that was now exiting the store. In fact we were standing JUST outside of the entrance, but that wasn't really that bad since the line was building quickly to FAR out of the store. As we ran by the limo en route to the entrance Derek noted "DUDE, I smell cigar smoke!"

Derek's wife may be odd to say the least but she did get him a SuperBowl XX GAME BALL for Xmas last year; this is possibly the greatest wife-to-husband giftin human history. He had originally planned on bringing the ball for Ditka to sign and a SuperBowl XX pennant that he'd let me have so I could have a Ditka-signed item as well. However he thought that he read that Ditka would not be signing personal items. When we arrived, the people in front of us in line informed us that he would indeed sign personal items as long as you bought a bottle of wine (He was promoting said wine, hence the store appearance. You had to buy a bottle to meethim). Upon hearing he'll sign personal items, I looked at Derek and just said "Game ball. Pennent. I'll save our spot. GO!" And off Derek ran to get home & back as quickly as possible.

Luckily when he got back no one made a big deal about him passing the 300 feet on line that had by that time gathered behind us to join me in line. We joked with the people around us about the Bears and Ditka often in my best "Superfan" voice: "Most Pee-pil don't e'en ree-ilize Dat Ditka stomps da graaps 'imself, af-der dey been grown from un-der da grass at DA on'n'only Soldier field! Af-der dey been blessd by R-lach-er, of Course!" was one from me that seemed to get a lot of laughs.

The signing was supposed to end at 8:30and at 8:20 we were only behind about 5 people in he main line. At the end of the main line is where you bought your wine and got sent to the line to get your wine and whatever else signed. The Ditka line was very small and in an enclosed area (at least relatively speaking). They kept the Ditka line small because they only allowed you in after you got through the main line and bought your wine, and limited people from buying their wine as well. Usually once people got to the front of the main line they'd make them wait until there was enough space in the next room, where Ditka was in, then let them through to the registers for wine buying once there was enough space. At this point, with only about 5 people ahead of us I could hear the two guys who limited the main line talking, and they were not pleased. They were talking about how someone should have cut-off the line a long time ago and that someone needs to cut it down to the last section RIGT NOW. They knew people were going to be pissed. And rightly so, because the line was now hundreds of feet long behind us, still apparently extending out of the store, and it was a cold day. The whole staff dealing with this was nervous and tense at this point. They let three more people through, leaving only two in front of us. A couple minutes later they let those two through and now Derek and myself were up front. But the staff seemed to be getting more tense by the second and talk of cutting the line off had increased to the point that we were getting nervous that they might cut if off right there and we would be the first ones of a long line of people that got fucked out of an afternoon.
The stressed staff member in charge of the front of the line finally said "okay, two more, quick," and pretty much PUSHED us through. Derek went up to the register first after grabbing a nine-dolar bottle of "Da Coach's Merlot" and the lasy smiled and asked Derek if he was 21. He informed her he was days away from 27 as he showed his I.D. "Oh fuck," I thought as I realized that I left my wallet at home, which i never, ever, fucking ever do. She asked me if I was 21 and I swore to her I was 24 as I handed her my money. She quickly handed me my receipt and change and siad "I'll trust you, just hurry!" as she gave a nervous look at both lines. It was clear they were mere seconds from shutting the line down and she was hurrying through everyone she could to try to help out as many as possible. How nice of her. After making it into the Ditka line, there wasn't anybody joining the line behind us for awhile. After awhile 3 or 4 more joined in and then no more. And I don't mean no more for awhile I mean NO MORE. they cut the line just a few people after My brother and myself. Un-fucking-believable. If we had shown up a minute later we'd have been shit out of luck.

On the other side of a table we were standing next to that was being used as a lane-divider we realized was Ditka's wife. The two ladies in front of us asked her if she would sign their wine too. She kindly obliged as she said "Oh, you're gonna piss him off." Everyone in the immediate vicinity laughed.

They had an empty chair sitting next to Ditka so you could sit down and get a picture with him after he signed your items. Derek stepped up first when we finally got up to him and put down his game ball and wine, then sat down next to him. I had my camera at the ready and focused, waiting for Ditka to look up from signing more items. Ditka looked up, gave a half-hearted but distinctly Ditka-esque smile and I snapped it. Perfect. I set down my pennant and wine, passed my camera to Derek and took a seat. Ditka looked up a second later and I watched as my brother, trembling, put his finger PAST the picture-taking button and right onto the power button. Ditka whispered in my ear, "I think he's turning it off." He no sooner finished saying this than the lens on my month-old Sony zipped back into the casing and the lens cover shut. "I think you pressed the wrong button!" Ditka barked to my brother in commanding but not assholish tone. "Fuck," Derek said desperately as his face went flush. I quickly stood up, hit the power button, pointed to the right button, and quickly sat down again. Ditka leaned over and I watched as my brother trembled and took the most shaky-handed picture I'd ever observed. I doubted it would come out but stood up and said "Thanks Coach!" as we gathered our stuff and and walked out. I checked the pictures as we walked to the lot. Derek's came out well and mine... not so much. I'm not mad though. It gives me a great story to tell and it is still distinguihable enough to tell who is in the picture.

Mike Fucking Ditka.


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Dec. 10th, 2007 12:02 pm (UTC)
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