NEW ORLEANS — "There are teams that are fair-haired, and teams that are not. There are teams named Smith and teams named Grabowski," the coach, Mike Ditka, said recently, leaving no doubt that his was the Grabowski team.
He used the line to emphasize the difference between his Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Rams, those effete escapees from the realms of palm canyons and Rodeo Drive, but Iron Mike clearly feels it sums up the basic philosophical divergence of the Bears from the rest of the world.
The Bears are the guys in the satin bowling shirts with the beer ads on their backs. The rest of the world is in sockless Guccis and gold chains.
The Bears come to work on the subway while the rest of the world takes a limo, Mike implies. The Bears work the jackhammers, walk the high iron, haul the 18-wheelers over the Interstate. The rest of the world works at a desk, takes lunch at 21 or Ma Maison and talks to London on the conference set-up in the executive suite.
Chicago Bears wear hard hats, hang out in bars, drink boilermakers, eat kielbasa, chew on toothpicks and hate New York and California. The rest of the world wears homburgs, dines at damask-covered tables, drinks white wine, eats quiche and lives in New York or California.
The Bears are going to get even with all those high-falutin' sons of riches this Sunday. The Bears are going to strike a blow for Mayor Daley, Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, Studs Lonigan, the working man, the Cook County machine and the wind off Lake Michigan.
The Bears are going to win one for the real America, the boiler-room America. They're going to punch somebody in the nose for all the janitors, the steelworkers, the Capone gang, the Halas family, the Great Lakes and Mrs. O'Leary's cow. They're going to get even for 50 years of people laughing at Chicago. Why, they're even going to avenge the 1919 Black Sox.
They're going to show New England, that arty place with all the white picket fences and elm trees and places where George Washington slept and all those people who came over on the Mayflower instead of in steerage.
The Chicago Bears are the real America's Team, the Americans whose names end in i , o or a and which sound, pronounced out loud, like a watermelon being dropped off a high truck.
Chicago Bears are named Ditka. Or Butkus. Or Buffone. Or Suhey. Or Nagurski, Ronzani, Osmanski, Magnani, Casares, and, yes, for a season at the end of his career, Grabowski. And they even had O'Bradovich, the perfect Chicago Bear name. Even better than Lujack or Blanda, the next best.
But wait a minute. Iron Mike is playing a little game on America. What about John Gary Fencik? I mean, the name sounds all right, but just check the background. John Gary Fencik is an impostor in a Chicago Bear uniform. He's damn near a Smith.
He's--come closer, you wouldn't want the guys in the Loop to get wind of this--from Yale!
You heard me. He's right out of Boola-Boola land. Literary New England. The tables down at Mory's. Little lost sheep, baa, baa, baa, and all that jazz. Not a bowling shirt or a porkpie hat in the crowd, and the beer comes in mugs.
I mean, what in the name of Mike Ditka is this? Chicago Bears come from Purdue, Notre Dame, Ohio State, the University of Pittsburgh, right? Chicago Bears are named Bull, or Bulldog or Butch, or Chuck, or Bronko, not Gary.
Guys from Yale belong in the State Department, not the Super Bowl. They should be solving the Middle East problem, not the New England Patriot offense.
You look at Gary Fencik and you want to say, "What's the matter, kid, Wall Street ain't open anymore?" Or, "What's a nice Yale boy like you doing this far from the bond market?" Or, "Shouldn't you be a judge? Or, at least, a young Republican?" For all we know, he may be Skull and Bones.
For one thing, he's too good-looking. You're pretty sure the girls at Vassar weren't consulted when Fencik put his profile on the line with the Chicago Bears. He looks like Robert Taylor with a broken nose.
It's hard to believe a guy with his cultural and economic advantages would choose to be a free safety in pro football. There are easier ways for a Yale man to make $300,000 a year.
It must be a source of some mortification to the Yale Corporation. It's as if George Bush had signed with the New York Yankees.
A Yale man working with a bunch of people who don't even have moorings at the Rye Yacht Club, or own a single polo pony? Better he should be a doorman at a Russian nightclub. Go to live in Texas.
At least he should stop telling people he went to school in New Haven. It's like being a bag lady in the Bronx. Harvard will laugh itself sick.
How could it even happen? Who sends scouts to the Yale Bowl? What NFL scouting combine combs the Yale-Harvard game?