CHICAGO — Angry viewers thought otherwise, but Chicago Bear Coach Mike Ditka says a network's decision to interrupt weekend NFL games with special reports from the Iceland summit was a question of priorities.
"If you get an arms-control thing set up," Ditka said, "I think that's a little more important than what we're doing with this stuffed up piece of pigskin. Our thing can't blow up; the other thing can blow up."
CBS interrupted the Bears-Houston Oilers game and seven other football games Sunday for the special news reports, prompting thousands of fans to call the network to protest.
"I'll tell you what," said Ditka, who wasn't pleased with the Bears' game despite a 20-7 victory over the Oilers, "I wouldn't have wanted to watch most of our game anyway."
Illinois Bell reported that at least 24,000 telephone calls were attempted to WBBM-TV during the preemption.
That was in the third quarter of the game when CBS cut in to carry a press conference with Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
CBS sports spokesman Doug Richardson said more than 1,000 calls of protest--a majority of them from the Chicago area--were received in New York by the network during the preemption.
All of the calls, Richardson said, were critical of CBS. "Absolutely. People don't take the time to call to tell you you're doing a good job."