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Mike Downey

Ditka Bit Off More Than He Could Chew

December 20, 1987|Mike Downey

"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

"I do."

"State your name and address."

"Michael Keller Ditka. Halas Hall. Lake Forest, Illinois."

"And your occupation is . . . ?"

"Coach of the Chicago Bears."

"Mr. Ditka, can you tell us your approximate whereabouts on the evening of Monday, Dec. 14, 1987?"

"Yes, I can. I was on the sidelines of Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California, where my football players were in the process of getting their glutei kicked."

"Glutei being . . . ?"

"Butts."

"I see. And by getting their butts kicked, you would be referring to a final score of what?"

"Forty-one to nothing."

"And, how did the losing of this particular football game make you feel, Mr. Ditka?"

"I don't understand the question."

"Well, I assume it didn't make you feel glad. Would you say it made you feel sad? Or bad? Or mad?"

"Mad, I suppose."

"Mad. Yes. Exactly how mad, would you say?"

"Excuse me?"

"How mad did losing this game make you?"

"Oh, no madder than losing any game makes me."

"In other words, you were no angrier after the game in San Francisco than you have been after many other losses?"

"Well, we haven't lost all that many games."

"I stand corrected. Mr. Ditka, would you say the San Francisco fans treated you in a hostile manner?"

"No more so than usual."

"No more so than usual. Mr. Ditka, is it not true that the San Francisco fans made you very angry? Terribly, terribly angry? In fact, angrier than you've been at any time in years?"

"No, sir. That is untrue."

"Is it not true, sir, that when you were walking off the field that night, you took a wad of gooey chewing gum out of your mouth and hurled it angrily toward a group of innocent bystanders?"

"No!"

"Is it not true, Mr. Ditka, that this wad of gum struck a woman spectator in the head, causing considerable physical and emotional damage?"

"If she says that, she's lying!"

"We have the doctor's report right here, Mr. Ditka. Abrasions and contusions to the cranium, caused by probable contact with an unidentified flying object."

"You can't pin that on me!"

"I call the court's attention to people's Exhibit A--a wad of sticky green Trident chewing gum. Do you recognize this gum, Mr. Ditka?"

"That's not mine."

"You're sure? Take a closer look."

"I don't have to. That gum is not mine."

"Your honor, at this time I would like to place into evidence this dental report and accompanying affidavit, testifying conclusively that the teeth marks in this wad of gum and this X-ray of Michael K. Ditka's dental records, obtained from the Chicago Bears team physician's official medical files, are, indeed, identical."

"Where'd you get that?"

"Never mind, Mr. Ditka. Do you continue to insist that this gum was never in your possession?"

"I most certainly do."

"The gum was not yours?"

"I've never even owned a gum."

"May I remind you, Mr. Ditka, that you are under oath, and that you were shown on several occasions that evening on ABC television's nationwide 'Monday Night Football' telecast chewing a wad of gum on the sidelines?"

"I, uh. I mean, I might have popped some bubble gum into my mouth without realizing it. But I never chew that Trident stuff. Never. In fact, now that I think about it, I remember Walter Payton coming up to me at one point that evening and sticking a piece of Bazooka bubble gum in my hand."

"Red Bazooka bubble gum. Not green Trident gum."

"That is correct."

"Mr. Ditka, I call your attention now to the doctor's official examination of the victim. According to his report, at the point of the lesions suffered by the victim, not one trace of sugar was found!"

"No! No, you're lying!"

"It was your gum, Mr. Ditka!"

"No! No! That's impossible! The gum I took from Walter was loaded with sugar! I swear!"

"I'm afraid not, Mr. Ditka! Your gum was not loaded!"

"I . . . I'm all mixed up."

"The truth, Mr. Ditka! We have the negative of an Associated Press photograph showing you throwing the gum into the crowd! We have the gum itself! We have the victim's medical records and we have your dental records. We have you, Mr. Ditka."

"No, it's a frame! It's that Bill Walsh! He's behind all this!"

"Admit it, Mr. Ditka! It was you!"

"Stop! Stop! Yes! I did it! It was me! I just couldn't take it anymore! She was bugging me all night long! 'Your team stinks, Ditka!' 'You're a jerk, Ditka!' 'Niners all the way, Ditka!'

"How much is a man supposed to take? So, yes, I did it! She was right there in front of me! Taunting me! I guess something in me just snapped! I slipped the gum out of my mouth, waited for the line of fire to be free, then let her have it! Pow! Right in the kisser!"

"No further questions."

"She was asking for it, I tell you! I did it, and I'm glad! I'd do it again! Some people say there should be better gum control in this country, but speaking for myself, I'm glad I was packing! Remember, gum doesn't kill people! People kill people!"

"You can step down now, Mr. Ditka."

"I've been a gum lover all my life! I even played football at Wrigley Field!"

"Mr. Ditka, try to control yourself."

"And I'd like to say one more thing about . . . "

"Look out!"

"Somebody grab her!"

"Get that thing out of her hand!"

"Oh, my God!"

"Quick, somebody call an ambulance! Get the paramedics in here! Arrest that woman!

"Mr. Ditka! Mr. Ditka, are you all right?

"Where'd she come from? How'd she get through security?

"Mr. Ditka, can you hear me?

"Is there a doctor in the courtroom? My God, there's Doublemint all over his face!"

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