In navy-and-orangedom, preparations for the Raiders are off to a big start. Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka has bade farewell to his local press corps for the week--he says he has been getting too much attention--with a little announcement on the way out the door:
He's making changes at 9 of the 22 positions in the lineup.
He's pulling the plug on his Fridge and starting a male stripper at cornerback. Really.
And at quarterback?
"We're going to play Sid Luckman, honey," Mike Ditka said from Chicago on Wednesday's conference call, a female reporter having posed the question.
"You know who he is? He's only about 70, but he's a heck of a guy. He can still move."
Just kidding. At quarterback, it's Mike Tomczak, who's 45 years younger, if generally less successful.
But how do you tell the jokes from the real moves lately?
Owner of a 10-4 record, but a two-game losing streak, Ditka has decided on changes that include:
Left cornerback--Maurice Douglass, who earns money doing stripteases at parties, replaces Mike Richardson. Douglass, the Bear nickel back, is not only pretty, he's inexperienced. He's never started a National Football League game, and besides that, hasn't been a cornerback since he was at the University of Kentucky. The Raider receivers are reportedly holding an auction to see who starts on that side.
Left defensive tackle--Dan Hampton replaces William (The Refrigerator) Perry.
"Bill has played pretty good," Ditka said. "Everybody wants to take this the wrong way. I want to see if we can get a little more pass rush inside, right now.
"I just know one thing. If somebody sat me down, it'd motivate the hell out of me. . . . Anybody who takes something like that lightly, chances are they won't be around here next year, anyways."
Left offensive tackle--John Wojciechowski, a replacement player who has never been in a non-strike game, replaces Paul Blair. Blair was called for a costly holding penalty last week at the Seattle five-yard line.
Right guard--Tom Thayer, who has started 40 straight games, will sit in favor of Kurt Becker. Thayer was called for a costly illegal block last week at the Seattle nine-yard line.
The other Bear moves: Matt Suhey replaces injured Neal Anderson at fullback; Ron Rivera replaces injured Otis Wilson at right linebacker; Al Harris replaces Dan Hampton at left end, with Hampton taking Perry's right tackle spot; Gary Fencik replaces free safety Dave Duerson, who takes Todd Bell's strong safety spot.
Isn't all this another way of Ditka announcing his team is in trouble?
"Well, I think everybody has already assumed that we're in trouble," said Ditka, the Bear loyalist.
"And that's kind of good. I kind of like that. So just let 'em write us off. . . . No, I don't think we're in trouble, but I wouldn't argue with anybody about it. Let 'em write whatever they want to."
Since coaches are always talking up continuity, isn't he running a risk?
"I doubt it," said Ditka, the Bear critic. "Have you watched us play lately? That's the kind of continuity I don't need any more of. I want to get some of that old-fashioned continuity where you line up and knock somebody's jock off."
Ditka, of course, is still willing but too old and now must mellow out in other ways, socially accepted and otherwise.
At Minnesota three weeks ago, he chased an official and allegedly spit on him.
At San Francisco two weekends ago, he hurled his gum into the stands.
Back home in Chicago last week, he stopped talking with the press, except on Sundays, Mondays and his radio show.
"I've been embroiled in no controversies," said Ditka, the serene. "Some people in the Chicago media and the San Francisco media saw fit to, I don't know, to glamorize that . . . believe me--It's just the most, the greatest--well, it's a bunch of . . . that's what it is.
"And the thing is, you guys don't understand--I'm in the media here every day. The thing that happens, I've become the focal point instead of the football team.
"I told the guys (reporters), 'Wait a second, we're missing the boat. . . . . . . take a couple weeks off. I'll talk to you once a week and that's it.' "
And the incident in Minnesota?
"I was dead wrong. I got excited and actually, as wrong as I was, I didn't do what they said I did. Although I intended to. I was wrong and I apologize for that. In the heat of the game, I got excited. I could have sworn but I didn't. I chose to do something else. That doesn't make me right. Mike Ditka isn't right when he does things like that. And I do a lot of things that aren't right. But I think I'm man enough to say, 'Hey, I'm sorry, I apologize, it was stupidity.' "
How about Bear suspicions that other officials have clamped down on the Bears, resulting in 18 penalties in two games?
"I would say it's kind of unusual. That's all I can say about it.