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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Near-Cigar With Mike Ditka

The air pooled with machine-generated smoke, wisps rising into the rafters of the cabaret bar, where the presently chic tropes of such places — taxidermy creatures like a fox and a crow — peered down into the audience. But onstage, flanked by velvet curtains, in place of a sultry singer was a very different sort of star: the septuagenarian former football coach Mike Ditka. Mr. Ditka, who has three Super Bowl rings, including one as head coach of the Chicago Bears, bemoaned the open-air cold weather Super Bowl. “When we played, you got to go to Miami or New Orleans,” he said. “New Jersey? And you get stuck in the bridge on the way?”

Mr. Ditka held a question-and-answer session on Thursday night with an audience of devotees at “Citi Presents Evenings With Legends,” an event series put on by Citibank. The tickets were $79 and available only to cardholders. The unlikely venue was the Heath, a restaurant at the McKittrick Hotel, home of the immersive theater production “Sleep No More” — all facts various publicists repeatedly reminded Nocturnalist throughout the night to mention.

The discussion was called “Mike, Mike and Mike” and was led by the ESPN sports talk show hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. But the former football coach, with his somewhat crotchety opinions of football these days — “those pretty boys,” he said — stole the show. Questions from the audience, who all addressed him as “Coach” with such reverence it might as well been “Your Honor,” were frequently about what it felt like to be tackled by various players. Some landed blows that “just about undressed me,” Mr. Ditka said.

Backstage, Mr. Ditka spoke about choosing which of his three jewel-encrusted Super Bowl rings to wear — his favorite is the diamond dazzler won coaching the Bears in Super Bowl XX — and offered Nocturnalist a Ditka brand cigar that was secreted in his jacket pocket. “You got a man?” he asked, proffering the cigar, before tucking it away. (Nocturnalist never knew that only men were capable of smoking cigars. Party reporting is so edifying.) The premium cigarettes are better, no?

We headed out with him, warmed by his respect for his fans, for whom he nearly always stops to give signatures, no matter the downsides. “When the fans quit coming to the game, the game is over,” he said. “You get a stalker here and there — that’s O.K.” Outside, his words were put to the test. Two young men, Jake Fleece, 22, and Jimmy Brooks, 26, had waited in the cold. They rushed at the coach on 27th Street. “I can’t feel my feet!” Mr. Brooks plaintively said, shoving several deflated footballs at Mr. Ditka, who dutifully signed them before fleeing in a van.

They were no superfans. “I just said that because the coach was there,” Mr. Brooks said, revealing they were in the business of selling sports memorabilia, and had spent the week trolling the streets for football players. Since arriving in New York City from California three days earlier, Mr. Fleece said he had already accrued over 90 signatures. In the dark street, he carefully wrapped the football in plastic. He unzipped his duffel bag. Inside were 20 more.

1 comment:

  1. I got my first electronic cigarette kit at VaporFi, and I must admit that they have the best kits.

    ReplyDelete