'It's only a game,' so Mount Ditka vows not to erupt


HERNDON, Va. -- When Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka arrived at training camp in July with a mellow, laid-back attitude, reporters wondered how long he'd stay that way.

"We'll see what happens when we get in the third period in Washington and the score is tied," he said jokingly.

Ditka and the Bears will be in Washington on Sunday, but he insists there will be no repeat of his explosion of a year ago, when after a 38-14 loss to the Redskins on Nov. 26, he threw a post-game temper tantrum, saying that the Bears wouldn't win another game (he was right) and that his cornerback Donnell Woolford "couldn't cover anybody."

Ditka knows that clips of last year's tirade will be telecast this week and that cameras will be trained on him Sunday.

"They've tried [to catch him throwing a tantrum on camera all year]. My God, I'll tell you what, the camera is on me more. . . . If I had to run off and go to the bathroom, I don't what they'd do. They're not going to find anything. It's just not going to happen," he said.

"I made a vow it wouldn't [happen] again. There wouldn't be anything that anybody could ever talk about me again, about my antics on the sidelines," he said.

There's just one caveat. Ditka hasn't been given a good test. His team has rebounded from a 6-10 record last year to a 10-2 mark and has clinched a division title.

Ditka insists he won't lose his temper Sunday.

"If the score is tied or if they're beating us by 50 points, it won't make any difference. There'll be no explosion. All those people waiting for the earthquake, it's not going to happen. This game is only a game. It's not that important."

After last year's game, Ditka accused his team of not playing hard. But he saw he was wrong when he watched a videotape of the game.

"I learned a lot about me. That's all that counts. I learned about old dummy here. That's what I learned about myself," he said.

That's why, Ditka said, he's no longer thinking about last year.

"The Scripture tells you never to live in the past. We have to live in the present and look to the future. That's all I do," he said.

Ditka credits his players for the team's improvement.

"I'm just a bystander, and sometimes I'm not even innocent, but I am a bystander," he said.

And he doesn't consider himself the likeliest coach to explode.

"Even some of the geniuses are getting mad now," he said, adding he's not in the genius class.

"Far from it. I hope I never get in that class. I won't get in because I'm not a genius. That's for sure. I don't think I fit that category very well," he said.

What category is he in?

"Blue collar, lunch bucket, walk to work, railroad, shovel a little coal, make a little steel, have a little fun, run the ball a little bit more than other teams, get your uniform dirty," he said.

Ditka expressed concern that Sunday, because the Redskins wear white at home, the Bears will have to wear their navy-blue jerseys.

"We don't get to see our white jerseys get dirty. We like to see that dirt. That's a motivating factor for us, the dirt. Is the field going to be wet? Are they going to water it? We're trying to get them to water the field so it's real wet and slippery," he said.

Even though he thrives on having a blue-collar image, Ditka is virtually a one-man conglomerate that even has its own line of cologne. But times are tough.

"The perfumes are down. The restaurants are down. I'm just struggling. I wish there'd be a little sympathy for me. As a matter of fact, maybe we can have a little tag day for me at RFK, everybody throw in a couple of bucks for me, and that'll tide me through the next couple of months," he said jokingly.

NOTES: In an interview in The National this week, former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann said coach Joe Gibbs has surrounded himself with "yes men" and has all the power in the organization now that general manager Bobby Beathard has departed. When the quotes were read to Gibbs, he said: "I'm not going to get carried away with that. I'm not sure Joe knows what he's talking about."

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