OK, so he doesn’t really make them cry, but he does soften them up a bit.
Mike Ditka made an appearance last Thursday at the new Binny’s South Loop to sign bottles of his wine. Da’ Coach has his own wine, you ask? Yes – he may be synonymous with football, especially here in Chicago, but he also has a namesake successful steakhouse in the Gold Coast. And steakhouses are synonymous with wine, ergo, it’s not a leap to think that the famous leader of the ’85 Super Bowl champions would have his own wine.
Fans started lining up at 3pm, and although he wasn’t supposed to start until 6 o’clock, when I arrived half an hour early he was already autographing away.
I had come with Lee Roupas. Lee’s a professional bodybuilder and personal trainer, and he’s also the “Card Hard Guy.” If you’ve walked by a bar in Chicago you’ve probably seen him – the big guy on the poster daring kids under 21 to try to get in. In that role he’s got a contact or two, so we were able to skip the line that already snaked to the back of the store and waited patiently a few feet away.
Well, I waited patiently, anyway, as fan after fan approached the table with bottles of wine and memorabilia from books to mini-helmets. Some of them wore Bears headbands and others had jerseys, and everybody seemed thrilled to be this close to a man who, for many, symbolizes the blue collar work ethic Chicagoans prize. When Lee was motioned over to the table I could feel the gust of air as he raced over to finally meet his idol of 25 years.
After his picture was taken we left immediately, as if he didn’t want to spoil the moment with any lingering. We hit the cold winter night and he pumped his arm in the air and shouted “Yes” and had a grin that made this 6’3″ lumberjack of a man look like a 10-year-old. A couple of men heading into the store looked over and smiled and waved, and there was this unspoken bond of manly men acting like 6th grade girls at a Hannah Montana concert (without the screaming, of course). But that’s OK; it’s Da’ Coach, baby!