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1985 Bears Coverage: Did Ditka ruin Grabowski's good name?

Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

Did Ditka ruin Grabowski’s good name?

Ron Rapoport

Originally published Jan. 8, 1986

Grabowski called.

So, I said. I see where the cat’s out of the bag.

“That potato-head Ditka,” Grabowski moaned. “I’d like to wring his neck. All these years of anonymity, all this suffering in private, and he has to go and ruin it. He has to stand up and tell the world that I’m the Chicago Bears.”

But there’s not any suffering now, I said. The Bears are the toast of football. They’re the biggest thing to hit the game since the TV timeout. I would think you’d be happy to have everybody know the Bears are a team named Grabowski.

“No, no,” Grabowski whined. “All this winning has made it even worse. Reporters have been knocking on my door since last night when Ditka spilled his guts. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing. I’m looking out my front window now and there are minicam vans all up and down my driveway.

“There’s enough television cable on my lawn to choke Texas. Walter Jacobson says if I don’t give him an exclusive interview, he’s going to sue me under the Freedom of Information act. Why couldn’t Ditka leave well enough alone?”

But you weren’t the only one Ditka exposed, I told him. He did it to the Rams, too, didn’t he? He said the Bears were a team named Grabowski and the Rams were a team named Smith.

“Yeah,” Grabowski muttered. “And if you think I’m mad, you should talk to Smith. I just got off the phone with him and he said he hasn’t been so upset since Ma Maison closed. He said he’ll never be able to take his kids to Disneyland again if everybody knows he is really the Rams.

“I mean, how would you like to spend every waking moment explaining Dieter Brock? I’m not even going to tell you what he called Ditka. I didn’t think Californians knew how to swear like that.”

How is the rest of the league taking it? I asked.

“Like its daughter had just moved to Libya,” Grabowski said. “Lundkvist in Minneapolis said he felt like walking into a snowbank where he wouldn’t be found until the spring thaw. Next to this, Bud Grant retiring again was almost good news.

“The Hell’s Angels called from their offices in the Raiders’ headquarters and said Ditka better keep a sharp eye out for strange motorcycles. They were already upset about losing their playoff game and this really sent them around the bend. And Bruce in San Francisco was actually crying. He spent the whole season fussing over Joe Montana and now this.”

Ditka really got a lot of people mad then? I said.

“Mad?” Grabowski said. “That isn’t the half of it. I’ll tell you what, if it weren’t for Pat Sullivan in New England, some pro football teams might not be with us anymore. They’d have died of humiliation.”

Pat Sullivan? I said.

“You bet,” Grabowski replied, sounding happy about something for the first time during our conversation. “What a great thing that was, the way he grabbed Howie Long’s face mask after the Patriots beat the Raiders Sunday. Something like that has been a long time coming, believe me. We were all standing up and cheering when we heard about it.”

Just a minute, I said. The general manager of a football team gets into a fight with an opposing player on the sidelines after a game and you’re happy about it?

“It made my day,” Grabowski chortled. “These players take our money and scream about how cheap we are and sneak out of their hotel rooms the night before games to go to Kappa reunions and drop passes in the end zone, and we’re supposed to be those great sportsmen who go up and congratulate them and say we’ll get them next year. It gets old in a hurry, let me tell you.”

Perhaps, I said, but what was Sullivan doing on the sideline in the first place? Making trades? Why would he want to yell nasty things at Long and have Matt Millen hit him with his helmet?

“He was striking a blow for teams everywhere and you’d better believe it,” Grabowski said. “It’s about time we got a little respect. Do you know what Long said afterward when Sullivan went up to him and said he was the owner of the New England Patriots?

“Long said he wasn’t the owner until his father dies. Well, we’re tired of being treated that way, let me tell you. There’s a new era coming and the players better get used to it.”

This is all very interesting, I said. But what if the Bears play the Patriots in the Super Bowl? How will you feel about Sullivan if it’s you against him in New Orleans?

“I’ll ask him if he wants to go to the French Quarter and hear some jazz,” Grabowski said. “And then I’ll tell him if he wants to pick a fight with one of our players to make sure it’s Mike Singletary or Richard Dent. I’ve never seen a human being punted through the goalposts before.”