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Ditka on Kaepernick: ‘It pisses me off royally’

1. What did you watch Monday night? Football or the debate?

I watched the entire Monday Night Football game. There’s nothing they can debate that tells me one candidate is better than the other. I know what I’m going to do. That’s my choice. That’s what is great about America. You have a choice of who you want to vote for and who you don’t want to vote for. It’s not complicated. I’m listening to some of the criticism now and it’s amazing. The media says you can’t say this about this person but what about when Bush was president? What did they have to say then? C’mon! It’s gotta be even. This is America. This is the greatest country on earth. Lets start treating it that way.

 

2. What did Arnold Palmer mean to a young Mike Ditka growing up in Aliquippa, Pa.?

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18: Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem before their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

He was the greatest. Because I was from Western Pennsylvania, he knew who I was, so how lucky was I? I got to be with Arnold a number of times. I got to play golf with him, not that it was any big deal for him the way I played. I’m sure golf would have reached the point of interest it has now but I don’t know if that would have happened without a few guys and Palmer was the main one. Jack Nicklaus, Palmer, Gary Player — those guys and that rivalry were truly great for sports. With all things that were said about Arnold, one thing rings true: he was a gentleman. America was fortunate to have this man in its midst for 87 years. I don’t have a lot of heroes. My childhood hero was Stan Musial and my other hero throughout life was Arnold Palmer. When he was young, he was a handsome man — a magnet. People gravitated to him and he handled it so well — with class and grace. I think that’s something all athletes have to understand and try to emulate. I certainly did. I learned a lot from him, and Stan Musial had the same impact on me. There was a lot of Western Pennsylvania in both of those guys.

 

3. What is it about Western Pennsylvania that produced so many legendary athletes?

When I grew up it was a great working community — steel mills, industry. A lot of the people there were immigrants and they appreciated the opportunity to have a job and work hard. We didn’t have anything but we had everything because we had a family, a great upbringing and we had discipline in our lives. Our fathers ruled the family. The toughest guy I ever met was my dad. I never played against anyone who was a tougher person than my dad. Nitschke wasn’t as tough as my dad. When I got out of line, I got whupped and I got it pretty good. And that’s just the way it was. In retrospect, I thank God for that. He made me understand that you just can’t do the wrong thing and get away with it. If you’re wrong, you’re going to be punished. We had parents that raised us a certain way. It was all about the discipline. You had to do things the way you’re parents said to do it — no other way. I went to a Catholic school and I had nuns teach me the same thing. I don’t regret that. I think that was the greatest thing in the world because when you got out of line they knocked the crap out of you.  They don’t allow it anymore — “Oh, you can’t touch the kids in school.” Well, I don’t know what’s best. It’s a different generation now but I know the generation I grew up in was a pretty good one. I think the value system, the work ethic was a pretty good time for America. As a country, I think we gotta stop looking at the negatives all the time and start looking at the positives. Yeah, there are problems, there’s no question about it. But problems are only magnified by people who don’t really want to solve the problem, they just want to talk about it. I’m not saying everybody is treated the same but the opportunities that are here are here for everybody regardless of race, creed, color or nationality. It doesn’t matter where you come from. You can come here and have just as good of an opportunity as someone who was born in Aliquippa. We gotta stop runnin’ down the country because this is a pretty damn good place to be. People can protest anything they want but I don’t believe in protesting against the flag, the country or our national anthem. It pisses me off royally. We live in a society where people say, “It’s OK, It’s different now. It’s not like it used to be.” Well, maybe that’s what’s wrong. It’s not like it used to be. We don’t have the pride in America that we used to have. Is it perfect, no? But what are you comparing it to? Where are things better? England? France? Russia? China? You have to explain that to me.

4. Another game and another big injury for the Bears. Now Jeremy Langford is out. What’s going on?

It’s a lot different now than when I coached. If you think that going without contact during the week gets you prepared, then I think you’re full of crap. I understand you have to deal with the union but you’re doing the players a BIG disservice. If everything is a walk-through and the first time you go full-speed is on Sunday, then something’s gonna happen. It’s a bigger, faster, stronger league today, so when these bodies collide, a lot of bad things can happen. As a coach, I wouldn’t practice the way they do now and I think that’s why you’re having all these injuries today. I go back to my practices as a player with the Bears and the Cowboys. As good as we were, our practices were up-tempo. As a coach with the Bears, they were almost like scrimmages.

EXTRA POINT: Coach Fox is non-committal on Jay Cutler returning as the starter. 

I thought Brian Hoyer played pretty good but you don’t lose your job to injury. Jay’s the starter. If Hoyer went and played lights-out, then yeah it would be tough to make that switch back to Jay, but I didn’t see that. Hoyer was the least of their problems Sunday. I thought he handled himself very well but Jay’s the starter when he’s healthy.