The 1985 Chicago Bears embodied hard-nosed football, but three decades later their equally tough-minded Hall of Fame coach — who once famously declared, “If God had wanted man to play soccer, he wouldn’t have given us arms” — is rethinking his game plan.
That’s right: Even Mike Ditka is questioning the violent nature of the sport in the wake of advancements in concussion research and his own experience with veterans plagued by health problems.
During an interview with Bryant Gumbel, Ditka asked Gumbel if he would want his hypothetical eight-year-old son to play football.
Gumbel responded with a no, and Ditka agreed.
” Nope — and that’s sad, ” Ditka said in the piece. ” I wouldn’t. My whole life was football. I think the risk is worse than the reward. I really do. ”
In addition to the experiences of his ex-players, Ditka has a wealth of knowledge on the subject, serving as president of the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund’s efforts to provide support for retired NFL players. In the HBO feature, the former Bears coach expresses his desire for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to implement additional policies benefiting those affected by the violent nature of the sport.
As Ditka said, ” You wouldn’t have a damn job right now if it wasn’t for those guys. “
Gumbel interviewed Ditka as part of an upcoming piece on the 1985 Bears, who Ditka coached. The Bears went 15-1, winning their only Super Bowl to date with a team featuring Hall of Famer’s Walter Payton, Mike Singletary and Richard Dent.