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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Mike Ditka Rolls the Dice on New Career

30 June 2004

There's no doubt about it. Eighteen years after leading the Bears to the Super Bowl Championship and taking Chicago on one of this city's wildest sports rides ever, "Da Coach" still has what it takes to captivate an audience.

It matters not that most kids graduating high school this year weren't even born that Sunday in January, 1986, when the Bears took home the crown, or that today's college-age men and women were too young to remember.

"Iron Mike" Ditka, whose exploits as an all-pro tight end for the Monsters of the Midway came when the Bears gridiron home was still Wrigley Field, was cheered during his playing days by young adults who are retirement age today.

Da Coach, who'll turn 65 this October, was the center of attention for a packed house that spanned all age groups for the grand opening of "Don & Mike's" Sports Bar at the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Ind., last Saturday (May 22).

His gait may be slowed by hip replacement surgery, but the trademark wit and wisdom from this one-of-a-kind "tell it like it is" kind of guy is as snappy as the days when he sparred with the press and won the hearts of "Grabowski's" everywhere.

The ribbon cutting for the casino sports bar that bears his name and that of Don H. Barden, the owner of the Majestic Star, was attended by a dozen or so '85 Bears and a host of other sports personalities and dignitaries, but it wasn't until Da Coach himself walked through the doors that the magic spell was cast.

Ditka worked the room, posed for photos and signed autographs for enthusiastic admirers ranging from 20-somethings whose only memories of the Super Bowl Bears are supplied by ESPN Classics, to gray-haired ladies clutching footballs waiting for the man himself to sign them.

"The Hammer", as he was known during his All-American college days and Hall of Fame pro football career, strikes as dominating a presence as ever while commanding attention as an advocate of men's health issues and his latest foray as official spokesman for the Majestic Star Casino.

Ditka offers no apologies for lending his name and image to the Northwest Indiana casino, which has showcased Da Coach prominently on television commercials, highway billboard advertising, and in-house signage and promotion.

One TV spot shows Ditka giving a locker room pep talk to a group of mesmerized people clutching plastic coin buckets prior to charging out onto the casino floor to tackle the slot machines. Print ads proclaim the Majestic Star is "The Winning Place to Play" now that Mike is the dealer.

Mike Ditka may be an enduring sports icon who's living on his laurels, but he most certainly isn't resting on them. He doesn't dwell in the past, but lives for today and thrives on tomorrow. Now roll those dice!

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp