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December 06, 2001

Iron Mike calls the shots
By Dan Patrick

Tampa Bay Training Camp
Jan. 23

Mike Ditka's most recent coaching experience was with the New Orleans Saints, but he is best known for his years with the Chicago Bears -- including a victory in Super Bowl XX.

TAMPA, Fla. -- I have never been coached by Mike Ditka, but I now have a real good sense of what the experience might have been like.

Monday night, I went to the Green Iguana in Ybor City with Craig James, Randy Cross, Marcus Allen, Sean Salisbury and Iron Mike. Guess who picked the place? And that was merely the first choice he made for the group.

And by the way, Iron Mike is perhaps the most appropriate nickname in all of sports. You shake his hand or merely stand next to him and you can tell he's made of iron. I don't care how old he is today, he could mess anyone up in two seconds. I saw people bounce off him on the dance floor last night.

Back to dinner. Mike ordered the wine when we sat down and handed us all cigars when the meal was over. He pretty much dominated the conversation too. He coached us. But nobody minded.

The notion of being a man's man is a bit obscure here in our new millennium. You have to be politically correct and sensitive to the feelings of other people. And that's fine. That's progress. I guess being a man's man is hard to define other than you know when you're with one.

He paid, too. Mike carries around a decent-sized bank roll that he holds together with those tough, taut red rubber bands that clamp lobster claws shut. Perfect.

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