The NFC Championship, Da Coach, The Hawk and The Jinx

January 18, 2007 | By Jonathan Daniel | Olympics, Sport

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Bears receiver Rasheed Davis joins the fans for a post-game celebration following a win over the Seahawks. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

“I’m the only guy who has the distinction of being fired from both of those teams…that’s terrible! It’s breaking my heart and I feel bad.”

-Mike Ditka on Chicago’s WSCR radio explaining why he can’t root for either the Bears or the Saints in this week’s NFC Championship game

Like many Americans, I have fond memories of New Orleans. I first went there in the spring of 1979 with my old college buddy and fellow photographer Jed DeKalb. We drove non-stop from Bloomington, Illinois to New Iberia, Louisiana to visit another college photographer friend, Joe Willis, who had gotten his first newspaper job down there.

We spent a few days in New Orleans, watching the girls in their nice spring dresses. We drank in the French Quarter and listened to jazz. We stayed in a dump of a hotel outside the city because we were young, poor and didn’t know any better.

I returned in 1986 for a week to cover the Chicago Bears in their first (and only) Super Bowl. Had a blast. Lived to tell about it. Stayed in a slightly nicer hotel. I got my Dad a ticket to the game and he showed up on Saturday and found me in my room sleeping. I had a week’s worth of sleep to catch up on in one day.

My wife and I returned there in the early 90′s so I could cover the Sugar Bowl. My almamater, Tennessee, was playing Virginia. We walked the streets of the French Quarter while thousands of drunken, orange polyester-wearing Tennessee fans screamed “Rocky Top” at the top of their lungs.

I quit being a Tennessee fan after that four days. Those fans were a public embarrassment.

We sat in the Acme Oyster House and listened as the guys sang “Working on a Chain Gang” while they cracked open the oysters for the patrons. We ate Po’ Boys. We drank Hurricanes. We had a blast.

My Getty Images buddy Matt Stockman and I covered a few Sugar Bowl games in the 90′s. One year, a blizzard struck Chicago the night of the game. I had the good fortune of having a First Class ticket for the trip home and United, my former airline of choice, had cancelled all of their flights. I got on the one and only American flight leaving that morning and we landed in the blizzard at O’Hare. When I was getting off the plane, they announced that the airport was closing. It took me two hours to make the normal 20 minute drive home. How that plane got in that day, I’ll never understand. But I really liked that pilot.

I spent less than 24 hours there the last trip I made for a Sugar Bowl game. Didn’t even take time for a beignet. If my wife couldn’t be with me, New Orleans wasn’t going to be any fun. Especially on New Year’s Day.

The video, stories and still pictures from the Katrina aftermath broke our hearts. We had always loved New Orleans. Outside of Chicago and San Francisco, it was my favorite American city. Americans have always loved New Orleans.

Now, the people of New Orleans, after all of the crap they’ve been through, are counting on their Saints to take them to the Promised Land…otherwise known as the Super Bowl. In Miami. In two and a half weeks.

Hey New Orleans…we still love you. But beating the Bears this weekend to get to the Super Bowl…well…foooogettaboutit.

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Bear Pro Bowl kicker Robbie Gould celebrates his game-winning field goal in overtime with holder brad Maynard. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Your boys are going to come to Chicago and get whooped in the cold and snow.

Sorry.

Really now. We LOVE the Quarter. We LOVE the Hurricanes (the drink, that is). We LOVE the music, the people and, of course, the food. We LOVE the Court of Two Sisters and the Streetcar named Desire. We LOVE…STELLLLLAAAA!

We all want your city to recover completely to what it was. And what it can be in the future.

But…beat the Bears this weekend? Hell, Chicaggans don’t love you THAT much, OK?

In fact, the Saints have as much chance of winning this weekend as George Bush has of winning a popularity contest in Bagdad. They have as much chance of winning as “Brownie” had of winning over the folks of New Orleans after his “hellva job.”

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Mr. Hassleback, meet Mr. Vasher and Mr. Anderson. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Now, make no mistake. Aside from 1986, the Bears and the playoffs have not gone well together. 14-2 in 1986…and a first round loss. 11-4 in 1987 and a first round loss. 12-4 in 1988 and a loss to the 49ers in the NFC Championship game in the brutal January cold. A bad loss, too. 28-3. 11-5 in 1991 and a loss to the Cowboys.

Shortly thereafter, it was goodbye Ditka, hello really bad NFL football. For years.

Ditka then had the nerve to think he could rise from the ashes and coach another team to the Super Bowl. Yep, the poor Saints. He got fired after 3 forgettable seasons. He should have gotten fired after appearing in ESPN the Magazine in a wig with Mr. Reefer Madness posing in a wedding dress, for gawds sake.

That was then. This is now. OK, philosophy is not my strong point.

The “Good Rex” showed up last weekend against the Seahawks. The defense held when it needed to. And, the Bears have a Pro Bowl bound kicker.

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Hey Ron Turner: More Cedric Benson, please. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It’s Chicago in January. We have an outdoor stadium, Saints fans.

You have voodoo. We have Lake Michigan.

And…we have “The Hawk.”

“The Hawk” is the wind that wips around the buildings downtown Chicago and when you turn the corner, it bites your face and feels like glass cutting your flesh.

We actually LOVE that wind here. Especially on playoff football Sundays in January.

Lastly, Saints fans, yee of voodoo, black magic, all-night bars and mojo, know one thing for sure.

This week, your team officially has “The Jinx.”

That’s right. The dreaded “Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx.” The Jinx is for real, it always works and your man Drew Brees is on the cover this week. Have a nice weekend. Get your pins ready for your voodoo dolls. Like it’s gonna matter.

Thank you, my friends at S.I. If you feel sticking sensations in your bodies this weekend…ask your barbers what they did with your hair the last time you got it cut.

Hopefully this week, Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner won’t piss me off. The Bears need to run the ball down the Saints throats, keep “Mr. Purdue” off the field and the defense needs to force him to make mistakes when he actually IS on the field.

Our Getty Images photographer team will be there in force. One guy, Al Bello from New York, has been wanting to come here for 14 years to shoot a game. “I’m gonna freeze my tush off, right?” he e-mailed me yesterday. “Compared to standing on the side of a mountain for 8 hours during the winter Olympics, this will be a piece of cake,” I replied.

The Bears in the NFC Championship game, at home, walking hand-in-hand with “The Hawk.” Beats the heck out of any sporting event in America. In January, at least.

Finally, from my heart: Coach Ditka…you’re a big-time chooch. Don’t bite the hand that has fed you all these years, chump. The people of Chicago should tie you up and leave you out in front of your restuarant in your underwear next week, facing the Lake.

Just you and “The Hawk” hanging out on the street in January.

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Da Coach, circa August, 1985. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Enjoy the games this weekend, football fans. Be sure to check the Getty Images archive for all of the photos our great photographers will make this weekend.

See you in Miami. Bring the Colts, please. Unlike the Patriots of 1986, this Pat team scares me enough to make a voodoo doll.

Anyone know Tom Brady’s barber?

More posts by this author

  • AL G

    Just like all the “bird” fans who woofed last week are weeping this week, the bare fans will be very quiet next week.

  • http://schreinervideo.blogspot.com schreinervideo

    This is easily the best sports pix site on the web! Not only that: photogs who can write! All I can say is “Mini-Ditkas 437, Saints nuttin’.”

  • http://throwback-jersey.info Throwbacks

    I’m a lover of football, just wish it was played all year round, thanks for posting such a good article. I’ll be back to read often now.
    Dave