Thursday, December 7, 2023

Talking Football and Cigars With NFL Legend Mike Ditka

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When it comes to football legends, not many stand out more than Mike Ditka. The former coach of the Chicago Bears remains heavily involved with the game as a sports betting ambassador for BetRivers and also recently helped launch a new podcast documenting his thoughts on the game.

Also, as any cigar enthusiast and sports fan knows, Iron Mike also enjoys some premium tobacco and is often pictured lighting up. The Hall of Famer recently spoke to Enthusiast Report about the new venture, his own time on the gridiron, and enjoying a great cigar.

NFL Legend

Much of Ditka’s life has revolved around football in some form – from player to coach to media. His 1985 Bears team won the Super Bowl and he was twice named NFL coach of the year. Beyond those honors, the 83-year-old also has some other unique distinctions during his gridiron career.

Ditka is one of only two men who have won a Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. He was also the only person to participate in both of the last two Bears’ championships, as a player in 1963 and head coach in 1985.

As a player, football fans remember Ditka as a tough tight end on the field, never afraid of contact. Ditka was named All-Pro in five consecutive seasons with the Bears, also later playing for the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988, the first tight end to receive the honor.

While in Dallas, Ditka moved into coaching, landing as an assistant under the legendary Tom Landry before leading the Bears for 11 seasons. He later coached the New Orleans Saints for three seasons as well.

After that, it was on to broadcasting, where Ditka was a longtime member of ESPN’s famed NFL Countdown and also worked for NBC and CBS.

Lighting Up

Ever the character, Ditka earned plenty of loyalty among Chicago Bears faithful for his days as a player and aggressive defense as a coach. The squad seemed to epitomize the coach’s hard-charging ways and tough guy personality.

Who could forget the classic Ditka uber-fans sketch on Saturday Night Live featuring George Wendt sending plenty of love and beer toasts to the coach and “da Bears.” And not many coaches, athletes, or celebrities are more synonymous with lighting up a cigar than Ditka. When did he first take a match to a nice stogie?

“Probably in college, playing cards and I decided to light up,” he says. “At the beginning, I just thought it was a neat thing to have a cigar in my mouth, then I began to enjoy the taste of it, and it stuck.

“I don’t think I have an exact favorite, but I prefer a full bodied cigar. And Dominican cigars, to me, are every bit as good as a Cuban.”

His love of fine tobacco has even brought about lending his name to a brand of smokes. The Camacho Ditka Signature small-batch line is produced at the Davidoff factory. The cigars feature a reddish-brown Honduran Criollo wrapper and Dominican and Nicaraguan long-filler tobaccos. And while he’s not a 24/7 cigar smoker, the coach makes sure to get in some puffs on some fine tobacco a regular basis.

“If I am driving, I light up,” he says. “If I am sitting watching sports, I usually smoke. I don’t have a cigar in my mouth all day, but I try to have them a few times a week.”

Mike Ditka smoking a cigar

Playing Field to Podcasting

After so much time around football, this year brought something new for Ditka – the world of podcasting. Sports fans around the world, especially those in Chicago, can now get the inside scoop on everything football courtesy of the Hall of Famer.

From player to coach to television analyst, Ditka has seemingly done it all on a high level in football. That now includes representing the BetRivers sports betting brand. He even recently teamed up with Chicago radio host Danny Parkins for the Ditka Diaries, a series of video podcasts hosted by BetRivers Network, a property of the Chicago-based gaming and betting company Rush Street Interactive.

The unique format features a look back at Ditka’s days with the Bears and beyond. The first episode delved into his upbringing in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. He credits the one time steel manufacturing town for providing a framework for his success.

One interesting note was Ditka revealing that he attended the University of Pittsburgh originally with the goal of becoming a dentist. During the second episode, Ditka provided some interesting views on the relative strengths of his defenses. He believes the 1963 defense was not only as good, but possibly better than the ‘85 unit, which is considered one of the greatest in NFL history.

Early in the season, Ditka held out hope that his beloved Bears had a shot at a nice playoff run. Now sitting at 3-7 that seems unlikely. However, he’s still thinking that a team will emerge that many prognosticators may not consider as a Super Bowl contender.

“I think it’s a toss up this year,” he says. “I am thinking it will be someone who hasn’t been there in a while, maybe the Bears. Let’s speak that into existence. A lot of teams are showing great progress. I think the season has started out very well, with a lot of parity and equal matchups. So I think it will be interesting to see who pulls out all the stops.”


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