Vincent Laforet/AFP/Getty Images
Vincent Laforet/AFP/Getty Images

Mike Ditka’s Cigar

The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project—unveiled every Wednesday from May through July—detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.

They don’t build ‘em like the ’85 Bears anymore. That started at the top with head coach Mike Ditka, the gruff former NFL tight end whose penchant for smoking cigars rubbed off on his team.

Ditka was beloved in the Windy City after a playing career that included Chicago’s first NFL championship in 1963. He returned in ’82 as the Bears’ head coach and made good on his promise to bring the team another title in short order. Ditka’s feud with defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan was as famous as Ryan’s 46 defense, but that simply added to the personality of a team that was cocky and fun-loving.

Ditka was often seen lighting up a cigar, and they were passed out in the locker room after the Bears blanked the Rams, 24–0, in the NFC Championship Game. Chicago’s 46–10 domination of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX two weeks later called for an even bigger celebration: cigars and champagne for one of the greatest teams of all time.

Though Ditka worship was at first limited to Chicagoland, his godhood went national with Saturday Night Live’s now legendary “Superfans” skits—the cigar featured prominently, as did the trademark Ditka ’stache, the aviator shades and mounds of sausage. More than two decades after it first aired, the bratwurst-loving, Ditka-philic Superfans live on in State Farm commercials. Talk about a legacy.

— Jenny Vrentas


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