A couple of weeks ago, as I was interviewing him for a book project,
He was talking about loyalty; about football in 2010 and how nobody who plays the game and nobody who coaches the game and nobody who owns a team exercises even the slightest bit of honor. "It's all gone," he said. "Completely gone. Replaced by selfishness and greed." The two of us were sitting at a table in Ditka's eponymous Chicago steakhouse. He chugged one cup of coffee after another. His eyes -- those famously scowled eyes -- moistened and morphed into the color of cherry tomatoes. One almost wanted to give him a hug. "I will never coach again," Ditka said. "I don't want to, but I wouldn't even if I did. It's not the same game that I love."
A couple of days ago,
"Do you think that made them feel better?" Kremer asked.
"No," Kiffin said, "but as they get older they understand it. It's why they put buyouts in contracts."
As I watched Kiffin, I thought of Ditka. But not in a healthy way. It's sort of like dieting, when you're munching on a scrawny carrot stick, trying to imagine a thick, scrumptious piece of chocolate cake.
In this case, Kiffin is the scrawny carrot stick.
He did the
And yet, were my child of age and good enough to play Division I college football, I would just as soon encourage him to attend USC and play for Lane Kiffin as I would instruct him to eat a bushel of unwashed cassava leaves.
During his 11 years leading the Chicago Bears, Ditka knew what it meant to fight for more than wins and losses. If
The very idea of Ditka uttering words akin to "It's why they put buyouts in contracts" is beyond ludicrous. But, then again, so is the moral code of the modern college and professional coach. When Ditka roamed the sidelines of Soldier Field, he considered himself to be a Bear and only a Bear. He wasn't looking for the next job, for the next offer; for the next sweet gig. Neither, for that matter, were old professionals like
But now, in the Era of Me, Kiffin has followed the hackneyed lead of his 21st Century coaching role models -- the
... for him.