President Obama has decided to honor the 1985 Bears at the White House this year, more than a quarter century after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster prevented them from visiting the Reagan White House. Coach Mike Ditka says he’s happy for the recognition, but one player on that team will be badly missed.
“The shame about this thing is that Walter won’t be there,” Ditka said today on ESPN Radio. “That’s the shame of this thing.”
Walter Payton, the star running back and spiritual leader of the ’85 Bears, died in 1999 at the age of 45.
Ditka, who in 2004 considered running against Obama in the Illinois senate race, said he’s excited to have his great team honored by the president.
“I’ll be happy to go — I’m excited to go, the Bears are excited to go,” Ditka said. “It’s going to be a nice deal to be recognized and have the country say, these guys were good football players — these old guys were pretty good.”
Those guys were very good, and it’s great that they’ll finally be honored. But Ditka is right: It’s a shame that the greatest of them all is no longer with us.