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Otis Wilson Vs. Vikings

As anyone who's seen "The Super Bowl Shuffle" surely knows, the Chicago Bears of the 80s were an unforgettable group of characters. Otis Wilson, their starting outside linebacker, was right in the center of the action, and in If These Walls Could Talk: Chicago Bears he provides a closer look at the great moments and personalities that made this era legendary. 

We'll talk more about Iron Mike and his propensity for hustling booze, lifeless male organs, Nancy's Pizza, Clear Choice Dental Implants, and Big Mac's later on, but in this verse I want to take you back to the mid-80s and what nearly became the brawl in the Hall.

Otis Wilson/Chicago Bears Book

Let me set the ground rules by explaining that there was never any love lost between Otis and his head coach during the bulk of their time together at Soldier Field.

Perhaps, it was just a case of two headstrong individuals who stood behind rock solid opinions or, maybe, Ditka just enjoyed jabbing Otis. It's common knowledge that Ditka enjoyed reminding the human race 25 hours a day that he ranked slightly above Ronald Reagan on his own "Who's Who" list.

If you tell me you've heard this story, you're conning me. In 1987, two years after the Bears left the New England Patriots crushed and red-faced in Super Bowl XX, Wilson pulled up lame after he was leg whipped by a rival Green Bay Packer at Lambeau Field.

Otis had to give up the last four weeks of the regular-season schedule (the Bears finished 11–4), so Ditka inserted Ron Rivera in the "Sam" or strongside linebacker spot. Rivera, a solid player and stand-up guy out of Cal, was a good football player -- just that; no more, no less. Ron would tell you he was never in Otis's league.

So, naturally, Big O expected that after his injury healed, Ditka would follow his edict that "No player loses his job due to injury" and return him to the starting lineup as the Bears got ready to begin what was a one-game playoff  nightmare vs. the Washington Redskins. Now, during a previous run-in, Wilson had let Ditka have it when he asked the boss in a voice as unyielding as iron, "Why don't you treat me like a man?" We should also note that Wilson was a disciple of Buddy Ryan, the architect of the Bears monstrous 46 defense.

O will also tell you without hesitation that if Ryan had been the Bears head coach during the 1980s the Bears would have won multiple Super Bowl titles. You can comfortably assume that Wilson thought the crusty Ryan was really his "unofficial" head coach. So, we come to the days before the Bears are to meet the Skins, and Wilson went up to Ditka's office in Halas Hall to confront the coach about his refusal to return him to the starting lineup.

Ditka heard Wilson out, then responded in blasé fashion that he liked the way thing were going, meaning, in Ditka-speak: Rivera stays. You're his caddy.

Otis Wilson With Super Bowl Trophy

Wilson, justified in taking the demotion personally, told Ditka he could see "what things are all about" or in other words, that Ditka was playing favorites by going with Rivera.

Wilson then spouted, "Bullshit. I'm going back on that field whether you like it or not."

Ditka then told Wilson to get the hell out of his office while threatening to "blackball" Big O.

By now, these two knockout artists were jaw to jaw. Otis claims the two guys were ready to slug it out. Mike's secretary, the squeamish type, was so startled by the confrontation that she began to dial the Lake Forest Police. Truthfully, I would have paid $500 to see O and a still fairly young Mike Ditka slap leather for 12 rounds -- or less. Wait! Who am I kidding? Otis would have ended the bout 30 seconds after the referee tossed out instructions about "rabbit punches" and "neutral corners."

One can only imagine what Ditka was thinking when Otis told the ego-driven head coach, "I'll take you out." Interpret that line however you please, while you remind yourself that Otis grew up in the unforgiving, hard-nosed Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York.

Ironically, Michael McCaskey, the team president, played the role of peacemaker. Michael got Wilson to cool off, but not before Wilson emphatically told him, "I’ll expose this guy. Ditka should be wearing a white sheet."

Coppock: Wilson, 30-plus years later, shakes his head and reminds himself that Jim McMahon had nicknamed Ditka "Sybil" for his endless string of personalities.

In the big picture, Otis also knew his time in Chicago was running out. No one had to explain to him that if got banged up again he'd be given a bus ticket. He knew his ass was on a short lease at Halas Hall.

After the glorious run in '85, no one knew Ditka was a hot commercial ticket more than Ditka himself. My God, the guy shared the couch with Johnny Carson on the legendary Tonight Show.

Otis: You know about six months after we did the "Super Bowl Shuffle," Ditka came out with a disaster called the "Grabowski Shuffle."

Otis Wilson

Coppock: Trust me. Mike's Grabowski nonsense proved conclusively that Mike would never qualify for Soul Train or a Friday night polka party in Logan Square. As a dancer, Ditka was a tremendous down field blocker. Or to carry the issue a step further, just another middle-aged white guy who couldn't spell "funk" if you spotted him three letters.

But Wilson saw the changing of the guard occurring.

Otis: In camp in '86, Mike told us he was gonna clamp down on all of us doing commercials. Ditka made it clear he was first in the commercial batting order. The only guys he wouldn't mess with were the Holy Trinity: Fridge (Perry), Walter (Payton), and (Jim) McMahon.

Coppock: Years later, Otis says he saw a mellowing in Ditka, as he suggests that his fiery boss had a "find God moment."

Otis: He was more cordial to me, but no -- he never apologized for a damn thing.

Coppock: As for the plus side, Otis says unequivocally that Ditka put a chip on his players' shoulders, a chip that said to rival clubs, "We own you. C'mon, we dare ya to go near the chip. We dare ya suckers."

Otis: I was not like Ditka, and he sure as hell wasn't like me. I put my feelings toward him on the side. He obviously didn't. He wouldn't.

-- Excerpted by permission from If These Walls Could Talk: Chicago Bears by Otis Wilson With Chet Coppock. Copyright (c) 2017. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Otis Wilson on Twitter @otiswilson_55. Follow Chet Coppock on Twitter @ChetCoppock.