Decked out as Bears coach Mike Ditka, photo of St. Charles East grad, groomsmen goes viral
It's not something you'd expect to see at an Atlanta Falcons football game: 20 men dressed exactly like former Bears coach Mike Ditka in his iconic sweater vest, aviator sunglasses, khaki pants and the Hall of Famer's trademark mustache.
The men were celebrating St. Charles East alum Jake Mazanke's bachelor party at the Nov. 20 Falcons-Bears matchup. A photo of them went viral on social media before kickoff, and the Ditka look-alikes became the center of attention at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
"Atlanta fans took pictures with us before the game because they thought it was funny," said Mazanke, a 28-year-old St. Charles native who now lives in Chicago. "As the photo started going viral on social media, people from around the stadium were walking around trying to find us. Random people were taking photos with us throughout the game. A bunch of cars were honking at us as we were walking out after the game. The attention wasn't something we were looking for, but the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive."
The idea to have everyone dress as Ditka came about when Peter Archibald, a 2012 Geneva High School graduate and Mazanke's best man, was kicking around ideas on how to make Mazanke's bachelor party special. Knowing what a huge Bears fan Mazanke is, Archibald wanted to somehow incorporate his friend's favorite team.
After talking to a co-worker who used to dress as Ditka while attending Bears games, Archibald knew that would be a perfect theme for Mazanke's bachelor party.
"When Jake heard [my idea], he was pretty sold from the get-go," Archibald said. "Leading up to this, I kept telling people to tune in because I thought there would be a good chance we'd be shown on TV. We took the photo at 9 a.m., and it went viral quickly. By the time we made it to the tailgate, we were being stopped by people on the street. It was pretty electric from the moment we put those sweaters on and the energy carried well into the night."
Archibald said that when it came to choosing the outfit the group would wear to emulate the coach, there was no question of what it would be.
"The sweaters are Ditka's signature thing, so we wanted to honor him with that," he said. "That was the plan ... the sweater, aviators and mustaches. No other option. It's what he wore on game days. From the moment we put those sweaters on, the energy was high throughout the day."
Mazanke said each of the bachelor party guests ordered the same sweater vest from an online retailer, and all got the same aviator sunglasses. All the attendees also grew mustaches for weeks before the game, he said.
"We based it off of the Ditka pictures we could find, and he traditionally wore that sweater," Mazanke said. "Every Bears fan knows and loves Ditka -- he's a legend."
It's a day that both Mazanke and Archibald, who were initially rivals as track athletes in high school but became best friends as teammates at Loyola University Chicago, won't ever forget.
"With the number of people coming up and laughing with us, enjoying our effort ... it was nice to have that validation, which brought up the energy even more," Archibald said.
"It was one of the best days of my life," Mazanke said about his bachelor party. "We're going to incorporate the sweaters into my [Sept. 9, 2023] wedding. All of my groomsmen will take photos with the sweaters on at some point during the day."