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Opening Arguments

Wrong time to punt

Here's a sobering thought. Way back in 2004, America could have been saved from Barack Obama and all the havoc he has wreked -- by a football coach:

Obama's once rising star could have been blown out of the sky and the country saved years of anguish by an election defeat in 2004. That's when the ambitious ex-state legislator Obama sought and got the Democrat nomination for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.

With 70% of that November's vote, Obama crushed the Republican Party's last-minute sacrificial lamb, Alan Keyes, who had portrayed himself as a GOP primary presidential contender back in 2000 but was really just trying to jack his speaking fees with some free TV fame.

That's what people often remember.

What they often forget is Republicans came close that year to enlisting as their U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois the NFL Hall of Famer and Super Bowl Champion Player and Coach Mike Ditka. After an illustrious career as a belligerent tight end for Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas, Ditka coached as a Cowboys assistant before becoming head coach of the Bears and, later, the New Orleans Saints.

Thanks to his TV commercials and iconic 'Saturday Night Live' skits where he was fondly labeled 'Da Coach,' Ditka gained national fame as an ESPN commentator and tough-talking, can-do, tell-it-like-it-is guy likely with some anger management issues.

In 2003, Sen. George Allen, namesake son of the legendary NFL coach, approached Ditka to be the party's nominee the next year. Ditka, who had described himself as "uber-conservative," subsequently said he considered the new career path for two days. But turned it down as an interference with business plans.

Speaking to a business group the other day, Ditka regretted his choice. "Biggest mistake I've ever made," said the coach.

"Not that I would have won," Ditka added, "but I probably would have and (Obama) wouldn't be in the White House."

Now there's a teeth-grinding thought.

Yeah, I regret it, too, Mike. Ah, what might have been.