- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. -- Matthew Stafford showed up to the golf course, began to tie his shoes and smiled when he heard the news.
Mike Ditka was in attendance, as well, at the Charlie Sanders "Have a Heart, Save a Life" golf tournament that Stafford and many of the Detroit Lions were playing in Monday.
“That’s awesome,” Stafford said. “I know him a little bit. I’m going to try and beat him, like we did last year as a team.”
The Stafford-Ditka connection is a somewhat weird one. One of the more bizarre criticisms of Stafford over the past year has been his decision to sometimes wear his hat backward during interviews and other moments.
For some reason, Ditka has pounced on this, openly questioning Stafford’s leadership and correlating it to his choice of how he wears his hat.
“I think he’s above that. I think he’s better than that,” Ditka told the Detroit Free Press last month. “I think if you’re the commander-in-chief -- (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur didn't wear his hat backwards. He wore it the way it's supposed to be worn.
“That’s what I would like in my quarterback. And if I was coaching him, I would have told him that: ‘I’m sorry, you put it on straight. You’re not driving a car, if you want to put (it) on backwards (then), that’s fine.'"
In terms of leadership, how Stafford wears his hat should not matter at all. That said, Stafford has worn his hat forward more in interviews this offseason and wore it forward at the golf course Monday.
To Stafford, who said he is a 7 handicap at his home golf course, Atlanta Country Club, all this about his hat is kind of silly. And it's an issue he hasn't broached with Ditka. He just wanted to beat him on the golf course again.
“It’s fine,” Stafford said. “It’s really a non-issue to me.”
As it should be to both Stafford and most everyone else.
16hDana Wakiji / Special to ESPN.com