It took me a couple days after the Super Bowl to even write this because tears of joy were streaming down my face, non-stop, making it difficult to type. But, what can I say? I am a proud Papa! My talented, beautiful boy, Peyton, overcame the most difficult odds to end his career on the highest of notes. A Super bowl champion. I can die now a happy,happy pizza magnate.
And I’m thrilled I was the first one Peyton kissed after that clock clicked zero. Not his wife or kids, or his brother, Eli, even. But his Papa. And he didn’t even say anything, because at moments like these, words fail us. The kiss said it all. It said, “Thanks Papa, for helping me become the man I am today, for teaching me we’re all made up of many different pieces, and all we can do is make sure these ingredients are as high quality as possible.” That sentiment,of course, is reflected in our family motto: “Better Ingredients. Better People.”
But it’s high times like these that remind me of the lower ones. Like when a 3-month-old Peyton was nearly baked alive after somehow crawling inside the brick oven. Yikes! Or most terribly, that fateful day when Peyton told me he was quitting the pizza business.
He was 9. After a long day of helping his old man sling calzones, I noticed little Peyton started to cry. “What’s wrong, pepperoni?” as that was his childhood nickname. And he just looked down at me, since he was taller than me at that age already, and said, “Omaha. Omaha. I want to be a quarterback. Hike.”
Not gonna lie, at that moment, I was crushed worse than red pepper flakes. My greatest fear was being realized: Peyton was abandoning me to join the NFL, just like my dad, Mike Ditka, did, all those years ago. How could I go on living, let alone continue making high quality pizza? And just as I was about to put a pizza cutter to my own throat, little Peyton grabbed me and yelled, “Papa don’t! Omaha! You have so much to live for. Signature sauces, signature topics, fresh dough. Hutt. Hike.” We embraced hard. The half-finished pizza dough in front of me now stained with tears. He was right. I had to let my pepperoni go.
The years went by so fast. Peyton’s career skyrocketed, as did my pizza business. And now the moment I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. Peyton is about to retire from the NFL and take his rightful place by his Papa’s side.
All I can say is: watch the fuck out, Dominos.