It's a weeknight, and the scoreboard clock at the Chicago Slaughter's West Chicago practice facility reads "8:07."
Not so long ago, Steve McMichael's evenings on Rush Street would just be in their infancy at this hour. Now, the Slaughter's head coach looks ready to call it a night.
But it's not team responsibilities that are wearing on him. Leaning forward in a metal folding chair, McMichael, 50, watches from the balcony as his players prepare for the following night's football game. Red-and-black Slaughter hat pulled down tight, he delivers a weary-eyed, mostly fit-for-print "State of the Fatherhood" address following his first long weeks of diaper duty.
"If I wouldn't have wanted to be in the throes of babydom, I wouldn't have done it in the first place," he says, adding that his mother, Betty, just laughs when he tells her about the "anguish" of parenthood. "I don't want anyone to believe any parent, 'Oh, it's great.'
"No, it's 3 o'clock in the morning feedings, it's baby squalling and you don't know what's wrong with it. It's sleep deprivation -- so any parent that says it's great has to be a vampire."
Apparently, the former All-Pro Chicago Bears defensive tackle hasn't lost any of his sarcastic humor since the latest addition to the McMichael household arrived 12 weeks ago.
Born Jan. 22 at Northwestern Memorial's Prentice Women's Hospital, 6-pound, 12-ounce Macy Dale McMichael is the first child for both McMichael and his wife, Misty.
"(The doctor) brought the baby up over the partition and it looked like a ghost baby," McMichael says while mimicking the doctor. "You know how they come out ash white? It was like a ghost baby floating."
Jokes aside, there is an unquestioned sense of pride and happiness in his voice when McMichael talks about his baby girl and his wife, whom he has known for 10 years but still makes him feel like he "just met her yesterday."
Of his new daughter, he crows, "That little Macy Dale is a piece of work, man," then cracks a smile as he leans over to show a screen saver of Macy and Misty on his cell phone.
After two years of trying to have a baby, the couple, who recently celebrated their seventh anniversary, needed reassurance from two additional pregnancy tests after the first one came up positive.
"I was elated," McMichael recalls. "The Slaughter players were the first ones my wife and myself told she was pregnant."
McMichael was so happy that he later cried during a doctor's visit with Misty.
"I forget what month it was, but it's when the ultrasound can see that it's a healthy baby … That's when I had a tear in my eye," he says.
Misty says that emotionalism has carried along into McMichael's parenting.
"He's such a great father," she says. "He comes right home from practice and goes right to daddy duty."
That's something McMichael admits he would not have been able to do during his 15-year NFL career.
"I'd get up before the sun came up almost every day of the week and go to Halas Hall and be there till the sun came down," he says. "Does that sound like a parent? Now I've got the time."
And he's generous with it. For every fan that approaches him, McMichael is as engaging as anyone he or she will likely ever meet.
"Steve is unbelievable with people in general, and particularly kids," says Slaughter general manager Alan Perkins. "They love him, and he loves kids."
But unlike his playing days during which McMichael's primary focus was achieving gridiron greatness and a Super Bowl ring, he now shoulders an additional, more sleep-depriving responsibility. Not that he's complaining.
"The 'no rest' thing is a necessary evil, but (parenthood) is really great," he said. "I didn't think I was going to be one of those parents, but yes, I am, too. She's the prettiest thing that's ever been born."