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Buddy
Gary Smith
July 11, 1994
During his 37-year career Buddy Ryan, new coach of the Arizona Cardinals, has inspired two emotions: love and hate
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July 11, 1994

Buddy

During his 37-year career Buddy Ryan, new coach of the Arizona Cardinals, has inspired two emotions: love and hate

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SINGLETARY: Steve McMichael picked up a chair and threw it across the room. Dan Hampton threw his chair against the wall.

Mid-Eighties. Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Summertime. Walking the dogs. Finally, three decades after Gainesville High, a head coach. Walking the dogs in a tattered yellow shirt jammed inside a pair of wrinkled blue pants tucked inside a pair of gray boots given to him by Walter Payton. Finally, complete control of personnel. Finally, a household name. Walking the dogs, swinging hands covered with dirt, arms covered with tiny cuts, across his horse farm in the rolling bluegrass of Kentucky. Finally, power.

Walking happy, no trace of the feuds begun or about to begin with Ditka and former Detroit Lion coach Darryl Rogers, with Miami Dolphin coach Don Shula and former Dallas Cowboy coach Tom Landry and his successor Jimmy Johnson and Oiler assistant Kevin Gilbride. Walking Buster, the growling white German shepherd that races out in front of him, ready to bite anything that moves—even, once, the tire of a reporter's car, rolling round and round with the wheel until it finally deflated. (Attaboy!) Walking Lady, the sad-eyed epileptic beagle that waddles haplessly behind him. He'll bury both dogs beneath a large tombstone with an epitaph. He'll stand over both graves and cry.

Walking easy, never asking himself why a man would love both dogs. Wasting no anguish over either dog's excesses, no energy trying to make them walk together, letting them drift farther and farther apart. Just walking Buster and Lady, the new Eagle head coach, on a summer evening. The freest man on earth.

BUDDY: Don't need no owner to come kiss my ass.

A FRIEND: You have to realize, this was a man who loved attention, who nobody ever heard of till he was 54 or 55. A man who damn near missed the train—and ended up the engineer!

BUDDY: Coulda cut the whole damn team in Philly the first year, but I only cut half. Had to play somebody. Heh-heh-heh.

RUTIGLIANO: All those years as an assistant, all those times he wanted to say things and couldn't, it all just came pouring out.

BUDDY: I tell them all what to think. I tell the players what to think, management what to think, the owner what to think, the media what to think, the fans what to think.

PLUMB: I sensed it after the second melanoma. Him saying to himself, "I'm gonna live as much on my terms as I can. Say what I want. Do what I want." You could feel him treasuring his close relationships even more. It wasn't a drastic personality change. It was a personality turned up another notch.

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