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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


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

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See Doris propped against a pillow in the maternity ward. The Ph.D. she will earn at the University of Chicago, the jobs as professor of educational administration at the University of Toronto, vice president of the University of New Brunswick, director of teacher exchange for China and Canada—they are all just vague dreams on this December morning in 1962. She's wondering when Buddy will call the football office from his recruiting trip and discover that three days ago she gave birth to twins.

EX-JET GERRY PHILBIN: Gladiators, man. I played under him at the University of Buffalo and with the Jets. It got mean, cruel. I've never seen anyone better at bringing the animal out of you. If you didn't hit as hard as he wanted, he'd humiliate you in front of everyone. Guys like me loved him, though. He was just so brutally honest.

SPORTSCASTER BILL MAZER: The man just jumped out at me. I used to do University of Buffalo games back then. The irascibility you see now wasn't a guise of his at that time. He was so energetic, dedicated, devoted, dynamic!

SECRETARY VIRGINIA SPICER: He would fall asleep with one hand on the telephone and one on the projector clicker. As soon as he heard Dick Offenhamer's voice, he'd wake up, click on the game films and grab the phone to recruit.

DICK OFFENHAMER: A total perfectionist. Total concentration on the game. It was a pleasant experience having him on my staff.

SPICER: He would close his eyes and pray in the morning. Then he'd teach those kids how to spear in the afternoon.

EX-BUFFALO ASSISTANT: Wanna hear something? Someone in our program sent Buddy an anonymous card that he threw away, but I fished it out of the trash can. Still got it. It said:

You're busy, busy every day and night
Knifing every back in sight
Laughing at the boss's jokes
(Ignoring all the Lesser Folks)
It's plain to see you'll get some place
Why not make it outer space!

Mid-Sixties. Nashville. Lost. All lost. His wife lost—twice. Divorced by Doris, then remarried to her, then divorced by her again almost immediately. His three sons lost, except in summers. His job lost—twice more. His Buffalo assistant's job gone when the school changed coaches after the 1965 season, and his Vanderbilt assistant's job gone a year later when most of the staff there was terminated. A little mole's growing on his right forearm—so what?

Prowling at night. Another gust of midnight whiskey challenges, of men dropped and women picked up. Working the phones for leads, dialing old friends, acquaintances, reporters. Hearing a favorite expression of his father, who worked for himself for 50 years, cackling in his ears: "As the feller says, Do your job right and you won't have to kiss anyone's ass."

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