RAÚL OSORNIO: I broke the hand. I broke the arm. I broke the tendons. I broke the hip. The glass everywhere in the face. Seven operations. No money. My family all in Mexico. Buddy Ryan took me to his home.
DORIS: He just overestimated the extent to which he had to portray himself as the tough guy.
OSORNIO: Only two months did I know him when I had the accident. I was the groom for his horses. Six months, I stay in his home. He brought me food. He put the television in my room. He cut the meat in little pieces for me. He made me laugh all the time. He tried to speak a little Spanish. This man...I like him like my daddy.
RUTIGLIANO: I'm sure he wouldn't want this known: He's basically a good guy.
Early Seventies. New York. On his finger, a ring. On his forearm, a scar. At his elbow, a woman. The ring: '69 Super Bowl victory—Buddy's first season in the bigs, as defensive-line coach of the Jets. Now and then he flashes the ring to a cabbie, saying, "Know what this is? Get me to 54th and Third as quick as you can." It works.
The scar: melanoma, the deadly skin cancer that his sister Judy noticed and harried him to have removed just before it invaded his bloodstream. The same cancer that will kill his brother D.A. a few years later.
The woman: Joanie Clark. She lives in 4-A. He in 4-F. He met her as she was taking the garbage to the incinerator of their Long Island apartment building. She asked him about that melanoma scar. "A bull gored me," he told her. She asked how old he was. He...uh...well...uhhhh.... The man revered by players for his brutal honesty has begun fudging on his age. He allows his birthdate to be published as 1934 when it's really 1931, making him three years younger for the rest of his life, making him bristle whenever friends or family mention the discrepancy.
Joanie peers at him. Soft, round, pipe-smoking, bespectacled. Sometimes he looks, already, like a kindly grandfather. She peers at him again. Hard, crusty, cursing, hat tugged low over his eyebrows. Paul Zimmerman, the Jets' beat writer in those years, tries to hammer out a compromise, writing that Buddy looks like a rugged professor...or perhaps a scholarly truck driver. No one ever quite solves the paradox. No one knows if the things Buddy hisses on football fields and in meetings are the raw id of the Okie roustabout, the barroom brawler...or the calculated con game of a I kill of Fame-hungry coach.
His luck, finally, has turned. After drifting to the University of the Pacific for a year as an assistant, he landed the Jet job because his old University of Buffalo buddies, Philbin and Mazer—now New York hotshots—kept telling Jet coach Weeb Ewbank about this hard round man they couldn't forget. And in Buddy's first year with the Jets, Joe Namath slung lightning across the sky, and Buddy's defensive line, bug-eyed from his cattle prod, flattened everything in front of it, and Buddy got that ring. And at last he began to realize that at 40 he didn't need in a partner what he needed at 22...that an hombre like him needed one flank where he could let down all his guard. Joanie adores him. Joanie's a saint. Joanie has the same dream Buddy does—a rolling green horse farm somewhere the world can't touch them, a place where he can go when the establishment recoils from him, where he can shrug and say, "Doesn't bother me."
Joanie's ready to go where Buddy goes, want what Buddy wants, lay out his socks and shirt and tie in the morning and his wedge of pie at night. She once wanted to become a nun? No problem. The man whose will has to be done on a football field comes home and gratefully surrenders that will; the tithing Baptist Sunday-school teacher becomes the devout Catholic, kneeling and praying every night across the bed from the woman he calls Mama, setting little statues of St. Joseph and Baby Jesus on his office shelf. Letting Mama control the finances on the 176-acre Kentucky farm they'll buy in 1977 with playoff money, on the three dozen thoroughbreds they'll purchase. Letting Mama give him a little cuff whenever he forgets around her and curses. Because the two great wakes he's leaving behind him, the love and the hate, never seem to spill over each other with Mama. Because Mama lets him go to war and be at peace.