- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
There is a notion, held by many, that Don Meredith (see cover) can do almost anything better than almost anybody else—from throwing a football to amending the rules of country clubs. Meredith tries to believe that himself, because his job requires a stupendous amount of confidence. One night last spring Pete Gent, a Dallas Cowboys pass receiver and close friend of Meredith, drove over to Mount Vernon in East Texas to have dinner with the quarterback, with Meredith's wife Cheryl and with Meredith's parents, Jeff and Hazel, who run a dry-goods store. Sitting in the living room after finishing the black-eyed peas, fried chicken, cream gravy, biscuits and pie, Gent began talking about basketball (he was a three-year varsity man at Michigan State). Don Meredith did not play basketball in college, although he once set a single-game scoring record of 52 points in the Dr Pepper High School tournament in Dallas.
"Jeff," said Gent, "there's one thing you have to admit."
"What's that?" Jeff said, reading the evening paper.
"Jeff," said Gent, "you have to admit I was a better basketball player than your son."
Jeff did not answer.
"You have to admit that," Gent said. "I was a better basketball player than your son."
"Maybe you were. On some days," said Jeff, turning the page.
The first game of bumper pool I ever played with Meredith at his home in Dallas, I beat him. Thereafter, I made a number of other mistakes, forgetting to knock his balls away from the pocket, missing shots, using poor strategy. But Meredith played carefully and won the next eight or nine games before I won another that I suspect he allowed me. "I wanted to make sure the first one was an upset," he said. A few weeks later Dave Marr, former PGA golf champion, was staying at Meredith's house, and when I walked into the den they were playing bumper pool. We were late for dinner. "This guy won't let us go until he's convinced he's a better player than I am," said Marr, laughing. "There's no such thing as a friendly game of bumper pool for me," Meredith said some time afterward. "Any game I play, I have to win. When Chigger [his wife] beats me at bumper pool, it kills me. And the little rascal is really good at it."
Don Meredith—also known as Dandy, Dandy Don, Slim, Joe Don (his real name), Joe Jim Dandy, Jim and Jimmy, a variety of names that sometimes results in one teammate not knowing to whom another is referring—lives with Cheryl, their baby son Michael Shayne and a menagerie of animals, including a pet coyote called Lisa, in a house that befits the president of Don Meredith Incorporated, a new firm that handles his dozens of business ventures, endorsements and investments. It is the sort of house you might expect to see on a bus tour of the stars' homes in Beverly Hills, with the driver announcing: "On your right, behind that high iron fence with the big gates, you see the yellow, Spanish-style home built and first occupied by Vilma Banky in 1923, later used for exterior shots in the film Sunset Boulevard...."
Sprawled on a lawn chair beside his fountain, which shoots four colors of water, gazing at the ducks swimming on his semiprivate lake, which is stocked with bass, perch and catfish, gazing across at the "country home" of his neighbor—the fabled millionaire, Colonel D. Harold Byrd, who gave the world's biggest drum to the University of Texas band—Meredith recently was pondering how he came to occupy a house that has an elevator opening into the master bedroom, stained-glass windows, two balconies and more bathrooms than the Cotton Bowl.