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Why Is This Man Laughing?
Edwin Sharke
September 18, 1972
Believe it or not, Cowboy Coach Tom Landry seethes with emotion. Old Computer Face just believes poise and composure are the keys to victory—even in the Super Bowl
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September 18, 1972

Why Is This Man Laughing?

Believe it or not, Cowboy Coach Tom Landry seethes with emotion. Old Computer Face just believes poise and composure are the keys to victory—even in the Super Bowl

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Landry parked in his semicircular driveway, and Alicia came to the door—still pretty, very charming and soft. Their daughter, Lisa, 14, was sitting at a table in the den (daughter Kitty, 19, is a sophomore at the University of Texas, where son Tom, 22, is in law school after a football career at Duke in which he underwent three knee operations and another on his shoulder). Through a glass door one could see a swimming pool and a stockade fence. Tom and Alicia still go out regularly one night a week, to a movie or for dinner and dancing, and used to eat lunch together once a week until two years ago when Landry decided he was getting too busy for that.

"I love my life," Alicia said while Tom changed clothes. "I keep reading that coaches' wives have horrible lives, but I can't believe it. I've never really had a bad experience. I love the trips, and I love to watch the games, although I don't really understand what is going on. We take a vacation with the kids every June. We play cards and pool and swim and work for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Tom plays golf, which always puts him in a good mood. I don't see how things could be much better for us."

That night Landry and Miss Teenage America were speakers at an FCA Huddle Club gathering at a high school in nearby Carrollton. Landry opened with a couple of funny stories for the 200 teen-agers and the smattering of adults in the audience. He said the Dallas offensive line was so bad in the early 1960s that Eddie LeBaron had to signal for a fair catch to take the snap from center. They laughed. "Another time, after we'd taken our usual whipping from the Bears," he said, "George Halas told me we would lose every game. 1 knew that, but I didn't want him to say so. He claimed we were tipping our plays. He said when we came out of the huddle, three of our hacks were giggling and the fourth was white as a ghost." More laughter.

Then Landry got serious. He said the Apostle Paul would have been a great halfback. "You could stone him out of town, but he was harder to stop than Walt Garrison," Landry said. He discussed the values of faith and training and hard work. "You must treat your body as an athlete does. Make it do what it should do, rather than what it wants to do." He revealed the secret to a happy life: "Something to hope for, something to do, someone to love." When he was through, the audience clapped, cheered and lined up for autographs. "Tom would sign autographs for those kids all night," said Bill Krisher, an FCA member and former Oklahoma All-America.

Outside, a cool wind was stirring the grass in the empty fields around the high school. The sky was clear and crowded with stars, and the night seemed empty and beckoning. Landry leaned against the car door, his head up, smelling the fresh wind.

"As a kid I ran free," he said. "No supervision. That's how you learned. Of course, I was spanked like the devil when I did wrong. Things are changing these days, and so are football players. There's more freedom. But freedom must have boundaries. Man is not made strong enough not to have boundaries. Without boundaries, you have the breakdown of the individual and then of society, and then you have chaos. With boundaries, people are happy."

Landry got into the car and shut the door and the night was sealed off by the glass and the glow from the dashboard. "Knowing that," he said, "I don't really ever worry about anything."

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