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MY VACATION WAS NIFTY
Robert F. Jones
July 11, 1977
What do pro football players do after the final gun of the last game and before the first whistle of summer training camp? Nine members of the NFL show and tell
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July 11, 1977

My Vacation Was Nifty

What do pro football players do after the final gun of the last game and before the first whistle of summer training camp? Nine members of the NFL show and tell

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Brown watches the exercise riders move out, up the green meadows, under the budding tulip trees, the long light of the afternoon glinting on the stretching muscles of the thoroughbreds, the long, slim legs reaching to grab earth and then spurning it behind them. He shakes his head in awed approval.

"Can you imagine being able to run like that?" Brown asks. "It must be magnificent. I could never work with house pets now, I don't think. There's so much silly stuff connected with house pets in this day and age—the pampering, the cashmere sweaters and the jeweled collars, all those ridiculous TV commercials for new kitty tidbits. You look at animals like these"—the horses were now into full stride, grace belying speed—"and they have purpose, power, beauty and a wildness to them."

The workout finished, Eddie Brown scrubs the horses with buckets of warm water, rubs them down, one by one, and walks them around and around the long barn. One of the horses rears, but Eddie checks it neatly, forearms bulging against the reins. Then he pats the horse's neck, talking to him in a low, soothing voice, his hand firm down the long, strong neck. It is an image to remember the next time you see him stiffarm a would-be tackier on his way to a run-back touchdown, or slam a pass receiver to earth with a well-timed tackle.

To understand what American automotive engineering is all about, it's best to visit that vast expanse of heat and highway called Texas. Buy yourself an ice-cold six-pack of Pearl, climb into your off-white Cadillac Coupe de Ville with the Naugahyde zebra seat covers, cock back your Stetson, flip the air conditioner and the stereo to full volume, turn the wheel in any direction and tromp hard with your Gucci cowboy boot. You're set for a day at 90 per. Whipping down those arrow-straight roads that seem to lead to infinity, with Margaritaville buffeting your ears and suds tickling your sinuses, you suddenly realize that the gas-guzzling dinosaurs of Detroit make perfectly good sense.

"Last week I sold four Caddies," says John Fitzgerald, "and I was just fooling around." John Fitzgerald is not the run-of-the-lot car salesman. During the "real" part of the year—from July through, he hopes, the Super Bowl in January—he is the starting center for the Dallas Cowboys, a post he has filled with distinction for the past six seasons. The rest of the time you can find him kicking tires and pitching performance figures at Sewell Village Cadillac on Dallas' affluent north side.

"This is my second year selling cars," Fitzgerald continues. "Carl Sewell, the young fellow who owns the agency, was at a Cowboys' game with a mutual friend. Everybody knew I was looking for an off-season job and Carl invited me aboard. It's the perfect job for a football player. Plenty of flexibility. I can work out on my own schedule, come in for an afternoon and sew up my sales, or forget about it completely during the season if I want to. Being associated with the Cowboys certainly doesn't hurt when you're trying to make a sale, either."

The 6'5", 260-pound native of Southbridge, Mass. majored in business administration at Boston College—"a smattering of everything, accounting, cost analysis, sales, you name it." He relishes the front-line combat of automobile salesmanship. "This is some type of sales." he says with his Massachusetts twang. "Highly competitive. There are two other Cadillac dealers in Dallas, so the cars don't just sell themselves—not at the price they go for. It's a great teaching tool. When I'm through with football, or it's through with me, I'm going to have a whole life to live out. This job is teaching me what to do with it."

Thus far Fitz has proved a quick study. The Sewell agency moves between 1,700 and 2,000 Cadillacs a year, and during this off-season alone Fitzgerald sold 40. "It's not the high-pressure, fast-talking bit you customarily associate with car sales," he says. "Most of my customers are football-oriented people and friends I've made over the years here in Dallas. Many of them are repeats. You can sell a Cadillac darn near anywhere—on the golf course, at a cocktail party. The trick is to know what the competition is up to, just like in football. You have to anticipate. That's what it's all about anywhere, in anything, isn't it?"

The newsroom of WTOP-TV in downtown Washington is scarcely the set of the late Mary Tyler Moore Show. This is working journalism (electronic division) with squashed cigarette butts on the floor, old newspapers stacked high and haphazard beside the battered typewriters, wire-service tickers chattering in the corners, a drinking fountain that, when it's working, often as not squirts you in the eye, the walls covered with the wise-cracking graffiti and goofed-up newspaper clips that adorn most city rooms. Camera crews in short-sleeved sport shirts and prefaded Levi's come and go; harassed editors and newscasters sweat over copy in halos of tobacco smoke, ties loosened and shirtsleeves rolled up against the downtown heat, their ears oblivious to the clangor and laughter around them.

In a stuffy, dark cubicle along one wall of the newsroom, Gino, the new sports guy at this local CBS affiliate, is cutting an interview from three minutes to 1�. In his other life, Gino is Jean Fugett, a tight end formerly of the Dallas Cowboys and now of the Redskins. He lights up a Kool and squints at a videotape machine.

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