The scene is at the mansion of John D. Murchison in Addison, Texas, a few miles north of Dallas, adjoining the grounds of the exclusive Preston Trail Golf Club. A party is in progress to celebrate the start of the first Byron Nelson Classic tournament. Although many guests are dancing to music by strolling musicians, others have already gone through the buffet line and are seated at their tables. A lady in a green dress approaches one table where a young man is eating with his pretty blonde wife and several friends.
LADY (pointing finger at young man): You have simply got to do something about this. I was out there all day today, and I didn't go once. Not once! Let me tell you, it wasn't because I didn't need to. But I will not use those things. They don't even have mirrors!
YOUNG MAN (looking up): Listen, ma'am, I'm sorry, but I don't have the slightest.
LADY: Those Port-O-Sans.
YOUNG MAN: Those what?
LADY: Those toilets on the course. I can't bring myself to use one. I want you to go over there tomorrow and tell the guards to admit me to the clubhouse.
YOUNG MAN: But ladies are barred from the clubhouse. It's the rule.
LADY (with fierce stare, pointing again): You are Don Meredith, aren't you?
YOUNG MAN: Yes ma'am.
LADY: Don't tell me that Don Meredith doesn't know what to do about a silly rule when he sees one. (She whirls to join her group, then looks back.) I knew you would understand. You're not like the rest.
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.
"Everybody's got to live someplace, and I've wanted this place since 1956, when I was 18 years old," he said. "At the time I was dating a girl who lived down the road. I was getting $10 a month from SMU on an athletic scholarship, and I'd look at this place and tell myself, 'No, Dandy, what would an East Texas boy do with something like that?' Then, on my 30th birthday [last April 10] I got very depressed. When some people are depressed they go out and drink a lot or eat a lot. When I'm depressed I buy something. So I bought the house, because your 30th birthday can get you down. I might have overdone it. But if I ever get rich, I'll be good rich. I'm too gregarious not to share it. I certainly wouldn't want to sit alone and count it."
It is difficult to imagine Meredith ever being by himself, although being alone is quite another matter. In the past three years—with a Playoff Bowl, two NFL championship games, two Pro Bowls and, in 1966, the Bert Bell Memorial Award as pro player of the year—he has become a celebrity rather than merely a well-known football player. He is instantly recognized on the streets in New York or Los Angeles. In Dallas he is followed by autograph hunters; his doorbell and telephone (the number of which Cheryl changes several times a year) constantly ring. Playing golf in a proam the day before the Byron Nelson Classic, Meredith drew as big a gallery as Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer. Steve Perkins, pro football writer for the Dallas Times Herald, suggested the PGA should put Meredith on the tour to increase its crowds. Ralph Neely, the Cowboys' All-NFL offensive tackle, says, "He has leadership qualities you may find once in 10 million men. People get a kick out of being around him."
Cheryl is less than delighted with the demands made on her husband's time. She has one baby, another expected in January, the vast house and gardens to look after, as well as three schnauzers and a coyote, and she has had an untamable raccoon and an ocelot named Pepe that ran wild in the neighborhood—Marr calls Cheryl "Mrs. Do-little"—-but she would like to see Meredith a bit more.
"We've been married six years," she says. "Really, it's only three, but every year seems like two years. The off season is a different year than the season. Both years are fast and hectic. I'm not really looking forward to Dandy quitting football. I used to think I was. But it won't be much different when he does. He'll get into something just as challenging. He'll still be gone all the time. He's got ants in his pants. In the off season, he's gone physically. During the season, he's gone mentally. He'll be sitting right beside me, but he's somewhere else. Sometimes he tells me he hates football, but I know he loves it. He says he doesn't like being a leader, accepting responsibilities, but I know he likes that, too, or he wouldn't do it."
From Mount Vernon—where he performed in one-act plays and served on the Future Farmers of America state championship shrub-judging team, as well as being an outstanding athlete—Meredith found his way to Dallas and Southern Methodist University, and eventually to the Cowboys and a splendid manse, only after wavering between three other schools that might have sent him in very different, but perhaps equally successful, directions. Although his parents owned a farm, he was anxious to get the boy out of the country. Still, he was almost lured to Texas A&M, in barren College Station, by what he calls the "magnetic charm" of Bear Bryant. "I told him I wanted to throw the ball," says Meredith, "and he said, 'Son, if you can throw well enough to win games for us, we'll throw the ball all you please.' If he had been coaching anywhere but Texas A&M, I'd have gone with him." At the time Meredith thought he wanted to become either a preacher or a lawyer. The University of Texas law school had a powerful appeal. He also visited Texas Christian University, where his older brother, B.J., had been a quarterback. At TCU, Meredith was assured he could keep wearing his boots and Levi's and be as country as he wished. "But that wasn't my dream of college," he says. "I don't know exactly what I thought college would be. I had some vague picture of boy-girl relationships, stuff like that, and SMU seemed to be it. I didn't know what fraternities and sororities were. But I went through rush because I wanted to go to college so much that I would do anything to get there a week early."
As a freshman, he was an outside linebacker in a 5-4 defense. SMU had seven quarterbacks, and Meredith was far down the line. But one quarterback signed a baseball contract, another was hurt, and Meredith kept moving up. He started against Texas as a sophomore, threw two passes for touchdowns and ran for another, as SMU won 19-12. From then on he was the SMU quarterback. He led the nation in passing that year, operating a rather freelance offense that depended on Meredith's uncanny knack of avoiding tacklers—he is a very good runner for a quarterback—and his quick arm. "I sort of ran all over the place and then usually threw the ball. I hated regimentation," he says. It was during that period that Meredith began to divide the Dallas audience, some of them cheering madly for him, others claiming he was the worst thing that had happened to SMU athletics since the bleachers collapsed at old Ownby Stadium. "They all wanted another Doak Walker," he says. "To my mind, Doak Walker was at one place and the rest of us were at another. They were expecting me to be something I could never be."
Feeling as he did about regimentation, it was a pure cold shock when he went to his first Dallas Cowboys camp in 1960 and began to work for Tom Landry. Clint Murchison Jr. had signed Meredith to a personal-service contract, and the Chicago Bears had drafted him to be traded to the Cowboys, who were just setting up in business. Meredith had also been drafted by the Dallas Texans (now the Kansas City Chiefs) of the AFL but says he did not ever receive a firm offer from Lamar Hunt.
"I was happy with that personal-service contract, anyhow," he says. "I never thought I could be a Unitas or Starr or Jurgensen, I mean as good as they are now, and I still don't, even with people telling me the last couple of years that I'm in their class. But then I never considered it. I knew with that personal-service contract I'd have a good job in the Murchison organization. So I went to camp. Landry is a hard person to get to know. Now I love him to death, but that first month I wasn't sure if I could take him.
"But I did feel I ought to be the Cowboy quarterback right away, and it kind of hurt when they traded for Eddie LeBaron. Now I know that the guy who must have been upset the most was Don Heinrich, since he was a veteran and was counting on being the regular. But I thought I was supposed to step in immediately. Don and Eddie helped me a lot. LeBaron is a man I thoroughly respect. He got the most from his ability, and very few ever do that in any field."
The early years with the Cowboys were torturous. The players had come from the NFL's first expansion draft and from a few trades. The club did not participate in the college draft its first season, a tremendous handicap considering the bonus-pick treatment given the Minnesota Vikings the following year. LeBaron, Heinrich and Meredith were buried by pass rushers. Crowds at the Cotton Bowl—where Meredith is now playing for his 12th season counting the three at SMU, making him far more familiar to Dallas fans than any other man who has ever played there—became professional enough to start booing, and their target frequently was Meredith. For a while Landry used LeBaron and Meredith in a shuttle, alternating them every other play. Neither quarterback liked it. Meredith was resisting Landry's system of playing football and organizing people.
Finally Meredith became the starter in 1964 and endured a season that could have broken him. He had a list of injuries that would fill a page on a prescription pad. Playing with a weak team, he received erratic protection. He was splitting up with his first wife, Lynn, whom he had married at SMU, and was anguishing over losing custody of his daughter, Mary Donna. Although he is 6'3", Meredith had always been frail, with very skinny legs, and the beatings he took on Sundays were painful even to watch. Grudgingly, some of the booers began to applaud. And gradually Meredith's teammates began to appreciate him.
A friend was telling him, then, about some experiences riding in country rodeos as a teen-ager. "One night I was thrown off a bareback bronc, and I lay in the dirt, not scared and not especially hurting but knowing there was no reason in the world why I should ever ride a wild horse again," the friend said.
"I know how you felt," Meredith said. "I know exactly. Sometimes when I'm lying on the ground at Yankee Stadium or someplace, and some guy like Sam Huff is pounding my poor thin body, I tell myself, 'Dandy, why did you ever take this up as a career? Why don't you get a decent job? You're too nice a person for this to be happening to, Dandy. Why don't you go back to East Texas where you belong? Let the other fellows play football. You don't need it.' "
Now, looking back at that 1964 season, Meredith says, "It did hurt. It hurt a lot. People kept saying, 'How can the kid do it?' They talked about me having great courage. I'll admit I liked getting that sympathy. But it wasn't really a matter of courage as much as of determination. Nobody is going to beat me. I knew if I didn't get up they would have beaten me. I couldn't stand the thought of that."
By 1965 Meredith was emerging as a team leader at last. But he slipped in a puddle of water in the hall of the training-camp dormitory that summer, fell and hurt his right shoulder and elbow. "I was missing my passes by six inches to a foot," he says. "That doesn't sound like much, but it's too much." The Cowboys won their first two games that season. "I didn't throw well, but I was playing well. At least, we won," says Meredith. St. Louis beat the Cowboys in the third game. "A guy dropped a pass that would have won it for us, but I missed five receivers who were open for touchdowns. You're not an NFL quarterback if you do that. So I was benched." Rookies Craig Morton and Jerry Rhome took over at quarterback. Dallas lost three more games. In the seventh game Meredith started again, and the Cowboys lost their fifth in a row. "That was against Pittsburgh," he says. "The worst game I ever played in my life. I wasn't throwing bad, but everything else was bad. I was trying so hard. After the game I saw Tom Landry cry. He wasn't crying so much about the game as he was crying about me. He had been fair, more than fair, to his mind, and he wanted so much for me to do well, and I was awful. I'm no good at pep talks, but I got up in the locker room, that dismal locker room at Pittsburgh. The players had their heads down, couldn't do anything, couldn't remember how to take off their uniforms. I told them I was going to work harder and we were going to win."
Landry was not so sure of that. Sunday night, all day Monday and Monday night he tried to make a decision. "I had to think about it a long time," Landry says. "Meredith's career with us was in the balance. We had spent five years on him. Now did we want to junk it all and go with rookie quarterbacks? It's tough to start all over. I never had any real doubts about Meredith's ability. My only doubt was if he could stand up physically through an entire season and win a championship."
On Tuesday, Landry called Meredith into his office. "I didn't know what the word would be, but of course I was going to try and take it like a man," says Meredith. "You know, be cool no matter what. So Tom looked at me and said, 'Don, you're my quarterback. I believe in you.' And we both started crying again."
"That decision pleased a lot of players," says Frank Clarke, a Cowboy receiver for eight years. "We had come to understand the pressures on a quarterback, and we knew sticking with one would remove some of the uncertainty. Meredith had to be our leader. He used to be thinking, 'It'll come.' Then he found out it was here already, and he had to do something with it."
Since that Landry decision in midyear of 1965, the Cowboys have a 22-10-1 record in regular-season games. They won five of their last seven in 1965, despite Meredith's being hit so hard in the 13th game that he could not recognize old friends or remember teammates' names in the locker room. He fell in his New York hotel the following week and had to be hurried to the hospital for X rays of his skull. But the Cowboys finished second in the East. In 1966 Meredith stayed reasonably well, threw 24 touchdown passes while directing the league's best offense. The Cowboys won the East only to lose 34-27 to Green Bay in the NFL championship, failing to score from the two-yard line in the final minute of a game that Meredith has replayed many times in his mind.
Last year pain found Meredith again. He hurt his arm and shoulder in the exhibition season, twisted a knee and had his nose broken by a fist that got past the face bar. After the first Redskin game, which Dallas won on a 36-yard Meredith pass to Dan Reeves with 10 seconds to play, Cheryl called an ambulance to their home, and he was put into the hospital with pneumonia. He lost more than 20 pounds and was extremely ill, isolated in a room with a sign on the door warning hospital personnel to stay out and let him rest without bothering him for autographs. He missed three games. "Very few people realize how serious Meredith's condition was," Landry says. "An average man, even an above-average man, wouldn't have made it back on his feet for months, much less back to playing football. Courage is what did it. It was February before he ever felt good." The Cowboys, however, put together a 9-5 record, won their second Eastern title and again lost to Green Bay (21-17) when the Packers scored on a quarterback sneak in the last few seconds on a frozen field with the temperature 13° below zero. "I can't describe how cold it was. All I can say is it hurt just to breathe," says Meredith. After the game, Meredith and Bart Starr went on the Johnny Carson show. Carson asked whether the Packers would have had time for another play if the quarterback sneak had not been successful, and Starr replied that he didn't know. "You wouldn't have," Meredith said, as though ice was still cracking on his face. "You sure wouldn't have.
"That field was so bad," Meredith says. "We thought we had an advantage in our speed, our quickness, our multiple formations. We had studied hard and knew what to do. Suddenly we couldn't do anything we had done all season. Our game plan was gone down the ice."
This season, having signed a new three-year contract, Meredith reported a week early to a motel near the Cowboy camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif., while an impending player strike was being settled. Meredith was somewhat overweight from a practice of reordering entire Tex-Mex dinners at Casa Dominguez, a Dallas restaurant owned by his friend, Pete Dominguez, and from high living at such places as Majorca—where he went to pose for Jantzen ads—Palm Springs, Reno and other comfortable wateringholes to which his enterprises took him between January and July. At camp he went on a severe diet and stopped smoking cigarettes at the same time, an undertaking which caused him to look a bit crazed. Landry had decreed that Meredith should play at 200 pounds or less, five pounds under his weight of last season. The idea is that Meredith, who like the other Cowboys is on a continual weight-lifting and isometrics program from training camp until the last game, will be more alert and nimble, and maybe more enduring.
"Landry thinks, and Meredith agrees, that we have been lacking a little something extra in the fourth quarter," says Ralph Neely, a Dallas tackle. "The way to get it is to work harder. Meredith is setting the example. He nearly ran my legs off the first week we were out here, before camp started. Some days I'll be draggy and tired, and I see him working hard. That makes me think if he can do it, I can do it. So I work hard, too. If we are going to win the championship this year, he's the man who will do it for us. He's the leader. If he comes into the huddle and calls a triple reverse, there's not a man in our starting offensive lineup who doesn't believe it's the greatest play anybody ever thought of. He's got authority. In our preseason game with Chicago this year, a linebacker smashed him. He came to the huddle and said, 'O.K., let's cut that out; I'm not going to put up with it,' and we kept that linebacker away. The kind of offense we have if we're going good will average about four yards per rush, and if we're going bad we'll average less than two. On those bad days, Meredith is the one who keeps us together."
Cowboy President Tex Schramm has been in intimate contact with Meredith for the past eight years—not always to their mutual satisfaction—and has watched his quarterback go through the rather bruising process of growing up, by which Schramm would mean at least partially conforming, coming around to accepting the Landry way. "It's easy to say Meredith has matured. But what form does that take?" says Schramm. "When he first came to us he thought if we just gave him the ball he would find somebody and throw it to him. That's how he played, and that's how he approached life. The significant thing is that now he understands there must be a plan and a reason, and it's reflected in both his life and his football playing. He's planning for the future, making investments with a purpose. He hasn't totally accepted what we tell him or completely disciplined himself to what needs to be done, but he recognizes what we mean. Little by little, the self-discipline will come, he'll see that he does have certain weaknesses—one being his physical makeup—and to be a success, to attain what he wants, he has to work at it. This year he has stopped many of his performances and personal appearances beyond his radio and TV shows and a few other things in order to concentrate more on his job.
"Meredith has plenty of self-doubts," Schramm says. "That's probably the reason for the finger-snapping facade he puts up. That facade is not his real nature." Schramm laughs. He is fond of Meredith though often exasperated by him, a game they both understand. "What Meredith should be is a singer or something where he can do what he wants to excel in without having to do the practice."
Singers, of course, do have to practice. But the fact is, Meredith might have been a professional singer by now except that he is not all that good at it. He toured for a time in a show with Roger Miller and Molly Bee and found the routine disappointing. "I woke up one morning and said, 'Self, they didn't raise you to make a living in this business,' " he says. But he will sing anytime, anyplace. You can usually hear him coming—the strong and slightly nasal voice racketing out tunes like God Made Me A Black Land Fanner, Hello, Wall, With a Little Help From My Friends and The Biggest Fool That Ever Hit the Big Time, mixing in an occasional rock 'n' roll or soul song. Willie Nelson, the country-and-western singer and composer, is among the friends who have stayed at Meredith's house. Meredith once made a record called Them That Ain't Got It Cain't Lose. However, Meredith will sing any sort of music. A few years ago we went into Asti's, a Manhattan restaurant where waiters and customers leap up and bellow opera. Meredith was going to test himself against that crowd, but I collided with a waiter carrying a tray-load of dinners, and after the crash and the yelling we decided opera was not in Meredith's line, anyhow. There is no doubt that show business is, or could be. Meredith has been offered the leads in two new television series. Seeing him at The Daisy or La Scala or The Factory in Los Angeles, you would pick him out as a young actor.
"Meredith just doesn't enjoy practice," says Schramm. "I don't imagine he even spends any time on the practice tee at golf. When the season starts, he'll work hard. But not in April. If he would work for three months in the spring throwing sideline passes to a receiver, there's little limit to what a great quarterback he would be. But Don resents any attempt to change him.
"When you've got your future riding on one guy, a quarterback, you like to have him be a little serious," Schramm says. "You say be dedicated, pay the price, and he says I'm not Bart Starr, I'm Don Meredith. Well, we know we'll never make Don Meredith into Bart Starr. They're different personalities. Starr is the epitome of a hardworking, dedicated athlete. Meredith is like a Babe Ruth or a Bobby Layne. If Starr is Stan Musial, Meredith is Mickey Mantle. I understand that, but sometimes I get annoyed at his flippancy. Last spring I told him he had to join the adult world. He got mad and stormed out of my office. The next day he came back and said, 'I'm not gonna join your adult world. I'll live in my world and you live in yours.' " Schramm is laughing again as he thinks about it.
"Like most athletes, Meredith has an inner fear that when he quits playing, people won't like him so much," says Schramm. "All his investments are defensive, so he won't ever have to be dependent on anyone or ever be poor. It would destroy him to have to be dependent on somebody. He's his own worst enemy, but he knows that. He knows when he's not doing things right. He's tougher on himself than others are on him. But what he doesn't understand is that if he worked harder and became as complete a quarterback as Unitas or Starr, he'd make 10 times as much money as they do. Because of Meredith's personality, he'd make Unitas and Starr look like peanuts."
Meredith enjoys being the sensitive poet-clown-athlete touched by sadness and danger. He will do his imitations—a flamingo, a lighthouse, a lighthouse with a snake in it, a cow, a pig—and then will suddenly become very grave, almost morose, but still be smiling, talking about the most desperate matters as if he understood they were absurd and would eventually wind up as nothing. "He has these periods of intense honesty," says Pete Gent, "when he gets you aside and tells you at length what all is wrong with him." One thing Meredith has wondered about—apart from the usual jokes after a bad day when linebackers have dazed him, ends and tackles have fallen heavily on him and cornerbacks have caught his passes and brought them back in a direction he never intended—is why he plays professional football. Money alone is never the answer. "Money is part of it," Meredith says. "But I guess the main reason has something to do with masculinity. Proving your manhood. This is a very masculine game. It's hard to do that frontier stuff anymore, fording rivers and so forth, but this game sort of occupies that place for me. I've met a lot of professional athletes, and they're all pretty much alike. Some may be artists, some may be animals, some may be gentlemen, some may cross you out, but they've all got something in common—coordinated bodies, love of competition, this feeling for proving themselves. I really like this game, I need it, I must love it, or Lord knows I wouldn't be playing it. I'm certainly not a sports fan. In the last eight years I haven't seen 10 athletic events that I wasn't playing in. I don't read about sports in the papers as a regular thing, except that I know a lot of golfers and like to check and see how they're doing now and then."
When his footballing is finished—his contract expires after the 1970 season, but he may decide to keep going another couple of years—Meredith figures to be a moderately wealthy man, perhaps more than that. With two partners he has bought a 2,300-acre South Texas ranch with a landing strip. He has prospered in the stock market overall, has some oil properties, is involved in several businesses, is about to become a partner in a big Dallas restaurant called Dandy's, has a variety of television offers to select from (he would be an excellent "color man" on pro football telecasts, a field in which talent is sorely needed, but he is not inclined in that direction at the moment) and is hotly pursued by sponsors wanting him to endorse their products. He fancies himself someday as a tycoon, a developer of empires. Some of that may have rubbed off from working for the Murchison brothers and knowing Jim Ling, director of the Cowboys. "I've never played in that ball park, but I know I'd be good at it," Meredith says.
But now he is entering a season for which he has, after his own style, labored mightily. In California in July he turned down several offers for endorsements because they would be distracting. Although bothered by his customary sore arm in training camp, Meredith threw the ball better in the early preseason games than he ever had before in his career. Against the Rams he hit three touchdown passes in the first half, two of them perfectly thrown bombs to Hayes and Rentzel. The coaches, the press and many of the players began to talk about the "new" Meredith. "He has really worked this year," said Bob Lilly, the Cowboys' All-NFL defensive tackle. "He's the team leader, no question about that."
In many ways, though, he's the same old Dandy. Before the opening exhibition game with the Bears, Meredith was sitting in a quarterback meeting with Morton and Rhome while Landry drew diagrams on a board. Meredith was smoking a cigar and also playing with it, twirling it in his fingers like a baton, gesturing grandly with it. taking exaggerated puffs, pretending to be a railroad president or a tin-mine baron from Bolivia. When Landry turned around to ask a question, Meredith stuck the wrong end of the cigar into his mouth. He coughed, sputtered, spat shreds of tobacco over his playbook. Morton and Rhome laughed, but Landry stared down at Meredith with as stony and humorless a face as he could manage, and Landry is quite good at that when he wishes to be. "You do understand what I'm telling you, Don," said Landry. Meredith nodded. The thing is, now he does.