cover image The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry

The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry

Mark Ribowsky. Liveright, $29.95 (640p) ISBN 978-0-87140-333-9

rom 1960 to 1988, Tom Landry was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, taking the football team from expansion joke to a big, bad cultural empire now known as “America’s Team.” In Ribowsky’s authoritative biography, Landry appears more stoic king than coach, his ever-present fedora serving as a crown. He ruled with an unrelenting rigidity, whether it was viewing players (including legends) as replaceable parts or sticking with his landmark offensive and defensive systems, even as the game outgrew those once-novel innovations. At the same time, Landry was a devout Christian who lived by a simple code of honor—he essentially agreed to coach at one point on a handshake deal—only to get squeezed out by the growing corporate nature of pro football. Ribowsky’s thorough examination of a surprisingly complicated man offers original reporting, which serves here as merely a complement to this impressively researched work. But in looking back at the legendary Landry’s life (1924–2000), Ribowsky (Howard Cosell) reveals how much the game has changed since the coach’s heyday while providing an eloquent, honest tribute to a football genius. 16 pages of illustrations. (Nov.)