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In fairness, Buddy Ryan presides over a football team that has myriad personnel problems, an identity crisis and a tradition of losing. The public probably should wait until at least the halfway point of the NFL season before offering a judgment on Ryan's performance as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

Then again, why should anybody be fair to Buddy Ryan?Buddy Ryan isn't fair to anybody. He trashes opponents. He belittles his peers. He ridicules some of his own players who are injured.

He is a troll with a whistle. He has a motor mouth and a manual brain. He makes Hitler look like an old softy.

Is any of that fair? Who cares! It doesn't matter.

Ryan has established the ground rules for anyone dealing with him, talking about him, writing about him or otherwise mentioning his name in mixed company.

In this world, if you treat people like dirt, you deserve it in return. If you hammer somebody's reputation - as Ryan did mercilessly to the Rams' coaching staff prior to last weekend's Cardinals gag-a-thon - you should be prepared to fend off attackers on your own credibility. If you have nothing but contempt for others, you have no right to whine when those same people define you as contemptible.

So Ryan should brace for the worst, because that is what he doles out, and that is what he deserves.

Much of this Buddy Ryan "mystique" is the result of bored reporters who so crave an interesting personality on the sporting landscape that they'll accept snide remarks from a classless loudmouth, even if he has shown in the past to be a paper tiger.

If reporters just stopped writing down his quotes for a few minutes and tallied up his wins and losses, they wouldn't want to write down any more of his quotes.

What has the guy done? He has never won a playoff game as a head coach. He has a Super Bowl ring as a defensive coordinator in his days with the Chicago Bears. But he had nothing to do with assembling that team, which contained some of the finest defensive talent in the history of the NFL. I have a dinette set that could have coached that defense.

So Buddy moves on to Philadelphia, where he is beaten on his home field in a playoff game by Jim Everett and the Rams.

Is that fair? Who cares!

Buddy Ryan is a self-promoter. That is his supreme talent. He knows how to sell people on Buddy Ryan. Normally, that is an admirable trait. But let's say you're a salesman, and you're a whiz at selling people vacuum cleaners, but those vacuum cleaners not only fail to pick up dirt, but leave more there than when you started. You would think eventually someone would scream, "Get out of my house, you little twerp!"

Is that fair? What difference does it make?

Ryan was "let go" in Philadelphia, the way you might let go of an ice cream cone that has melted in your hand and has flies buzzing around it and is no longer edible. Defensively, Ryan was able to inspire his troops and had them playing top-notch ball. Offensively, he approached the game much like a monkey would approach quantum theory.

He was a failure. Not only that, he was arrogant about it. He always made it seem as though somebody else failed.

But perhaps his greatest skill is convincing the public that he is the greatest coach who ever lived. He tells it to the media. He tells it to the dullards who cling to him and profess that he is "one of us," which brings to mind an entire race of irascible four-footers with no class and no playoff victories.

That's the beauty of Buddy (an oxymoron of titanic proportions). He has decided that any confrontation with him shall take place deep in the mud, with no holds barred. He has sunk lower than the winner of a snakes-only limbo contest. He is a living reminder that there is only one letter separating the words "coach" and "roach."

C'mon, now, you say. That's going too far. That isn't ... fair?

This is Buddy Ryan we're talking about. On Sunday, he lost to what he called the worst-coached team he had ever seen.

After all, fair is fair.