Barry Switzer: Overcoming Personal Trauma

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Video by Ilea Shutler. Produced by David Fritze.

“Conversations” is a series of video interviews with Oklahomans about subjects that relate to some of the state’s larger issues. The 2016-2017 series is sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation and is made possible by a grant from the Institute for Nonprofit News.

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Barry Switzer’s growing-up years were packed with risk factors for a life of addiction and mental-health problems.

The former University of Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys football coach grew up in poverty in rural southern Arkansas. Switzer’s father, Frank, was a charismatic “rogue,” as Switzer says, who made his living by bootlegging and spent time in prison. His mother, Mary, was isolated in their shotgun shack, enduring her husband’s drinking and wild life, and turning to pills and alcohol. She took her own life.

Despite the hardships, Switzer became a national symbol of achievement. Trauma and family disorders did not derail him. In this interview, Switzer, who turns 79 in October, reflects on those early experiences and why perhaps, outside of talent, he beat the odds.

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  • AmericanMOM

    While it’s true that our people in Oklahoma are plagued by drug and alcohol abuse; there is also prevailing education and economic factors. These problems are a result of the efforts of state leaders to keep the citizenry “in their place”. It is good that there are Oklahomans who managed to overcome hardships, but the majority will not. The state agencies suffer from lack of funding as well. When there’s a dip in revenues, state agencies have a tendency to try and justify their existence through means that make the situations worse, instead of serving the best interests of the people. It’s an attitude….a tone that has been set by the state leadership. while our state holds the record for most declared natural disasters; our state government is more concerned about filing frivolous lawsuits and display of the state bird. Look at the median income of the people in Oklahoma. Look at our teen pregnancy rate. Look at our incarceration rate. Look at the ever growing foster children count. These are not things created by a lack of funding or attention. These are situations created, in the majority of cases, by agencies and government leaders in efforts to collect money from the federal government and the working citizens. Our people’s lives have become an orchestrated industry…..a way of collecting public monies.