Am höchsten bewertete positive Rezension
Carefully Researched, Very Human Portrait of an Icon
am 19. September 2000
Maraniss has done his typical excellent job of bringing a larger-than-life character, in this case legendary coach Vince Lombardi, to life in this engaging biography. The author explores Lombardi's humble beginning, his Catholic upbringing, and his will to win which enabled him to compete as one of the famed "Seven Blocks of Granite" at Fordham despite a lack of both size or exemplary athletic talent.
Early in the book, Maraniss provides a fascinating glimpse into the college football programs of former national contenders Fordham and Army, where Lombardi was an assistant under the famed Red Blaik, and where he sometimes sat watching film with huge Army supporter Gen. Douglas MacArthur. At West Point Lombardi learned some of the coaching techniques, including a manic obsession with film study and precise repetition in practice, that served him so well later.
For those who know nothing about Lombardi apart from his years with the Green Bay Packers, there is much here to learn and enjoy. Vince was an assistant coach for the NY Giants, coaching the offense while another future hall of famer, Tom Landry, coached the defense, and he gives a stirring account of the famous 1960 championship game, believed by many to be the greatest football game ever played. Maraniss explores Lombardi's frustrating delays in obtaining a head coaching job, which he thought was due to his Italian heritage, and explores his Green Bay days in thorough, skillful fashion. Characters such as Paul Hornung (the coach's "Golden Boy" and favorite player), Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer, Ray Nietzsche, Alex Karras, Willie Wood, Dick Schaap,and countless others were apparently interviewed, and their personal remembrances of the Packer era made this a football fan's dream.
But Maraniss does not simply concentrate on x's and o's, as he also explores Lombardi the husband and father, painting a sometimes unflattering picture of Lombardi the reluctant family man with little or no time for quality interaction with his kids. The author even quotes from a devastating letter written by Lombardi's wife Marie to their son, in 1970 as Vince was beginning to get ill and their son was starting his own career and family, expressing frustration at the apparent lack of effort expended by both Lombardi men to cement their father-son relationship. Ultimately Lombardi was a complex man, standing up for his players (he would not tolerate discrimination against players who were black or gay) as he berated them on the practice field. The portrait is especially relevant now, as the country debates the antics of another "tough disciplinarian" coach by the name of Bobby Knight.
I would have enjoyed a little more complete picture of Lombardi's one year back on the sidelines coaching the Washington Redskins in 1969. Maraniss skillfully explores Lombardi's hiring and uneasy split with Green Bay, as well as his introduction to D.C. and his power lunches with owner Edward Bennett Williams. However, after some good material regarding his initial reactions and impressions of the team (he thought Sunny Jurgenson was blessed with incredible talent), Maraniss virtually skips the entire season and tells you how the Redskins did in retrospect, without any of the detail or anecdotes that made the Packers years come alive in his retelling. It was as if Maraniss knew it was time to wrap things up, and he had tired of writing about football. However, all in all, this is a fascinating portrait of a man whose impact is still felt on the gridiron, and whose fanatical dedication to team and especially character lately have been sorely missed in the NFL (and in all sports for that matter.)