Friday, February 04, 2005

Distinguished Authors & Their Words

David Maraniss
When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi
Copyright 1999
Simon & Schuster
518 Pages

Page 391

The game was a lowercase phenomenon that first year at the Los Angeles Coliseum -- super bowl, no Roman numberals attached. Lamar Hunt, owner of the Chiefs, took the name from his grandon's toy, a high-bouncing super ball. The official name on the game programs was World championship Game AFL vs. NFL. The Packers went to Santa Barbara for a week of training (the superstitious Lombardi considered it good luck to stay in cities named for saints) and were of two minds about how seriously to take the Chiefs. Much of what they saw on film made them dismissive of the other league. Sherman Plunkett, an offensive tackle for the New York Jets, his prodigous gut sprawling over his belt, became their symbol of the sloppy AFL. Every time he appeared on film, Henry Jordan shouted, "Hey, roll that back! Look at Plunkett!" and the Packers all laughed. Plunkett did not play for the Chiefs, of course, but the films also revealed plenty of way to exploit Kansas City on offense and defense."

Page 392
The practice sessions in Santa Barbara were unforgiving...No relaxation for his men, no distractions. He raised the fines for curfew violations to record amounts...One loss and all was lost, he said. If he lost, it would diminish everything that he had accomplished since he got to Green Bay: the championships of 1961, 1962 and 1965, the NFL title win over Dallas in 1966 -- if he could not beat the Kansas City Chiefs, what would any of that mean now?
Page 394
Lombardi was the last man on (the bus). He took his seat, front right, and the driver shut the door and started to pull out. "Just a minute," Lombardi said. "Stop a minute." He rose to his feet, stepped into the aisle, got the attention of his players and danced a soft shoe. The players started screaming, "Go, Coach, Go!"
When he sat down, Jack Koeppler asked him, "What he hell was that?"
"They were too tight," Lombardi said.

Page 394
The game would be watched by the largest television audience ever to view a sports event, more than 65 million people, but in person it did not feel historic. There were 61,946 people inside the Memorial Coliseum, more than enough to fill Lambeau Field, but they seemed lost inside that monstrous stadium. The most expensive ticket was twelve dollars, and still more than a third of the seats were empty.

Page 396
After the game Steve Sabol sought out Lombardi for a brief interview for NFL Films. The locker room was relatively quiet, no yelping or spraying champagne. After the awards ceremony, Sabol found the coach in his dressing quarters struggling to take off his tie. Long ago, in another locker room, Vinnie Lombardi had been overtaken by joy when the young and outmatched Cadets of Army had stunned Duke at the Polo Grounds, and he had moved triumphantly among his players that afternoon with a pair of scissors, cutting off their sweat-soaked T-shirts, the symbols of hard-won victory. Now, in the moments after winning his fourth pro championship in six years, the symbol was not a player's sweat-soaked shirt but a coach's knotted necktie. He had cinched a Windsor knot so tight that he could not undo it, no matter how vigorously he yanked and pulled. The tie was his noose and he was hanging himself, until finally, in exasperation, he asked the equipment man for a pair of scissors and cut it loose from his straining neck.

(David Marannis, an associate editor at The Washington Post, won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Lombardi. The winning team of this year's Super Bowl will receive permanent possession of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, a sterling silver trophy created by Tiffany & Company. The trophy was named after the late coach Vince Lombardi of the two-time Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers prior to the 1971 Super Bowl. The trophy is a regulation silver football mounted in a kicking position on a pyramid-like stand of three concave sides. The trophy stands 20 inches tall, weighs 6.7 pounds and is valued in excess of $25,000. The words "Vince Lombardi" and "Super Bowl XXXIX" are engraved on the base along with the NFL shield.
To date, 2,984,890 have attended Super Bowl games. The largest crowd was 103,985 at the 14th Super Bowl at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.)

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