In the late 1950s the once vaunted Green Bay Packers were a laughing stock. They hadn't fielded a winning team in more than a decade and were very nearly in jeopardy of losing their franchise to another city. The ultimate low came in 1958, when, with 7 future Hall of Famers on the team, they went a lousy 1-10-1 under a too-soft coach, Scooter McLean. They were desperately in need of a savior, and he arrived via wood-paneled station wagon in the dead of winter from New York City. That First Season
chronicles Vince Lombardi's remarkable first year as head coach with the franchise he would reinvent and etch forever in football history. In a single year, as the grizzled coach who took no bull, he would transform a team of underachievers into winners and reignite a city known for its passion for its sport. Based on exhaustive new research and interviews, That First Season
is the seldom-studied prequel to a football career marked by greatness. Eisenberg pushes away the mist that surrounds the Lombardi legend to bring readers the real story of how the seeds of a football dynasty were sown. He also brings alive an incredible ensemble tale of a team, a town and their leader.
Photographs from That First Season
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From Publishers Weekly
When Vince Lombardi took over as head coach for the moribund Green Bay Packers in 1959, both parties had much to prove, as Eisenberg, a former Baltimore Sun
sports columnist, makes clear in this bio. Lombardi, a longtime assistant in college and pro football, hadn't been a head coach in more than a decade, and that was for a New Jersey high school. The Packers were perennial losers, with players who had become accustomed to lazy coaching and good times. Lombardi's arrival was pivotal, as his attitude and discipline inspired the Packers, who became a football powerhouse during the 1960s, while allowing for the emergence of future Hall of Famers like offensive juggernaut Paul Hornung and quarterback Bart Starr. Eisenberg is at his best detailing the players' response to Lombardi's unforgiving approach, especially in training camp, which some veterans treated as vacation. Unfortunately, the author's account gradually loses steam, as too much space is reserved for detailed game recaps that detract from Lombardi's work in constructing a champion team. Still, the book is a brisk, sometimes revealing look at Lombardi's early days in Green Bay and is a nice complement to the existing works on the legendary coach. (Oct.)
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