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When Pride Still Mattered : A Life Of Vince Lombardi Paperback – September 3, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

As coach of the Green Bay Packers from 1959 to 1967, Vince Lombardi turned perennial losers into a juggernaut, winning back-to-back NFL titles in 1961 and 1962, and Superbowls I and II in 1966 and 1967. Stern, severe, sentimental, and paternal, he stood revered, reviled, respected, and mocked--a touchstone for the '60s all in one person. Which adds up to the myth we've been left with. But who was the man? That's the question Pulitzer Prize-winner David Maraniss tackles. It begins with Lombardi's looming father, a man as colorful as his son would be conservative. Still, from his father Vince Lombardi learned a sense of presence and authority that could impress itself with just a look. If a moment can sum up and embrace a man's life--and capture the breadth of Maraniss's thoroughness--it is one that takes place off the field when the Packers organization decides to redecorate their offices in advance of the new head coach's arrival: "During an earlier visit," Maraniss reports, "he had examined the quarters--peeling walls, creaky floor, old leather chairs with holes in them, discarded newspapers and magazines piled on chairs and in the corners--and pronounced the setting unworthy of a National Football League club. 'This is a disgrace!' he had remarked." In one moment, one comment, Lombardi announced his intentions, made his vision and professionalism clear, and began to shake up a stale organization. It reveals far more about the man than wins and losses, and is the kind of moment Maraniss uses again and again in this superb resurrection of a figure who so symbolized a sporting era and sensibility. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In the history of American sports, no coach has been mythologized as much as the Green Bay Packers' Vince Lombardi (who has been immortalized with, among other tributes, a rest station on the New Jersey Turnpike). Yet this fine biography from a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post is a blast of cool air among the usually overheated roster of sports biographies. From Lombardi's formative years as a player and coach at Fordham University through assistantships with West Point and the Giants and, finally, to his tenure as head coach of the Packers, Maraniss presents a portrait of a complicated human being who was a great teacher but a mediocre listener, an effective psychologist despite being rife with flaws. Though he often got hurt as a college athlete, Lombardi, as a coach, scorned players who couldn't withstand injury. His relationship with his wife and children was less than ideal. But Maraniss doesn't succumb to any reductive assessments of Lombardi as "tragic" or "heroic." As legend suggests, Lombardi was indeed a great motivator, but his success also derived from a cerebral approach to the game. The book's true punch comes from its myriad subplots: a hero from one small town (early 20th-century Brooklyn) revitalizing another in the Upper Midwest, or professional football and Lombardi coming into their own at roughly the same time. Maraniss spends far too much time on people and events whose influence on Lombardi isn't made apparent, and he relies too much on other sportswriters' descriptions of games. Yet like its subject, the book, for all its flaws, is intricate, ambitious and satisfying. First serial to Vanity Fair.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (September 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684870185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684870182
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post. He is the winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and has been a Pulitzer finalist two other times for his journalism and again for They Marched Into Sunlight, a book about Vietnam and the sixties. The author also of bestselling works on Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, and Roberto Clemente, Maraniss is a fellow of the Society of American Historians. He and his wife, Linda, live in Washington, DC, and Madison, Wisconsin.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

155 of 163 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Skoronski ( on November 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
My dad was one of the eight men who played under Lombardi for his entire tenure in Green Bay. In fact he is a frequent contributor to Mr Maraniss's work. Now that my some of bias has been revealed I want to say that this is the finest biography I ever read. Mr. Maraniss filled out so much about a character I thought I knew well. I had heard my dad say the things about Lombardi that are quoted in the book, so in some ways the inclusion of his thoughts in the book were its least interesting parts to me. The author's research into Lombardi's early life and his conclusions from that research, not just names and dates, is a thread carefully woven through every chapter to a point that near the end the effect is nearly haunting. Lombardi was not really the myth he is often portrayed as, but rather a man acutely aware of his surroundings in nearly every circumstance who was able to absorb enough positive material from each that when his opportunity finally came he seized it and delivered all he had absorbed in a way no one ever had and maybe never will again. The true inspiration that comes from this book is not what Lombardi became but rather the revelation of the power of something so simple as paying attention to what makes great things great and staying dedicated to those values. I am forty years old and there is picture in my office that is one of my most prized possessions. The photo is of my dad, my brothers, Lombardi and me getting off the plane before the NFL Championship in 1960. It was always important to me because of its unique representaton of that part of my family. Though I never thought it possible, Mr. Maraniss made it more precious to me because of what he taught me about the only guy in the picture who was not a member of my family.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Although I grew up in during Lombardi's rise to fame in the 1960's, I have never read any other sports book or biography that dealt with him, up to this time, motivated finally more by Mr. Maraniss's previous books on President Clinton, which I have read, than by any great desire to become knowledgeable about this football great.
There is not much that I can add that hasn't already been said in all the other reader reviews that appear on this page. The author's biography presents a no-holds-bared look at this interesting sports coach and personality that fortunately, as another reader said, presents a man whose reality lives up to the myths that have been built up around him.
What I would like to add is that this book also provides some very useful historical context around the Lombardi years that makes his life all the more vivid: life in the fifties and sixties, the rise of professional football to its prominence today and the rise and influence of the media in the sports world as well as in all other aspects of late 20th century life.
This is a book ANYONE will enjoy, not only because of the subject matter it covers, but also due to the meticulous reporting, fluid writing style, and most of all, for the way the book sincerely tugs on the emotions of the reader, for Lombardi, his family and for a time period gone by.
In sum, this is a book that rewards the reader all the way around.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Steve Martarano on November 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
When I was a kid, I read Green Bay Packers lineman Jerry Kramer's book Instant Replay, his diary of the 1967 season, and to this day that era still has a mythical hold on me. Indeed, "When Pride Still Mattered: The Life of Vince Lombardi" continued the magic. After also reading David Maraniss' biography on Bill Clinton, I'm convinced Maraniss is one of the best non-fiction writers of our time. With Clinton and now Lombardi, Maraniss proves he has the ability to take a person who has reached unimaginable success, and show us their strengths, weaknesses and flaws, without taking away from what made them great in the first place. This is a book that you wish would never end. It's that good.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sean Claycamp on January 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As I read this book, the thing that kept running through my mind was how much research the author had to do. That is the difference between this book and other biographies, especially when you think that the two best sources of information - Vince and wife Marie - have long since passed away. I commend him for his efforts as not just a writer, but as a researcher. I will say this though, there are volumes and volumes of information about the Packers and Lombardi, making the writer's job not easier, but less time-consuming because of the availability of all the information out there.
As for the writing, I loved the way he blended Lombardi's day-to-day life with the football seasons. Just when you thought he was going to give you some boring play-by-play, he took you in another direction, describing Lombardi's relationship with a player, an assistant coach, a business leader, even his secretary, and he did so in a thorough and fascinating manner. He then took you back on the field for the play-by-play, and as a reader you felt like you never left.
You don't have to be a sports lover to love this book, because to me it's not really a sport book. Instead, it is a journey into the psyche of a man who was driven to succeed in everything he did. Chapters on his personal appearances, business ventures and other interests were nearly as interesting as the tales of his obsession with football. Lombardi was truly driven to be the best at everything he did.
The title of this book says volumes because to Lombardi pride did matter. Everything he did - except perhaps his relationship with his immediate family - he did with the intent of showing others that quality mattered to him.
I loved the book and despite his many shortcomings, I love Lombardi.
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