|Reviewed by Joseph Rosenberg|
Here is a biography of a man who labored in obscurity until the last decade of his life. A deeply religious man of traditional values and fearsome temper, Vincent Thomas Lombardi took his simple beliefs and created a sporting tradition that endures long past the voices of play by announcers have been stilled.
Normally, sports heroes are catalogued in the toy department of our consciousness. Not so with Mr. Lombardi. Like Branch Rickey, John Wooden and Bill Veeck, he viewed all his athletes as complete (and flawed) human beings regardless of pigmentation. A master psychologist, he motivated and developed his team and gave them a basis for living the rest of their lives. In an era of turmoil, he resisted the blandishments of those who would curtail civil liberties in the name of "Law and Order." Mr. Maraniss outlines all this in a non-judgmental reportorial tone.
The only negative in this book is its exploration of the Lombardi marriage and family relationship. I think the book's revelations about Mrs. Lombardi and the Lombardi children are extraneous at best.
This book depicts a man who was motivated to instill values of loyalty, determination, sacrifice and confidence in his players and students he led. Over and over again he ran the famous "Packer sweep" like reciting the rosary, in so determined a way that a touchdown had to be forthcoming. His credo was not "winning is everything," but "play to win„and know you will succeed if you try." Not a bad legacy for any man.