Summary and book reviews of When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss

When Pride Still Mattered

A Life Of Vince Lombardi

By David Maraniss

When Pride Still Mattered
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  • Hardcover: Sep 1999,
    544 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2000,
    544 pages.

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Book Summary

When Pride Still Mattered is the quintessential story of the American family: how Vince Lombardi, the son of an immigrant Italian butcher, rose to the top, and how his character and will to prevail transformed him, his wife, his children, his players, his sport, and ultimately the entire country. It is also a vibrant football story, abundant with accounts of Lombardi's thrilling life in that world, from his playing days with the Seven Blocks of Granite at Fordham in the 1930s to the glory of coaching the Green Bay Packers of Starr, Hornung, Taylor, McGee, Davis, and Wood in the 1960s. It is also a study of national myths, tracing what Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer David Maraniss calls the fallacy of the innocent past, and an absorbing account of the mythmakers from Grantland Rice to Howard Cosell who shaped Lombardi's image.

Vincent Thomas Lombardi was born in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, on June 11, 1913. His early life was shaped by the trinity of family, religion, and sports; they seemed intertwined, as inseparable to him as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He was deeply influenced by the Jesuits, who taught him the philosophy he later used with his players, subordinating individual desires to a larger cause. The geography of his rise was the opposite of the small-town boy who makes it in the big city. This son of New York did not achieve fame until he took a job in remote Green Bay, Wisconsin. Before that, he had toiled anonymously for twenty years, first as a high school coach in New Jersey, then as an assistant at Fordham, at West Point (under the influential Colonel "Red" Blaik), and finally with the New York Giants. He was already forty-six when he was finally hired to coach the hapless Packers in 1959, leading them in the most storied period in NFL history, winning five world championships in nine seasons.

By the time he died of cancer in 1970, after one season in Washington during which he transformed the Redskins into winners, Lombardi had become a mythic character who transcended sport, and his legend has only grown in the decades since. Many now turn to Lombardi in search of characteristics that they fear have been irretrievably lost, the old-fashioned virtues of discipline, obedience, loyalty, character, and teamwork. To others he symbolizes something less romantic: modern society's obsession with winning and superficial success. In When Pride Still Mattered, Maraniss renders Lombardi as flawed and driven yet ultimately misunderstood, a heroic figure who was more complex and authentic than the stereotypical images of him propounded by admirers and critics.

Using the same meticulous reporting and sweeping narrative style that he employed in First in His Class, his classic biography of Bill Clinton, Maraniss separates myth from reality and wondrously recaptures Vince Lombardi's life and times.

Chapter 24 : Ice

Ed Sabol could not sleep the night before a title game. He and his son Steve had been working pro football championships for NFL Films since 1962, and every year he was nervous, as if he had never done this before. Were his cameras in the right locations? Would there be a dramatic story line? Would the weather create problems again? By seven on the morning of December 31, 1967, he already had been awake for two hours, and now he was standing at the window of his hotel room, staring out into the northern darkness. Friday seemed unforgiving in Green Bay, with heavy snow and a fierce wind, but on Saturday there was a brilliant winter sun and the temperature had soared toward thirty. Local forecasters had predicted more of the same for today's one o'clock game.

The telephone rang. Steve, who had been asleep in the other bed, fumbled for the receiver.

"Good morning, Mr. Sabol."

The wake-up message came in a gentle singsong voice.

"It is ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
NY Times Book Review - Allen St. John

Maraniss never forgets that he is profiling a subject who was acutely aware (and in great measure the creator) of his own legend...[He] has a superb eye for detail.

NY Times Book Review - Allen St. John

Maraniss never forgets that he is profiling a subject who was acutely aware (and in great measure the creator) of his own legend...[He] has a superb eye for detail.

Publishers Weekly

... like its subject, the book, for all its flaws, is intricate, ambitious and satisfying.

Author Blurb David Halberstam
David Maraniss, one of America's most distinguished writers, has followed up his brilliant biography of Bill Clinton with a remarkable portrait of Vince Lombardi, a man as different from Clinton as it is possible to be. This is not just a book about sports or about a football coach. When Pride Still Mattered is an exceptionally well-written, thoughtful, and fair-minded portrait of one of the most important -- and compelling -- figures in modern American popular culture, and of the profound changes taking place in our society.

Author Blurb David Halberstam
David Maraniss, one of America's most distinguished writers, has followed up his brilliant biography of Bill Clinton with a remarkable portrait of Vince Lombardi, a man as different from Clinton as it is possible to be. This is not just a book about sports or about a football coach. When Pride Still Mattered is an exceptionally well-written, thoughtful, and fair-minded portrait of one of the most important -- and compelling -- figures in modern American popular culture, and of the profound changes taking place in our society.

Reader Reviews
Gary Easter

History of the game
Not only was this book outstanding for understanding the history of football, but the changing of society during the Lombardi years, and insight into the game and the path Lombardi took.

scarf

It was ok
From an investigational standpoint, this book is filled. I wanted to hear more about Lombardi's childhood. Skims over it, which is a bit disappointing. Coming from this author I expected more I guess.

Mark_Bledsoe

A very balanced look at a great coach, and interesting man

Bob

GREAT

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