Hosted by HBO, NFL Films, Time Warner Cable, and the Green Bay Packers, the premiere brought forth some of the all-time Packers greats, and the toughest critics – those who knew Lombardi best, to explore the fascinating career and life of football’s most revered coach, Vince Lombardi.
“Lombardi” is not a film only sports fans will enjoy; it is a film that will captivate all audiences, even those who are not football fans. Everyone will find something, if not many things, to appreciate in “Lombardi.”
“Everyone can relate to this film,” HBO Sports producer and vice president Joe Lavine said. “This is not just about football. It is about a man that was frustrated early on in life, and his vocation just happened to be football. When he finally got his break, he made the best of it, and the most of it, to become the greatest football coach of all time.”
And for a man who has done his fair share of iconic documentaries, this one was truly special to Lavine.
“I’ve done a lot of these documentaries,” Lavine said. “It’s not always so easy to tell the story because of the lack of footage. With Lombardi, it was frustrating not to be able to use all the footage the NFL provided. It was a supreme honor, and to be honest, a bit intimidating to try and capture Vince Lombardi. He was a complicated character, on and off the field, who went on to become the face and backbone of professional football.”
Lavine knew that Thursday’s premiere was the true test, as the attendees were the ones who knew the man, Lombardi, best.
“There are people here tonight who knew him, knew of him, or were here when that great dynasty was going on,” Lavine said. “So really, they are the ones who will be the true judges.”
Lavine was as humble as any Packers fan might be when attempting to pay tribute to a history-making era and team. However, for Packers Hall of Famers in attendance, Thursday’s event was above and beyond any expectations and hopes they could have imagined.
Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer, and Dave Robinson sat side-by-side during the viewing, and from the smiles and laughter they shared, it was clear HBO Sports and NFL Films had captured the man they once knew.
“Tonight is wonderful,” pro football Hall of Famer Bart Starr said. “Had Lombardi been here tonight, he would have addressed this event very directly and with a great deal of humility. That was just the kind of man he was.
“I still remember the first speech he ever gave us. It is one I will never forget. He turned to us and looked us all in the eye and said, ‘Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection. We won’t catch them all, because nothing is perfect, but we are going to relentlessly chase it. And in the process, we will catch excellence.’ He then paused, and got even closer to us and said, ‘I’m not even remotely interested in just good.’ And from that moment we were all ready to go.”
For Starr, he was not alone in keeping the many lessons taught by Lombardi close to his heart.
Packers Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer never thought 40-some years after his career he would still be reliving the glory days.
“I once said, ‘A couple years after I retire from football, I will fade into the mist of time and go back to Idaho, and be forgotten forever.’ And that is exactly what I expected,” Kramer said. “Generally, that is what happened to most ball players. But at the time, the explosion, the popularity of all the television coverage we received over the years, changed that whole picture, dramatically.”
To this day, Kramer is still in awe over the impact Lombardi made not only to him, but to the masses.
“The lessons, the principles, and the philosophies we learned from him were applicable in life, and I don’t think we knew how special he was until we got out in the real world. I mean, we came in here as kids. We left here as kids. The older we became, the more we appreciated him.
“The Packers are kind of a Cinderella story. They are in a small town, owned by the fans, can never be sold, and never leave the town. There is no danger in loving the Green Bay Packers. They will always be here.”
Kramer reflected on the unique legacy created by Lombardi, and the long-standing tradition that continues to be carried out by his admirers.
“I’ve heard a thousand times, if I heard it once, ‘we used to go to grandpa’s house on Sunday, and we’d have a big dinner, go in the living room, and watch the Packers. And nobody could talk when the Packers were on. That alone, shows how many memories Packers’ fans have, especially with their family.”
For Packers Hall of Famer Dave Robinson, Lombardi was more than just a coach, and the film “Lombardi” truly captured the essence of such a man.
“Everyone here tonight got a chance to see the insight of a man, and how the players felt toward that man, who I believe is bigger than life,” Robinson said. “I came in here, a 21-year-old kid. When I was younger, my buddy and I were nicknamed the Satan and the Devil. We were the two rottenest kids in town. The time I spent with Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers, I matured into a man, a father, and a husband. He turned us into men and created such a strong camaraderie.
“He once told us, ‘Gentlemen, I can go out tomorrow and get guys that are bigger, faster, and stronger than all of you. But there is a certain something in you I see, and for that we will nurture you and make it develop you into a Green Bay Packer. Every man in this room can be beaten. But nobody can beat the Green Bay Packers collectively.’
“And he made you believe that, and to this day, I still do. Joe Lavine, Steve Sabol, HBO Films, and NFL Films, I thank you. You really outdid yourselves.”
Lavine reminded spectators the long and proud history HBO Sports has in producing highly acclaimed and thought-provoking documentaries.
“We have told stories of many legends and famous moments,” Lavine said. “From Earvin “Magic” Johnson to Billie Jean King to the Brooklyn Dodgers to the Miracle on Ice, just to name a few. But no name meant more to his sport or to his town than tonight’s subject. Anytime there is a new genius coach, eventually the name Lombardi is brought up. But every February, when a trophy is awarded to the best team in football, there is only one name on it, Vince Lombardi.”
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