When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss. (Simon & Schuster, 1999).
When David Maraniss came out with this authoritative biography of Vince Lombardi, it wasn’t the first “definitive” biography of the coach. A dozen years earlier, historian Michael O’Brien published Vince: A Personal Biography that was based on thorough research and over 200 interviews. However, the book by O’Brien was essentially swept away by Maraniss’ text. Why? Both are well researched and exhaustive treatments of a towering figure in American sports history. The difference to me is that the Maranisss book is more readable and anecdotal; hence, it makes my list of essential Packer titles, while O’Brien’s admirable volume does not.
The one quibble I have with Maraniss is that he did not give enough voice to negative voices. Bill Butler, who played for the 1959 team, is quoted as calling Lombardi the ”biggest asshole” he ever met, but that is the extent of his mention in the book. It would be interesting to see why he and some others not on the Lombardi bandwagon did not fall under the sway of the volatile coach. I think it would have made for a fuller portrait of how the man was perceived during his life.
That said, this biography was a joy to read for Packer fans and provides a fine overview of the greatest decade in the team’s history, as well as the full life of the man most responsible for that.
1951 Topps style custom card is colorized.