BBC Home
Explore the BBC
| Help
CHOOSE A SPORT
RELATED BBC SITES
Last Updated: Saturday, 20 December, 2003, 19:56 GMT
Lombardi set the standard
By Martin Gough

"Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

Lombardi celebrates victory in Los Angeles
Lombardi's Packers won the first Super Bowl in 1966
Vince Lombardi's most famous phrase has not only outlived its author, it has also grown bigger than the game he had in mind.

And in winning 105 games, five National Football League (NFL) Championships and two Super Bowls in 10 seasons as a head coach, Lombardi gave substance to the words.

The Green Bay Packers side that won the first two Super Bowls, downing Kansas City at the end of the 1966 season and Oakland a year later, had been forced towards greatness by the personality of their coach.

It is entirely fitting that one of the first men to get his hands on the first Super Bowl trophy should now have his name inscribed upon it.

But the bespectacled master tactician would recognise little about the teams, players and tactics involved in fighting it out for the 37th edition.

Lombardi's backs crashed up the middle in a time before West Coast offenses with multiple receiver sets.

His linebackers were primed to punish rushers not take part in intricate pass coverage.

LOMBARDI LINES
Once you learn to quit it becomes a habit
--
If you'll not settle for anything less than the best, you will be amazed at what you can do with your lives
--
Physical toughness will make the opponent weaken and mental toughness will make him crack

Such was his disdain for egotism, Lombardi once traded a star player to another team when he appointed an agent to negotiate a new contract.

There were few big names in Lombardi's sides, with running back Paul Hornung the closest to the "franchise player" of the modern era.

Lombardi built a dynasty that dominated the NFL for seven years, gaining championships in 1961, 62, '65, '66 and '67.

In the age of free agency few teams are able to stand out from the pack for a single season let alone the best part of a decade.

And just as the game has changed, perhaps his most famous phrase has been superseded.

An emphasis on winning at all costs has been blamed for the corruption that has dogged the game, particularly below professional level, since Lombardi's death from cancer in 1970.

To interpret Lombardi's meaning in that way, though, is to overlook his own approach to life and the game he lived for.

Born in Brooklyn the son of an Italian immigrant butcher, he brought his work ethic to every facet of life but had respect and compassion for anyone who shared that ethic.

At Fordham University he gained an honours degree while playing guard in an offensive live that would be known to history as the "Seven Blacks of Granite".

OTHERS ON LOMBARDI
You always know what the goddam Packers are going to do but you still can't stop them
Rival coach
--
Vince made us the smartest team in football
Running back Paul Hornung
--
He'll cuss you early in the week and kiss you late in the week
Guard Jerry Kramer
--
Lombari's very fair; he treats us all the same - like dogs
Tackle Henry Jordan
A successful high school coach, he served apprenticeships at West Point Military Academy and the New York Giants, where he was offensive co-ordinator to the 1956 championship side.

Green Bay, a tiny Wisconsin town on the shores of Lake Michigan, became his home in 1959.

And a team that had won just one of 12 games the previous season won six more the following year, with the coach's arrival the only major change in personnel.

Lombardi kept it basic, but strove for perfection. Each player knew his own small part and it was drilled in mercilessly, with practice so tough it was almost a relief when the game began.

An ageing Packers side were considered past their best when the NFL and the American Football League (AFL) agreed to hold a match between their champions.

Their leader was a man unsuited to the multi-media, 24-7 football culture that the arrival of the Super Bowl heralded.

In a more complex society, there were holes in his simple message - perhaps there was more to life, and football, than winning.

But in winning the Super Bowl at the first time of asking, Vince Lombardi and his Packers set a goal that teams have ever since striven to attain.





Links to more US Sport stories


 

AMERICAN FOOTBALL


JARGON BUSTER

INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

E-mail services | Sport on mobiles/PDAs | Headlines for your site

MMIX

Back to top

Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability Sport | Olympics 2012 | Other Sport...

Video and Audio | Scores & Fixtures | Have Your Say | TV/Radio Schedule

Fun and Games | Question of Sport | Photo Galleries

Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales

BBC Sport Academy >> | BBC News >> | BBC Weather >>
About the BBC | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy | Contact us
banner watch listen bbc sport