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SBD/Issue 64/Sports Media
HBO-NFL Films Documentary On Lombardi Gets Mostly Solid Reviews
Published December 13, 2010
|NFL Films President Steve Sabol Says HBO
Documentary Is His Last On Vince Lombardi
HBO and NFL Films' documentary "Lombardi," which debuted Saturday, is a "fascinating refresher course in the story of a figure we think we know well but who has been dead for 40 years," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The 90-minute film about Pro Football HOFer Vince Lombardi is "hagiographic, yes, but it is balanced with the candor of many, including his son and daughter, who talk about the difficulty of growing up with a father who put football ahead of family." NFL Films President Steve Sabol said that this documentary is the "last one he would make about Lombardi for NFL Films." Sabol: "I am officially closing the vault on Lombardi" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/12). YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote, "What this 90-minute documentary shows is that Lombardi just didn't put Green Bay on the map, he put the NFL there too." The film "doesn't break new ground," but there is "plenty here for a Lombardi devotee or an NFL fan whose familiarity with the coach doesn't go much further than knowing he coached the Packers more than 40 years ago" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/10). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes there were "still new nuggets of information in HBO's outstanding documentary" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/13). SI.com's Peter King writes the "depth and intelligence of it so far are stunning." King: "I love seeing his kids talk about what it was really like to be Lombardis" (SI.com, 12/13). In Newark, Jerry Izenberg wrote, "From his son and daughter ... from earlier interviews with his late wife, Marie ... from the men who played for and against him ... from the men who wrote about him ... this is Vince as he struggled to be, as he was and as he is remembered" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 12/11).
SOMETHING MISSING: In N.Y., Ginia Bellafante wrote the documentary is an "exercise in character exaltation that comes at the expense of any sort of illumination of Lombardi's technical proficiency." Bellafante: "Clearly Lombardi had a nerdy theoretical interest in the game ... but watching the film, you never get a sense of where his particular technical genius lies." Bellafante wrote of HBO's sports documentaries in general, "You can't help walking away with the feeling that they were made with the spirit of serving up a little something for the ladies" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/11). In S.F., David Wiegand wrote the documentary, in a way, is a "profile of two Lombardis, the obsessively driven coach and the human being." Through players such as Bart Starr, Sonny Jurgensen and Frank Gifford, "we get a very clear picture of Coach Lombardi." But the "other Lombardi remains slightly elusive here, perhaps because it was easier to call plays on a football field than it was at home" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/11).
BROADWAY VINCE: In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino wrote the "Lombardi" play "isn't typical Broadway fare and isn't selling out, but the NFL should film it and show it on the NFL Network," as "every football fan should see it." The play is a "portrait (warts and all) of the legendary coach, described in the play as an 'imperfect perfect man'" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 12/11).