I didn’t have the chance to see the TV documentary “Vince Lombardi: A Football Life” when it first aired—much to my regret, as I would have liked to see how it depicted the influence of my alma mater, St. Cecilia High School of Englewood, NJ, where he began his coaching career.
But, in researching the episode of his pro career that fascinates me the most—his leadership of the Green Bay Packers in its last NFL championship during his years there—I came across this vivid 10-minute YouTube segment from the documentary, on his “Ice Bowl” victory over the Dallas Cowboys, which occurred 50 years ago today.
Interviews with son Vince Lombardi Jr., lineman Jerry Kramer and quarterback Bart Starr (the last two instrumental in the win) add personal behind-the-scene perspectives on this epic game. Game-day conditions (15 degrees below zero, (-35 degrees wind-chill factor) made a hash of the coach’s high-tech attempt to keep the turf easy to run upon, leading to something close to a fight for survival between the upstart, dynasty-in-the-making Cowboys and the aging but proud Packers.
On the coldest day to that point in NFL playoff history, the Pack launched its final drive with 4½ minutes to go. The winning play, on third down, with 16 seconds to go, represented “the culmination of everything Lombardi and his Packers had been preparing for for the last nine years,” according to Lombardi biographer David Maraniss.
I recommend Maraniss’ superb account of the coach’s life, WHEN PRIDE STILL MATTERED, for additional colorful details on this climax of Lombardi’s career. (For instance, Frank Gifford, broadcasting the game, told listeners: “I just took a bite out of my coffee.")