Lombardi: Football with Dad

John Lombardi watched Green Bay's 20-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Monday night with his father, Vince Lombardi, Jr., while visiting in Tucson, Ariz. John Lombardi offers his thoughts and father's reaction to a game that summed up Green Bay's season in a nutshell:

I am in Arizona visiting my parents for Thanksgiving. My mom and dad are snow birds, spending the winters about 60 miles north of the Mexican border and summers at their home outside of Seattle. It is nice to get together for the holidays and I want to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.

The desert is very interesting ... Cactus, Road Runners, snakes and such. I would eventually miss grass, but it is nice to visit and the topography and plant life is just so different from Northeast Wisconsin. My mom told me that some cactus can weigh up to two tons. That is a big pricker bush. My parents' house is very interesting; kind of a mix between my mom's taste (she was an art major in college) and my dad. My dad has access to many of my grandfather's possessions and some of them are very prominent throughout the house, mostly in his office. I did not notice this stuff growing up, but since I moved to Green Bay, I have come to appreciate both the significance and the history behind much of it. It is a mini-museum to football. Some of it is very interesting and some is just strange.

On the wall across from where I am typing this column is a portrait of my grandfather that graced the back cover of "Run to Daylight", the book my grandfather wrote with W.C. Heinz. It looks like a pencil drawing and was down by Robert Riger. Stashed in a cabinet behind the toilet paper is a replica Super Bowl Trophy given to my grandmother by Al Davis. You never know what you will find in this house.

I tell you all this because it is in this atmosphere that I sat down to watch the Packer-Viking game on Monday night with my dad. My mom was at her book club, the kids were in bed and the wife was in another room reading a book. My dad and I hit the couch to watch the game as fathers and sons have done for generations. The specter of Packer seasons gone by was heavy in the air. But first two things you need to know about my dad and football.

1. He has seen it all. He goes back to the fields of West Point in the 1940's and '50's. Then on to the Giants in the late '50's. He was in high school when Coach Lombardi came to town. After college and then law school he worked in football until the mid '80's. I have often run into his peers over the years and he was very good at what he did. They told me so. I know that is a son's love for a father talking, but it is true. I think he would have run a team or even been commissioner by now if he had stayed in it.

2. He loves football, but has trouble watching it. All he sees is the mistakes. He probably got that from his dad. He becomes visibly upset when players make dumb mistakes. He has no patience for the mental errors and poor play. Lucky for him, not all Packer games are broadcast where he lives, otherwise I think he would have some health problems.

Like most Packer fans, he had difficulty watching the game. He was so disturbed near the end that he had to leave the room when the Vikings got the ball back on the last drive. He just knew what was going to happen. He could not watch it, it pained him so much. I, on the other hand was like a man staring at a car wreck. What I was watching was disturbing, but I could not look away. I was a rubbernecker at the Packers funeral.

Now I do not want to pile on the Packers or imply that my dad is not in their corner. He is. He hopes for the Packers to do well. He has a soft spot in his heart for the team. He was the same way while watching the Raider-Redskin game on Sunday. He has seen football played as well as it can be and I guess everything else is downhill from there. Must be tough to live 40 years and never see football played as well as it was in your younger years. There are thousands of Packer fans out there that may know what that feels like in the next few years.

I told him later that the Viking game was a microcosm of the season so far. Costly turnovers, inopportune penalties and injuries are the lay of the land. I have watched a team that has so many positive qualities and talented players, a team that I believe can beat anyone when they play within themselves and cut down on the mistakes. But this is a team that is ultimately overwhelmed by the mistakes, bad breaks and injuries. They are not deep enough and talented enough to overcome their deficiencies. They flash greatness only to have it overshadowed by poor play and bad luck. They push a Viking team all over the field for two quarters only to come out flat in the second half. They give it away for the second time this year. They cannot consistently play a complete game. Where is the team that knocked around the Falcons and the Saints? If the Packers had played half as well as they did against the Falcons for 60 minutes, they would have embarrassed Minnesota.

I do not get it. I have not seen as much football as my dad, but I have seen a lot and this team does not compute. I have seen a lot of strange things down here in the desert, but that game was the strangest.


John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. John resides with his family in Green Bay . His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. He will be contributing columns for PackerReport.com.


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