Monday, February 7, 2011

Winning One For Vince

Two days ago, I wrote of my surprise that few people had mentioned Vince Lombardi in the buildup to yesterday's Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There were a few articles that mentioned Lombardi, but none (that I know of) acknowledged the fact that Lombardi died 40 years ago last September.

Perhaps that was due to the fact that yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan. That got a lot of attention — maybe deservedly so.

While the Super Bowl matched two of the most storied franchises in NFL history, mentioning two such anniversaries on the same day might have been a bit confusing for some people. It was probably fitting to yield to a former president.

Well, Reagan's 100th birthday has come and gone. The Packers emerged triumphant over the Steelers, and they will be the "defending Super Bowl champs" until someone else wins a Super Bowl — perhaps, when you consider the current state of discussions over the NFL's about–to–expire collective bargaining agreement, that should be if someone else wins one.

Oh, sure, someday someone else will win a Super Bowl. But, at the moment, it seems far from certain that next season will be played so the Lombardi Trophy may remain indefinitely in Green Bay.

And, for a pro football traditionalist like me, that's as it should be. If there is a work stoppage in the NFL that does what the baseball strike of 1994 did to the World Series, the next scheduled Super Bowl may be a casualty.

Not too many folks seemed to be thinking about that yesterday. Fewer mentioned it, even if they were thinking of it. But others — Packer fans like myself, Steeler fans like some of my friends — chose to leave such thoughts to another day. If Lombardi crossed our thoughts yesterday, it was in connection with the game being played at the time.

And that was as it should be.

Mike Lopresti of USA Today was thinking of Vince that way.

His postgame column may have been written after the game or while it was still being played, but it was in the form of a letter to Lombardi's spirit.

Speaking of the game, Lopresti said, "You would have loved it. ... It was a fight to the finish. ... You'd have loved the sheer will. ... You'd have loved [Aaron] Rodgers. ... You'd love the teamwork ... You'd love ... how this was a game that had to first be taken, and then saved, leaving the losers disconsolate."

It was Lombardi's kind of game. The only thing that might have been better, as far as he was concerned, would have been if the two squads could have slugged it out in some of the ice and snow that gripped the Dallas area last week.

If Lombardi still lived, he would be 97. In a few years, if the Packers are in the Super Bowl, perhaps a big fuss will be made about the centennial of Lombardi's birth and how the Packers want to win for the occasion.

I get the sense that wouldn't matter so much to Lombardi.

But winning mattered to him. Winning isn't everything, he said. It is the only thing.

That ... and claiming the Lombardi Trophy.

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