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HBO's 'Lombardi' film premieres at Lambeau, impresses Packers legends

Nov. 18, 2010
 
Packers legend Bart Starr answers questions on the red carpet before the world premiere of "Lombardi," a film by HBO Sports and NFL Films hosted in the Legends Club at Lambeau Field. / Matthew Becker/For the Press-Gazette

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Rapt silence fell over the audience who heard Vince Lombardi’s voice speaking clearly and calmly in the opening minutes of “Lombardi,” a 90-minute documentary that premiered Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

About 400 people attended the invitation-only screening and reception.

Afterward, three stars who played under the iconic Green Bay Packers coach took turns at the podium praising the HBO film and quoting Lombardi.

Jerry Kramer led applause for Joe Lavine, producer and vice president of HBO Sports, and said, “Great job. Great film A lot of wonderful memories.”

Kramer recited a section of Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden Pond” and a Lombardi speech on the will to excel.

The film gives insights into the man who “to me was bigger than life,” said Dave Robinson. He also offered a Lombardi quote on teamwork:

“Every man can be beaten, but nobody can beat the Green Bay Packers.”

For Bart Starr, to appear at the event was “very humbling.”

He recalled seeing a paperweight during a personal appearance in Oklahoma. It said “TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More.”

“Those are Lombardi’s words,” Starr said.

Before the showing, Starr spoke adamantly that attributes found in Lombardi’s character are lacking today.

“We read so much about the jackasses and misfits that I think we lose track of those who place that priority that coach Lombardi lived – God, family and others,” Starr said, substituting “others” for “the Green Bay Packers.”

Mark Murphy, president and CEO of the Packers, said the surge of attention to Lombardi through a Broadway play, the documentary and a planned ESPN movie will extend his significance.

“It really is kind of amazing when you think it was over 40 years ago that he coached here and yet his legacy is still so strong,” Murphy said. “It’s a tribute to the kind of person he was.”

The film details Lombardi’s life – and death due to cancer at age 57 in 1970 – chronologically through archive footage and numerous family members and friends.

HBO Sports had access to the vaults of NFL Films, which came into its own as Lombardi’s teams earned five titles in seven years. The film will premiere at 6 p.m. Dec. 11 on HBO.

“I’ve done a bunch of these shows in the past, and sometimes it gets frustrating that you can’t find the right footage,” Lavine said “There was so much footage of Lombardi, it was such a pleasure to work on as far as being able to tell these stories.”

The original cut was more than three hours.

“If I had my choice, it would have been longer than an hour-and-a-half,” Lavine said.

From the podium, Lavine called Lombardi “the face and backbone of the professional football.”

During an interview, he said Thursday’s event was special.

“To premiere ‘Lombardi’ at Lambeau Field – I really can’t think of anything more perfect,” Lavine said. “This is really great. This is where Vince worked. This is where he became famous. This is where Vince won so many championships, and now that HBO is able to show a film here on these very grounds is really exciting for us.”

Kramer was reflective in an interview.

“We knew he was special, and he had a really profound impact on our lives – the lessons, principles, philosophies – things we learned from him were applicable to life, to business and virtually every aspect of life,” Kramer said. “We knew we learned a great deal from him, but we didn’t realize how special he was until we got out in the real world.”

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