In this socially-adroit biography Maraniss confronts the flawed architecture of mid-century America. Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers football coach and son of southern Italian immigrants, propels a narrative that scrutinizes the price of success. The title is partly ironic, referring to a cheating scandal among West Point football players in 1951, where Lombardi was an assistant coach. Pride was thought (inaccurately) to matter above all else. “History,” writes Maraniss, “has a way of mocking attempts to render it retroactively pure.”
Lombardi’s hard progession into myth — he was by turn obsessive, spiritual, sentimental, and meanly uncompromising — is generously told. Here was a national idol in a country inclined to worship only military commanders. In a time of bigots, he refused to ostracize gays or blacks. Sports aside, this is American history at its most dynamic.