FDL Reads celebrates Coach Lombardi

He was a perfectionist who expected as much out of his players and his family as he expected from himself. He was a complicated man from simple origins, the son of an Italian butcher who grew up in Brooklyn. He was a good player, hardnosed and hard working, but at 5’8,” too small for big-time football, so he turned to coaching. His perfectionism became an obsession with winning.

It’s hard to imagine now – with today’s Packers an NFL powerhouse – but when Vince Lombardi first arrived at backwater Green Bay in 1959, the team was in shambles. The turnaround he engineered was so swift and sure that during his eight years with the team, the Packers won five championships and two Super Bowls.

Author David Maraniss tells the compelling story of Lombardi’s life and rise to greatness in the Fond du Lac Reads selection for October, “When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi.”

Fond du Lac Reads is an annual program at the Fond du Lac Public Library that focuses on one title and encourages the community to read and discuss that book. Dozens of copies of “When Pride Still Mattered,” are available now for borrowing. Throughout October, the library will host special events to celebrate the book, including an appearance by Maraniss at the Windhover Center for the Arts on October 13. The author will be present at a special reception at 6 p.m. (tickets are $5) and at a free presentation at 7 p.m.

“When Pride Still Mattered” has been a hit with critics and readers since its publication in 1999. BookList wrote: “This is a carefully researched, often poignant, three-dimensional biography. In an era where image is usually synonymous with illusion, it is refreshing to realize that Lombardi, whose private and public selves were so similar, was a man of substance and depth.” Sports Illustrated wrote, “(The book) forges a near-perfect synthesis of fine writing and fascinating material. May be the best sports biography ever published.”

Maraniss, an associate editor at The Washington Post, was born and raised in Madison and attended UW-Madison. He won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting in 1993 for newspaper coverage of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. He also was part of The Washington Post team that won a 2008 Pulitzer for the newspaper's coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. Maraniss is the author of eight books, including “First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton,” “They Marched into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, 1967” and “Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero.” He’s currently finishing a biography of Barack Obama, “Man of the World,” scheduled for publication in spring 2012.

“When Pride Still Mattered” has been adapted into a critically acclaimed Broadway play, “Lombardi,” which comes to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater October 11 through November 13.

Details about the events for Fond du Lac Reads: “When Pride Still Mattered” are available on the Calendar or by calling the library at (920) 929-7080, ext. 131.

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