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Friday, February 4, 2011

Vince Lombardi Lived Here

667 Sunset Circle in Green Bay. A great story over at ESPN.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A minor religion has sprung up around the modest brick house at 667 Sunset Circle. It has nothing to do with the family that's lived there for the past four decades, and little to do with the football coach who lived there before them, at least not with the actual man. That doesn't matter. Religions have always been more about faith than facts, and so pilgrims have driven past since the Gehrings first bought the house in 1969, slowing to genuflect as they approach, sometimes stopping to plead for a tour of this holy place.
Like this car, the one turning onto the street now, also slowing, also easing to a stop. Among the middle-aged women inside, a debate rages. One woman begs her friend to knock on the door, to go inside as she has thousands of times before. The woman even tries to pull her friend out of the car.
But Susan Lombardi can't bring herself to walk up to the house.
She cannot take the dozen or so steps to the porch of her childhood home. When she looks at the front door, she doesn't see the legend that's sprung up since her daddy died. She remembers what actually happened, the good and the bad, and she shudders at some memories and smiles at others. The house is just too … too real for her. Still, her friends egg her on.
"Go knock," they tell her.
"I can't," she says.

The pilgrims

Vince Lombardi's daughter is one of the few people on earth who hears his name and pictures a human being. For most, he's an idea and an ideal, a figure frozen in bronze. Sunday, fans posed for pictures with the enormous Lombardi monument outside Lambeau Field. Usually, the phrase "life-sized" denotes something special. As in: This man was so important, we made a statue in his exact image. But life-sized apparently isn't big enough for football's most celebrated and worshipped coach. The bronze Lombardi is almost three actual Lombardis tall.
Inside the stadium, others browsed the Packers Hall of Fame. On the left is the Lombardi exhibit, featuring his office, the wooden desk; his chair green, the others yellow. His famous sayings in big letters cover the walls. The story of his life can be nicely summed up by this one: Lombardi was more than a football coach; he was a man who set an example of how to live.
.....
But some of the house is exactly the same. The television room has the original wood paneling and view of the screened-in porch. This is why people come, fathers from Oklahoma and famous announcers alike.
"Andy, who was that man?" Katie asks.
"John Madden," he says.
When it comes to worshipping at the altar of Lombardi, Madden is just one of the madding crowd. When the Packers were in the Super Bowl with Favre, he came to broadcast from the house. In his wake: two semis and the Madden Cruiser. Madden told the Gehrings, "If you ever want to sell the house, call me."
Madden liked all of the house, sure, but one room called to him most insistently. He walked through the kitchen, took a left, then a quick right, and hurried down the stairs to the basement, the famous rec room, where Lombardi set up his projector, where he mixed Cutty Sark and water for friends after games...

This is where the myth still lives

If you walk down the stairs, you'll feel it. Most of the room is filled with 40 years of the Gehrings. But the right corner, the first thing in view, is unchanged. The swinging saloon doors are propped open. The bar has a modern '50s slant. The air feels heavy with something. The turquoise-backed stools are the originals. The chrome handle remains on Lombardi's yellow fridge, tucked into the small closet. The lime-green beer opener is still bolted to the bar, veins of rust running along its edges. The sink, the shelves, the view, Lombardi's view, out into the rest of the room -- all as they were. You can almost see the men in ties, the women in dresses, the crowd moving in circles, everyone angling for a moment with the coach...

This is where the myth still lives

If you walk down the stairs, you'll feel it. Most of the room is filled with 40 years of the Gehrings. But the right corner, the first thing in view, is unchanged. The swinging saloon doors are propped open. The bar has a modern '50s slant. The air feels heavy with something. The turquoise-backed stools are the originals. The chrome handle remains on Lombardi's yellow fridge, tucked into the small closet. The lime-green beer opener is still bolted to the bar, veins of rust running along its edges. The sink, the shelves, the view, Lombardi's view, out into the rest of the room -- all as they were. You can almost see the men in ties, the women in dresses, the crowd moving in circles, everyone angling for a moment with the coach...

In the end, more than just a coach

Snow has piled up in the front yard of 667 Sunset Circle. There's a Green Bay Packers banner out front. The Fox River is frozen not far from the yard. Right now the street is quiet, but the searchers will be here soon, driving past, looking for something. They might come this week, inspired by the Super Bowl. They might wait until the offseason, or before a game next fall. They will stop for pictures, and a few will knock, and Katie and Andy Gehring will answer with good humor. A lucky few, drawn by the myth, will walk down the stairs into the rec room and try to feel the spirit of Lombardi.
And what of the reality? There are two people who have never come back inside: Vince Lombardi Jr. and Susan Lombardi. Not long ago, Vince Jr. actually cruised past the house with an old friend from Green Bay. So much has changed. "Without his help," Vince Jr. says, "I might have had a tough time finding it."
Susan has driven past, too, reluctantly, mostly to please various friends. "Twice, I stopped," she says. "I said, 'I can't do it.' I think I don't want to. Going downstairs to the basement, it would do me in. I don't think I could handle it. I lived there for so long. I lived a life, at the time, that I hated. Now I'm turning 64 and a long time ago, I realized that I lived the most wonderful life any young girl could have lived."
To fans, the house represents something that will never change, never go away. To Susan, it represents the coach-sized hole in her life. She sees the outside and goes away someplace, remembering the light and the dark. She understands her father now, and the things that drove him. She wishes she'd understood then.
"I guess that's why I don't go in," she says. "When the Packers went to the Super Bowl with Brett and John Madden, doing his whole show out of the basement, I barely could watch it. I said, 'You can't be there. I'm supposed to be there.'"
She's quiet now.
Finally, she says, "I wish my daddy was alive.
"And I don't mean Vince Lombardi," she says, crying.

17 comments :

Anonymous said...

How pathetic.

So some football guy lived there, so what?

He also shit it that toilet, should all the pilgrims drink from it?

Its just a stupid, foolish game, people.
Why people hold a silly game in such high esteem is a mystery to me.
Hey, my house was occupied by the best lawn dart player in the world but no one seems to care. I can't understand it.

Mlamb said...

GREAT story thanks for sharing it!It's a story about life not football....Please excuse the "Hater" from "Anonomous" what a coward, please put yourself out of your own misery.

Anonymous said...

I understand it.

I'm enveloped within the "mystery".

For some people as yourself, it's only a stupid, foolish game.

For many others, it's much more than just a game.

Growing up in Wisconsin, and amongst Packer fans, you have a lifetime of fond memories that have their roots in this game. First fueled when as a youngster, you would watch the ever changing expressions on the faces of those closest to you as they gathered around the television. Memories that mean much more to me, as my 4 year old grand daughter sits on my lap, and knows exactly when to say "go Pack go".

You never forget those times as a teenager, when during half time breaks you would run out into the yard, football in hand, and with family members recreate the moments you just watched. Memories that mean so much more to me as I play football with my brother and nephews in their beautiful backyard when I get back home to Wisconsin.

One never forgets the tension. A tension that binds and builds when during the closing moments of the game, you watch as a brilliantly thrown pass spirals down the field, and into the outstretched hands of the receiver amongst a swarm of defenders. And then it happens. The tension explodes into an incredible celebration of joy. Joy accompanied with an overwhelming sense of gratitude as you watch your team walk off the field a winner.

One never forgets how that same tension can also releases a pain not unlike grief, when that same well thrown pass slips through the fingers of it's intended target, and you share with many, the heavy heart that comes with defeat...

Yeah, it's only a game, but in that game, one does learn about life - if you so choose. You learn that for all of our differences, for three hours on a given Sunday, people from all walks of life stand united in their support of the Green Bay Packers. You learn how gracious behavior in both victory and defeat carries with it a seasoning that tastes better every year. You learn that being a sore loser carries with it a bitterness that erodes character. You learn that this game does, in many ways, unites more than it divides.

As an adult, I've found that this stupid and foolish game brings family and friends together, as phone calls made to parents, siblings and daughters do increase during the football season. Sure, you start out talking about the Packers, but then the conversation moves into the more important stuff of life.

This game brings me delight while I read what my brother has posted on this blog about our beloved Packers, and the trash talk that comes with it.

As a Packer fan, I've found that this silly game has in many ways, given our family memories to share, memories forever etched into your heart, and as I think of these memories, it feels like the times when I take a glimpse into an old photo album.

It's a game that in many ways represents a grown up fairy tale, with stadiums replacing castles, quarterbacks are the princes, running backs become knights, coaches the magicians, and victory the princess... After all, I would like to believe that we're still all kids at heart.

You need to lighten up, and by the way, I'm sure some people do care about that champion lawn dart player that used to live at your house. Most likely was that individuals family. Which, by the way, it what this silly game really does thrive on - the spirit of the family.

Peeler

Anonymous said...

Peeler "owned" the anonymous troll that started this thread

Anonymous said...

O, great story, Peeler. Sell it to readers digest.

Why would you feel tension or joy over something that means nothing to you or your family?

You just put importance on certain events and none on others. I've always felt its more about following the crowd. If you were in another country, you would be fanatical about soccer. If you lived 2k years ago, you would be one of those idiots who would drink the sweat from their favorite gladiator ( or so they thought. No doubt suckers like you would have drank some goat piss if you thought your guy sweated it out lol )

Just another sheep following the glory of the day.

Anonymous said...

O, by the way, about " lighening up" tell that to people going to the toilet that Vince shit in like its some kind of shrine.

And you might want to say that to the guys who feel tension and "pain" as you say over a group of guys playing a kids game.

And maybe the same advise for yourself when you paint your face the team colors and don a cheese looking hat.
You people are scary silly, really.

Palmoni said...

The internet has good and bad. Funny how the anonymous posters are like Reddit haters. No life, nothing good to say--always hating, always cynical, and always bearish.

And half of the time, if they weren't allowed to spew their negative crap on a website, they would end up going postal somewhere else.

You don't like football? You don't like the SuperBowl? Big deal.

The rest of the country does.

Why would you?

trolls don't like to be out in the open!

Anonymous said...

Ahh, now they resort to the "hater" claim. Its a typical response to someone who disagrees with the O.P. An attempt to silence discent.

As for getting a life, I have a very good one. I'll remind you that I'm not the one living vicariously through some ball player, feeling pain and joy over someone elses accomplishments.

And just a side note, don't wear a shirt with someone elses name on the back. You're not that quarterback.
Really, get a life of your own.

Anonymous said...

You don't get it. People like Lombardi because he didn't cheat on his wife, he didn't cheat at hard work, and he didn't cheat with his players. He treated them all the same like dogs. No shortcuts and everything was earned. He also didn't cheat God going to Mass every day. So now on the greatest and biggest sporting event the super bowl it's the Lombardi trophy.

Fans like the packers because they understand the roots of the team. Unlike most jobs, you need to earn a spot on a football team. Fans are a throwback to the era where you earned things. I don't know who will be wearing what or the jerseys but football isn't a vicarious game where older men and younger boys relive dreams in the past or the future- but it's way closer to what Peeler says

And if some don't get it it just means they just don't get life

Anonymous said...

So non believers in sports, like me, don't get life??

We had no idea that lombardi was / is some kind of saint and this silly game is some kind of higher authority event we are unable to understand.

Get real. I think lombardi's halo is blinding you.

Anonymous said...

2000 years ago Peeler might have been happily drinking piss, but it seems like 2000 years ago you would have been just as miserable etching anonymous comments on Roman architecture.

Anonymous said...

I think it's cool that this house was occupied by Vince Lombardi! The Super Bowl Trophy has his name on it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, if stories like this one on Lombardi's Green Bay house are disagreeable with you then why bother reading it and posting about it? All you did was waste your time pontificating to a flock who could care less what you think and you won't win any converts. As for dipping a cup into the coach's toilet bowl, you are the only person who thought of that and that is quiet telling.

Mr. Gotcha

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gotcha made the observation I immediately thought. The Anonymous troller was the one who resorted to the "toilet" analogy, which pretty much tells you where his mind is.

But my other point is, and I'm not trying to make this into a political thing, but the Anonymous troller has to be a hardened liberal. Now please hear me out. I'm not saying a liberal-progressive can't understand the "life meaning and significance" of this story about Coach Lombardi and his home - because most would. But I am saying you would "never" hear a person of conservative values and principles talk as he did. I don't know of any conservatives who are "angry at life" as this guy comes across. In fact, it's only the extremist liberal-progressives who think as he does and sees life in such a perspective. They are "mad at the world" for something not right in their own lives.

And I'll counter to his comment about "so non believers in sports, like me, don't get life"??? To that I say "no, you don't!" Because if you "got life" then you wouldn't have wasted as much of your life as you did writing all these useless and worthless comments. But, like I said, that is so typical of an angry, liberal-progressive who feels "his" angry disposition with life must be told to the rest of the world so everyone can know what he thinks and should somehow acknowledge his superior intellect because he can draw an analogy between people respecting the life of a football coach to that of drinking water or piss out of a toilet. Nuff said.

Guy

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