Monday, February 01, 2010

Lombardi blogging

There was a 1973 made-for-TV bio of Vince Lombardi, Legend In Granite, starring Ernest Borgnine. There is a scene when Lombardi is in his first training camp as the newly-hired coach of the woefully bad, underachieving Green Bay Packers. Lombardi has been brought in to instill discipline and get back to fundamentals, and in his first team meeting holds up a pigskin and intones, solemn as the grave, "Gentlemen, this is a football."

One of the players, Paul Hornung probably, pipes up: "Slow down, coach, you're going too fast," and Lombardi struggles to look mad but finally breaks down laughing, the whole room full of players cracks up, the tension is lowered and male bonding ensues. The players begin to see that in Lombardi there is love beneath the sadism; he bullies because he cares. A well-crafted piece of sports hagiography, this film.

But I'm thinking Coach Lombardi probably never used the "this is a football" line again, it was just too ridiculous.

Why do I mention this today? Via Atrios: The Federal Reserve has created an online training resource for new bank directors. The need for this is that some people are appointed to bank boards knowing very, very little about banks. From the Fed website:

The legendary Green Bay Packers football coach, Vince Lombardi, recognized the importance of teaching basics to his players. Even after winning championships and being surrounded by future Hall-of-Fame players, Lombardi had a tradition of beginning every preseason training camp the same way. He stood before his players, football in hand, and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He assumed his players were a blank slate at the beginning of each season. With that in mind, we begin with the basic discussion, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a bank.”

Suffice it to say, this is an analogy that is botched in a revealing way. Our banks are far from being champions -- at this point they are underachieving failures. But the Fed's approach here does not fill one with optimism. As a general observation, when Vince Lombardi is invoked to make a point about leadership in this day and age, little good can come of it.

Man, Ernest Borgnine's IMDB page is a trip. I never thought about it, but Ernest is Italian himself (originally Borgnino -- man, he needed either to change his name more drastically or not at all) and darn near as old as Lombardi, who died in 1970! This is one of those pairings of actor to non-fiction role that was destined to be, like Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain, or Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl. I'm a little bummed that IMDB will no longer show the full cast and crew of an old program like Legend In Granite unless you register for IMDB Pro. For people who enjoy aimlessly browsing the cast lists of unremarkable made-for-TV films from the 70s, this is a shame.