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Review: HBO's 'Lombardi'

There probably hasn't been a figure in the history of the National Football League who's been the subject of more documentaries and books than coach Vince Lombardi.

Yet despite all that's been shown and said, you learn quite a few new things in Lombardi, the new feature-length documentary co-produced by HBO Sports and NFL Films. For instance, the docufilm delves somewhat deeply into the football-obsessed coach's complicated family life .

Also, following his first title-game appearance with the Green Bay Packers in 1960, Lombardi would have left town to return to his prior employer, the New York Giants, as head coach - but Green Bay wouldn't let him out of his contract.

Mainly, Lombardi paints a picture of a man who's more complicated than he's made out to be. The man who famously said that winning wasn't everything, it was the only thing, later said, "I wish to Hell I'd never said that," sportswriter Jerry Izenberg recounts in an interview. For Lombardi, it was maximum effort that mattered.

And disabuse yourself of the notion that Lombardi was a yielding taskmaster who treated everyone the same way. Numerous former players noted that he had a different way of motivating each player - tearing them down in public, then building them up privately .

Production-wise, Lombardi is your typical solid HBO Sports documentary, with some great vintage footage. Of particular note is the sound film of 1967's "Ice Bowl," with great snippets from Packers guard Jerry Kramer and Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry.

Lombardi premieres on HBO Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. (ET), 8:30 p.m. (PT).

Michael Demenchuk
Michael Demenchuk

Mike Demenchuk has served as content manager of Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News since 2016. After stints as reporter and editor at Adweek, The Bond Buyer and local papers in New Jersey, he joined the staff of Multichannel News in 1999 as assistant managing editor and has served as the cable trade publication's managing editor since 2005. He edits copy and writes headlines for both the print magazine and website, wrangles the occasional e-newsletter and reviews TV shows from time to time. He's also the guy to bother with your guest blog, Fates & Fortunes and Freeze Frame submissions.