Commentary

Vince Lombardi and a chorus line

A staged look behind the music, behind the genesis of an NFL legend

Updated: September 27, 2010, 4:41 PM ET
By Jeff MacGregor | ESPN.com

Lombardi

With the biographical drama "Lombardi" now in previews on Broadway, it's worth mentioning a discovery made recently in the theater library at Chita Rivera State College. Way back in the stacks, in an old Capezio shoebox were found the notes and a partial manuscript for a 1975 musical comedy thought to be called "Winning Isn't Everything." (Other working titles scrawled on a series of novelty cocktail napkins suggest it might have been titled "It's The Only Thing," or "Lombardi! The Musical!" or just "Vincent.")

[+] EnlargeVince Lombardi
AP PhotoApparently, the producers were so far along with their planning that they had Vince Lombardi publicity photos ready for a press kit.

The music and lyrics were written by the late Sidney Allen Finch and the late Alan Smithee, who made their fame with their mid-'50s musical hits, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Tech?" and "Kiss Me, Kevin." After the calamitous failure of their 1971 rock musical "Buddha Was A Pretty Big Deal Too," this was to be their comeback -- but by 1977, overtaken by changing tastes and times, their Vince Lombardi show was never to be produced or even finished. The following, much of it on letterhead from the Taft Hotel in New Haven, is all that remains.

CAST:

Vince Lombardi, a football coach
Marie Lombardi, his wife
The Lombardi Children
The Ghost of Curly Lambeau
The Green Bay Packers
George Halas, another football coach
Richard Nixon, a president
Barbershop Quartet (Bob Hope, Ho Chi Minh, Henry Kissinger and U.N. Secretary-General U Thant)
Abbie Hoffman, a hippie
Angela Davis, a hippie
J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director
Joey Heatherton, cheerleader/archangel
Lola Falana, cheerleader/archangel

Finished Songs (notebook dated 10/68-6/73)

"What The Hell's Goin' On Out Here?" (An aria agitata of social unrest. Sung by Vince and Marie, accompanied by Angela Davis, Joey Heatherton and J. Edgar Hoover)

[+] EnlargeVince  Lombardi & Bart Starr
AP PhotoAnother Broadway Starr is born.

"Is Bart Starr Out Tonight?" (I Don't Know If It's Cloudy or Bright. The Jerry Kramer Curfew Song)

"We Get A Seal Here And A Seal Here! The Seaquarium Circus Song!" (sung by the Lombardi Children)

"That Golden Golden Boy Gold" (sung by Vince and Jim Taylor in the Dining Hall hazing scene that ends Act I; green cyclorama, single follow spot w/gold gel)

Paul Hornung,
I just met a boy named Paul Hornung
He played for Notre Dame
I'll never be the same,
You'll see.

Paul Hornung,
I just met a halfback named Hornung,
And suddenly I've found
These betting slips around
Our room.

Paul Hornung,
It's like hearing a brass band playing,
Say it softly it's almost like praying --
When you think of the wagers he's laying

Paul Hornung, Paul Hornung, Paul Hornung, Paul Horn-ung ...

Reprise:

Paul Hornung,
He's better than Gifford, Paul Hornung,
And suddenly I see
That power sweep
for you and me.

[+] EnlargeThurston & Hornung & McGee
AP PhotoReal Packers Fuzzy Thurston, Paul Hornung and Max McGee were to play themselves and sing, 'The Hangover of Max McGee.' Apparently, they were already in rehearsal here.

Paul Hornung,
It's like hearing a jazz band playing
Say it softly, it's almost like praying --
When you think of the waitress stewardess cheerleader

(handwritten fragment ends here.)

(On facing page of same notebook, dated 10/73):

Al, we need something to introduce the big Super Bowl/Los Angeles Coliseum/burning of Newark dance number. How about

"The Hangover of Max McGee"

There are strange things done in the desert sun
By the men who play for fame;

Whose championship trails have their secret tales
That would make your life seem tame;

And those Hollywood nights had seen queer sights,
But the drunkest they ever did see

Was the Super Bowl moon hung outside the saloon
Of Hangover Max McGee.

>Nu?

(Written on the back of two Braniff Airways ticket envelopes, ca 1968)

Song titles for which Sid has not finished lyrics:

"Winning Isn't Everything" (VINCE)

"On Second Thought, It Is" (CAST)

"I'm Gonna Make George Halas Love Me Hate Me" (VINCE)

"Black and Blue or Black and White, I Can't Do It All Alone" (BOYD DOWLER/HERB ADDERLEY)

[+] EnlargeHoover
AP PhotoAll is not well for Lombardi's Packers late in Act I, when FBI director J. Edgar Hoover takes a personal interest in Paul Hornung's off-the-field activities.

"But The Pope Told You To Punt!" (MARIE)

"What Do I Have To Give?/The Ice Bowl Cometh" (MARIE/VINCE)

"Luck Be Fuzzy Thurston Tonight" (WILLIE WOOD)

"... And The Horse You Rode In On, Landry" (VINCE)

"Thank God Ronald Reagan Will Never Be President" (RICHARD NIXON and CAST)

"I Hope This Concussion Will Help Me Forget You" (RAY NITSCHKE love song to begin Act II)

ACT II, SCENE 2, LOMBARDI BEDROOM, NIGHT

THE GHOST OF CURLY LAMBEAU comes to VINCE to predict the future of NFL football. He hovers at the foot of the bed as MARIE sleeps and VINCE draws up plays in a notebook.

CURLY: Mark me!
My hour is almost come
When I to sulph'rous and tormenting flames must render up myself,
Pity me not but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.

VINCE: What?

CURLY: The ghost of Hamlet's father ... y'know ... from Shakespeare?

VINCE: How'd you even get in here?

CURLY: It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!

VINCE: I'm really not following. What?

CURLY: I was doing Marley's Ghost from "A Christmas Carol." Charles Dickens?

VINCE: You lost me again. Am I gonna have to call the cops?

[+] EnlargeLambeau
AP PhotoThe ghost of Curly Lambeau would have sent chills through theater-goers. It's called dramatic tension.

CURLY: It's a warning. A warning about the perils of greed and ambition and obsession and whatnot ... "I wear the yardage chain I forged in life, I made it link by link ..."

VINCE: Can you pipe down while I diagram these plays, at least? We have a big game against the Lions Sunday.

CURLY: The Ghost Of Football Future will get a huge kick out of that. Huge. 'Big game' and 'Lions' in the same sentence ... hysterical!

"Diagram these plays?" What's to diagram? You point your fattest guys at their fattest guys and hope they knock each other down. Then your speediest little guy runs past everyone with the ball. It's not rocket science.

VINCE [not looking up]: Mmm-hmmm.

CURLY: Which brings me to why I'm here.

Half a century from now, NFL football will be an American institution as venerated as any business or branch of government or church or school. More. It'll mean more to more people than you can possibly imagine. On Sundays in the fall, watching football on TV will be more popular than sex. At least among Americans who are very, very bad at sex.

And those Americans will treat football as if it IS rocket science, and respect it like nothing devised by humanity before or since, and they will believe that nothing in history has ever been more complex, or required more expertise or analysis or attention, than professional football.

By the year 2010, if they had spent as much collective national brain power on space travel as they had on the Wildcat offense and the Cover 4 and what it all means, they could have colonized Mars.

VINCE: Mmm-hmmm.

[+] EnlargeVince Lombardi
AP PhotoThe late-night visit from Curly's ghost might have foretold the future of Lombardi and Super Bowl I.

CURLY: Anyway, it will move tens of billions of dollars through our economy, and move every American heart. And for the price of your immortal soul, I'm prepared to make YOU the most beloved man in America's most beloved game.

But in exchange you'll have to give everything to the NFL. Everything. All your passion and devotion and fire, all your love and affection. All your faith and desire and strength. Your future. Your past. Everything. There won't be anything left for you or your family. The game will eat you alive, but the game will allow to you live forever. You'll be the undying example of everything NFL football stands for. They'll even name the trophy after you.

But be well-warned, my friend, the price of that eternal fame is as high as your own infinite soul. Faust found that out.

Is it a deal?

VINCE: What? I wasn't really tracking what you were saying. Deal? A deal like Gerry Faust got?

CURLY: Whatever.

(fragment ends)

Act II, SCENE 3 (lost)

ACT II, SCENE 4, FIRE ESCAPE IN MOONLIGHT

VINCE now sits and looks wistfully up to the stars above. Below him in the alley, the taxi squad chorus, in uniforms, helmets and eye black, stands among the trash cans.

[+] EnlargeLola Falana
AP PhotoLola Falana was to play a pair of roles in the temptation (and ultimate salvation) of Lombardi's partying players.

(VINCE, spoken/sung in the manner of Rex Harrison)
When I was just a little squirt
Drawing up plays in the schoolyard dirt
It struck me then that strategy was hard.

That thinking through attacks and feints
Was like da Vinci at his paints
And calling plays was something for the Bard.

(CHORUS)
Nothing in the world is harder than foot-ball!
Not calculus, not algebra, not math.
Nothing in the world is harder than foot-ball
Not Eliot, not Baudelaire, not Plath!

(VINCE)
Wing Right, Slot Right, 42 Go!
Is a recipe for complication, don't you know?
Like E to the M to the MC squared,
For quantum jumps or back-side traps you need to be prepared!

(CHORUS)
Nothing in the world is harder than foot-ball!
Not physics, not calligraphy, not war.
Nothing in the world is harder than foot-ball!
Not surgery or sorcery, neither/nor!

(VINCE)
So I clung to my dreams and to my ambitions,
And I clung to my playbooks through 30 editions,

[silhouette of MARIE LOMBARDI rises on the moon above the fire escape. Next four chords ascend power-ballad style.]

And I did it for love and I did it for money
And I did it for you and for me, honey.

(CHORUS)
Nothing in the world is harder than foot-ball!
Nothing in the world is harder than that!
Nothing in the world is harder than foot-ball!
On top of which you wear this plastic hat!

[+] EnlargeVince Lombardi
AP PhotoEvery good musical needs an 'upbeat' finish, right? Here's how the late Sid Finch had his scripted.

[Taxi squad all tap helmets with fists and begin soft-shoe. Buck 'n shuffle ... scoop ... buck 'n' shuffle ... scoop ... Suzy-Q ... Suzy-Q ... buck 'n' shuffle ... scoop]

(VINCE)
Foot-ball is a game for every-body,
Foot-ball is a game you can't play a-lone.
Its complications feed your mind and spir-it,
Football is like chess for the over-grown!

(CHORUS)
Nothing in the world is harder than foot-ball!
Not governance or medicine or law,
Nothing in the world is harder than foot-ball!
In fact, the complication's half the draw!

(VINCE)
The other half's the violence
Of hyperthyroid malcontents,
The lure remains the same
Throughout the game!

To use your brain extensively
To earn your pay expensively
To injure, murder, hurt and ruin and maim!

[ALL EXIT DOWNSTAGE LEFT, HIGH-KICKING. VINCE CLIMBS BACK INSIDE AND SLIDES THE WINDOW CLOSED. LIGHTS TO BLACK. Act II CURTAIN]

© Chita Rivera State College all rights reserved 2010

Sadly, the rest of what might have become "Lombardi! The Musical!" is lost to us forever.

Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. You can e-mail him at jeff_macgregor@hotmail.com, or follow his Twitter.com feed @MacGregorESPN.

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