For a while I have been involved with the upcoming dramatic play Lombardi, which producers Tony Ponturo and Fran Kirmser will bring to Broadway in November. The play is based on the best-selling book “When Pride Still Mattered” by Pultizer Prize-winning author David Maraniss, and is going to be a very intriguing mix of dramatic theater and the story of an amazing and engaging personality. However Lombardi the play will not be alone. HBO is working on a documentary on the career of the legendary coach and leader, and this week, a movie project was revived, now with ESPN involved, that will debut in 2012 starring Robert De Niro as Lombardi. All three projects will have a different take…the film will concentrate more on the players and the glory fo the game, the documentary will recount the facts of his life through the eyes of those who knew him and the play will really tell a larger story about the ups and downs of a mercurial figure who overcame some early setbacks to be a success.
However why all these efforts and why no.? The answer is really pretty simple. We live in very challenging times these days, where perhaps leadership is constantly coming into question with all the challenges we face. Sports is particularly under fire these days, as the 24/7 news cycle has the media looking for more and more content not just about on-field goings-on, but about all the off-field antics of athletes and coaches that in days gone by were dwarfed in comparison to the coverage that onfield efforts were given. Lombardi…the story of overcoming success through hard work by a man who had his challenges and made his sacrifices…is a story which appeals to all, not just to football fans or Packers fans or those who like great nostalgic film of the NFL. It is also a story of leadership for a generation that may know the name but not really the story, which will give the vehicles…theater, TV and the big screen…and opportunity to both re-introduce the story to a new audience and to unite an older generation hearing a fresh telling of the story with a younger group which may be looking more for leadership and direction now than ever before. It is not a perfect story built on legend…it is a successful story based on adversity. So are three efforts about the same “person” too muc.? Well if one looks at the way each is being told, and all at different times and to varied audiences not really. Their timing is also staggered, which can probably give each the ability to enhance the other, and the shelf life of a quality theater drama could outlast the two other efforts as well. In short, the Lombardi story is timeless in a time when we need to be given a chance to be introduced again to a powerful figure who found a way to lead. Too much Lombardi on the horizo.? Maybe not enough.