D'Amato: For Lombardi Jr., dad's memorabilia just stuff
One would think that parting with items owned or used by his father would be difficult for Vince Lombardi Jr.
Packers fans treat such items — anything the iconic coach signed, wore or used in the 1960s — with reverence, standing in awed silence in front of displays at the Packers and pro football halls of fame.
The coach’s son feels no such sentimentality. He doesn’t wax nostalgic when he looks at objects associated with his father. Maybe it’s just the way he’s wired. Possibly it’s because the '60s were not one big wondrous joyride for him.
Lombardi had a complicated relationship with his father. The great coach was hard on him, brutally so at times, and the son carried the burden of a name he could not possibly live up to. Does he wish, in hindsight, that his parents had named him Tom or Bill or Bob — anything but Vince Jr.?
“You know, there certainly was a time that, yes, I felt that way,” he said. “It’s a mixed bag, pluses and minuses. If you’d have told me at 16 how it was all going to play out, I’d have signed up for it.”
Lombardi had some things associated with his father that have been sitting for decades in a safe-deposit box. Mostly, that’s what they are to him. Things.
“Collecting dust,” he said.
So he decided to consign them to SCP Auctions, which specializes in sports cards and memorabilia.
The winter premier auction, which ends at 7 p.m. Saturday, includes the coach’s 1956 New York Giants world champions ring, hand-written playbook notes and a 1961 congratulatory telegram from President John F. Kennedy.
“With exception of the Giants championship ring, it didn’t mean much to me,” Lombardi said. “I don’t really have any emotional attachment to them, except for the Giants ring. I was a water boy and ball boy for all that time.”
By the time his father was named head coach of the Packers in 1959, Lombardi was a junior in high school. He didn’t spend a lot of time in Green Bay and talks about his time there with a cool detachment, leaving the distinct impression that sometimes he couldn’t get far enough away.
“I never spent a whole lot of time in Green Bay,” he said. “I lived there a year and a half (before attending the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., where he played NAIA football far from the Titletown limelight).
“I watched most of the Packers’ success from afar,” he added. “I have a lot of nice memories, but it’s not like I grew up there.”
Bidding on the items he consigned to SCP Auctions is going well. As of Tuesday night, the winning bid on the Giants ring was $13,310. A Patek Philippe wristwatch presented to the coach on “George Halas Night” in 1968 had a high bid of $5,180 and the JFK telegram was at $2,950.
It’s not like Lombardi, 74, needs the money.
He splits time between his residences in Seattle and Tucson, Ariz. Before he retired four years ago he was a motivational speaker, and before that he practiced law, was a Minnesota state legislator and was an assistant to the general manager for the Seattle Seahawks. He also was a labor negotiator for the NFL and was president and general manager of two United States Football League teams.
His father’s estate and numerous licensing agreements likely provide a steady income. So why not donate the items to the Packers Hall of Fame?
“I think the Packers hall, they don’t need more stuff — just my opinion,” he said. “I’m kind of curious to see what kind of interest there is in these things among collectors.”
Will he consign more items in the future?
“No,” he said. “The only other things I have are the Super Bowl rings.”
Lombardi isn’t sure when he last visited Green Bay but thinks it was for a game against the Saints in 2012. He pulls for the Packers to win, but it’s not like he obsesses about the team his father coached to five NFL titles. He’s not particularly close to any of the '60s players, though he has stayed in touch with Jerry Kramer.
“My son (Joe) coaches for the Saints,” he said. “I’ve worked for Seattle. I still want the Packers to win, but there are other teams I follow.”
And what would his father think of the 2016 Packers, headed to the NFC championship game in Atlanta?
“My dad certainly would like the way the Packers are playing,” he said. “I think he’d scratch his head in terms of how the game is played and I’m not sure he’d like all the changes.
“I don’t know. He’d be 100-some years old (103). He probably wouldn’t give a rip.”