Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lombardi in Hollywood

Not long ago, we decided to view the 1968 film Paper Lion, which is based upon the 1966 book by George Plimpton. The author had become known for participating in sporting events in order to write about the experience from the “inside.” In doing a series of articles on pro football, Plimpton set out to imbed himself as a rookie free-agent quarterback (and a 36-year-old one at that) on an actual N.F.L. franchise.

The film’s title screen as Alan Alda, later of M*A*S*H fame, played author George Plimpton.

And now we’re getting to the point of why we’re featuring this subject on our blog post today. See the listing above of “actors” who were “featured” in this film.

Plimpton (Alda) goes to see Vince Lombardi (playing himself), to inquire about playing for his team to help him write the article. Here is the dialogue of that scene:

Lombardi: (Laughing) “Pro football from the inside. Is that what you really want, George?”

Plimpton: “That’s the idea, coach.”

Lombardi: “In other words, you want the fans to get a real good look at the head-knocking, the training, etc., that goes into making of a professional football team.”

Plimpton: “That’s it! And then at the end, I go into a real game and run off a few plays at quarterback.”

Lombardi: (laughing, surprised) “A real game? You’ve got to be kidding!

Plimpton: “No! That’s what the whole thing is leading to!”

Lombardi: “And you mean to tell me that you went three rounds with Sugar Ray Robinson? Pitched to the All-Stars, huh? Well, I will say it’s an interesting idea, a real interesting idea.”

Lombardi: (Continuing) But you know, George, we carry four quarterbacks now. And to ask us to carry five, I think that would be a real headache. I just don’t think it will work.”

Plimpton shrugs and smiles in defeat, and gets up to leave. Lombardi opens the office door to let let Plimpton out, and the meeting is over.

Lombardi: “Have you tried the A.F.L.?”

Plimpton gives him a frustrated look and leaves.

The setting is not decorated to appear as his office in Green Bay (where he was still the general manager after stepping down as head coach), as the football artwork, etc. is non-descript, except for the painting in the waiting room we glimpse as Plimpton leaves. It looks a bit like it might be Bart Starr.

Shortly after, there is a scene with Frank Gifford, where Plimpton asks him to help him get “in” with the Giants, but no go. Finally, Plimpton is given the “O.K.” by the Detroit Lions (see below).

It’s not Academy Award material, but it’s interesting from a 1960’s football standpoint. For those of you who have NetFlix, it can be watched online. Happy viewing.