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Bill Rubin column: Lombardi time

Bill Rubin

Coaching has changed dramatically since the Vincent Thomas "Vince" Lombardi football era in Green Bay. He was a tough-as-nails, no nonsense guy. As the late Packer Henry Jordan reportedly said, "Lombardi treats us all the same - like dogs." Lombardi's mantra was, "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." It seems scoreboards are erected at playing fields for a reason.

One thing is certain. Lombardi demanded greatness which Green Bay converted to championships. On New Year's Eve 1967, he coached the Packers to the famous Ice Bowl victory against Dallas featuring a game time temperature of minus 13 degrees. The term "wind chill" may not have been invented. Lombardi also coached the Packers to the first two Super Bowl wins in 1967 and 1968. Green Bay would win two more Super Bowls, in 1997 and 2011, but Coach Lombardi's life was cut short by cancer in 1970. Starting in 1971, the winning Super Bowl team is awarded the Lombardi Trophy. A fitting tribute.

Being punctual was part of Lombardi's coaching foundation. He insisted players and coaches arrive 15 minutes before a meeting or practice. Being on time was not good enough. Anything less was considered late. Lombardi once told a rookie, "You are eight minutes late." The rookie arrived at practice seven minutes before its start.

According to Packer lore, being 15 minutes early became known as Lombardi Time. A clock tower overlooking Lombardi Avenue was erected at Lambeau Field several years ago. It stands above one of the gates to the stadium. As a nod to Vince Lombardi, it runs 15 minutes ahead of the actual time. Diehard fans appreciate the subtle reminder of the importance a great coach placed on personal discipline.

A retired banker here in the St. Croix Valley had a practice of closing his door at the precise moment his meetings started. Not quite Lombardi Time, but those arriving late suffered the indignation akin to a walk of shame. The banker's meetings started on time. His staff got the message.

Packer fans from the far western side of the state have likely witnessed Lambeau's clock tower or heard the story of Lombardi Time. The next time a traveler or sports enthusiast is in Green Bay, see it for yourself. But don't be late for that meeting or engagement. Give Lombardi Time a try. It worked for Saint Vincent.