A fair-minded, intelligent, thoroughly researched biography of the great Green Bay Packer football coach. O'Brien, an academic historian, compiles mountains of readings and interviews both to build and to interrogate the Lombardi myth. A long childhood section attempts to show that Lombardi's legendary blend of militaristic gamesmanship and monastic devotion to football were the inherited characteristics of a feisty immigrant background and a pious Catholic upbringing. Indeed, Lombardi gradually emerges here as part Douglas MacArthur, part St. Francis, a man whose volatile fusion of egotism and religious passion kept him alternately towering over the violent world of professional football and bowing humbly before God. To reconcile the two, O'Brien shows, Lombardi simply used football as a metaphor for life, winning converts and games like no other sports coach before him. The author's facts are thus effusive. Packer players recall Lombardi as brilliant and domineering, but also one who wept in victory, refused to countenance racial intolerance, and who at times, under self-imposed standards of excellence, feared for his own sanity. While he was alive, Lombardi's fame earned him a private audience with Pope John, a platform in American politics, and outlandish adoration (one player here compares him to Gandhi). But to his credit, O'Brien never indulges in hagiography or a fan's jargon--only his research is occasionally unrestrained. In sum, then, an excellent book of its kind.