I worked in Green Bay back in the early 1980s, a dozen years after Vince Lombardi left to go to Washington. But his personality still loomed large around a town defined by football.
Even then, it was hard to imagine him as a real guy.
If you know nothing about the mythic character who transformed the frozen tundra into Titletown HBO's new "Lombardi" documentary is a fine way to learn about him -- and to find some humanity behind the legend.
The 90-minute film debuts at 7 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday on HBO, with many other airings on various HBO channels.
The film doesn't prevent a one-sided picture of a heroic Lombardi. It shines a harsh light on his human flaws, with his two children talking openly, and frequently emotionally, about the pressures of growing up a Lombardi.
And then there's the coach's wife, Marie, who used alcohol to deal with the pressures of life as part of Green Bay's most famous couple.
Still, what you take away from "Lombardi" is the amazing story of a man who rebuilt a broken-down NFL franchise into the powerhouse of the 1960s through the force of his amazing will.
It's presented in a way that makes facts already known to most of us seem dramatic. Its reconstruction of the 1967 "Ice Bowl" plays out as if its conclusion is still uncertain, all these decades later.
And "Lombardi" offers a clip of the coach uttering his most famous quote, in this instance, he says "Winning isn't everything, but it's the only thing."
Among those appearing on camera are Lombardi biographer David Maraniss, Green Bay-born Milwaukee Sentinel Packers reporter Bud Lea, and a number of former Packers, including Bart Starr.
The talking heads help move along a story already powered by the force of Lombardi's strong personality.
On radio: Former WTMJ-AM (620) radio voice John Jagler has made it official. He's starting Jan. 3 as communications director for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.
- Remember Erich "Mancow" Muller? He's dropped his old syndicated radio show, focusing on conservative politics, and is re-launching as "The Mancow Experience," which will talk more about the entertainment industry. He hasn't aired in Milwaukee since WLUM-FM (102.1) dropped him eight years ago.
- Clear Channel Radio has signed a deal to continue to subscribe to Arbitron's portable people meter ratings system through 2016. Clear Channel has 850 radio stations around the country, including six in Milwaukee.
- Speaking of Arbitron, the ratings company reports that there are 3.3 million more radio listeners in December 2010, as compared to December 2009. An estimated 239.8 million people 12 and older listen to radio each week, 93.2 percent of people in that group.
It really is a wonderful weekend: NBC offers one of two seasonal airings of Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" at 7 p.m. Saturday on Channel 4. It also airs in prime-time on Christmas Eve.
There was a time when the movie was all over the TV screen, but for a number of years NBC has had it to itself, making it the only black-and-white movie to air in prime time on a broadcast network.
Here's a look at one of my favorite scenes from the 1947 classic:
Speaking of NBC, "Saturday Night Live" features Paul Rudd as host this weekend, but probably more newsworthy is musical guest Paul McCartney, who lost his former writing partner 30 years ago this week.
And if you're looking for another Christmas classic, AMC begins multiple airings of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" in all its technicolor cheeziness. The first airings are at 7 and 9:45 p.m. Saturday, up against "It's a Wonderful Life."
But you can also see it Sunday night at 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. It's followed both nights at 12:30 a.m. by "Holiday Inn," the movie where the song "White Christmas" first appeared.
Here's a sample:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.