TRIPLE CROWNS AND SUPER BOWLS

Super Bowl week is a time of great anticipation and optimism for the connections and fans of each club.  The winner is the only team left of 32 NFL franchises and it gets to hoist the coveted Lombardi Trophy.  The Lombardi Trophy is named after the Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, whose teams dominated the NFL in the 1960s and won the first two Super Bowls.  

(As an aside, the term Super Bowl was coined by the late Lamar Hunt, who was the founding owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and the father of the current owner, Clark Hunt.  Clark Hunt is the nephew of the late Nelson Bunker Hunt, who was a major figure for years in Thoroughbred racing in the United States and Europe.)

In 2003, I published an article in the Blood-Horse magazine titled “All in the Family:  Triple Crowns and Super Bowls.”  It chronicled the lives and accomplishments of James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons and Vince Lombardi and the lifetime bond between the two men. 

Fitzsimmons was born in 1874 and Lombardi in 1913.  When Lombardi was born, the Fitzsimmons and Lombardi families lived in Sheepshead Bay (in the Coney Island part of Brooklyn, New York) and they were friends.  As a result, the Irish/Catholic Sunny Jim was asked to be godfather to the Italian/Catholic Vince, which he did.

Lombardi is a legend of legends in the National Football League, similar to Notre Dame University’s Knute Rockne in college football, and Fitzsimmons is of the same stature in American Thoroughbred horse racing.  Fitzsimmons and Bob Baffert are the only individuals to have trained two Triple Crown winners.

I have always found it intriguing as well as unlikely that two of the pillars of their sports would be closely associated as godfather/godson and rise to fame from the same immigrant community in Brooklyn.  But they did.

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