By Amanda Korba
Three cast members of “Lombardi,” a new play on Broadway about the Hall of Fame football coach of the same name, all have a very special connection—the sport of tennis.
Keith Nobbs, who plays young journalist Michael McCormick, is simply a tennis fanatic. The native New Yorker first attended the US Open in 2003 and instantly became hooked after watching Andy Roddick and action on the outer courts.
“I was fascinated,” Nobbs says. “I couldn’t believe how close you could get and see these battles with players digging in their heels. It is something special.”
Chris Sullivan, who portrays Green Bay Packers fullback Jim Taylor, played USTA Jr. Team Tennis and developed into a junior standout in California. Upon receiving a tennis scholarship, Sullivan became injured and pursued acting instead.
“My two dreams were to make it as a professional tennis player or as a professional actor,” Sullivan says. “Walking away from 12 years of work [on tennis] was definitely a hard decision.”
Acclaimed actress Judith Light, who plays Vince Lombardi’s wife, Marie, and is best known for her work on television’s “Who’s the Boss?” and “Ugly Betty,” also shares an affinity for the sport. An avid recreational player, Light met up with Billie Jean King at a New York Sportimes World TeamTennis event this past summer.
“I have loved tennis all my life, from the athleticism of the pros to the great skills it teaches as a life sport,” Light says.
Tennis can be described as a singular profession requiring raw talent and strong concentration to perform at the optimal level. Nobbs recognizes a parallel to his own profession, noting that he can learn a lot from his favorite tennis players on the court.
“It doesn’t matter if you are the top athlete or actor in the world,” Nobbs says. “Your job is based on your performance. “You can be [Rafael] Nadal and No. 1, but you still have to show up each day and prove yourself. On the stage, every night you have to perform for another set of eyes and ears.”
LOMBARDI is scheduled to run on Broadway through February 2011 at the Circle in the Square Theatre in Manhattan.