This is the text for part two of my Hall of Fame report. Jump to my blog to see the pictures. No offense, I was just too lazy to post them twice! Enjoy! (http://diaryofaplayoffbeard.blogspot.com/)
Day Two of my Hall of Fame trip started off slow. I was so wired from the Enshrinement Ceremony that, when we got back to my cousin's house, there was no way I was going to bed. We recorded the ceremony so I watched most of the speeches again, with extensive commentary. When everyone else went to bed, I borrowed computer time to write about the event while it was still fresh.
We all slept in on Sunday and decided not to visit the Hall this year. I wish I had sucked it up and went over for an hour or two. The HOF is such a cool place. You never see everything in one trip and the staff is always updating things so a trip is always worthwhile. If nothing else, they have a great gift shop and you can pick up something for your favorite Steelers fan. They sell other team's stuff, too, though I don't know why. I will add a HOF visit back to the agenda for next year.
The next event is usually the highlight of the trip even though that Enshrinement ceremony would be pretty hard to top. Let me set the stage. Nearly 700,000 people visited Canton during the festivities. Canton really, and I mean really, goes all out for this event, hosting 18 different events over 11 days. This includes concerts, parades, a rib cook-off, a fashion show, fireworks and more. The Enshrinees Roundtable is held in the Canton Memorial Civic Center and is broken into three sections. If you have the general admission-type tickets, you have lunch in one of the meeting areas, then come into the big hall for the roundtable. My cousin and some very cool friends managed to score a table in the main hall. Now we have our own "season tickets" to the roundtable. We keep the same table every year. Ricky Jackson's family was supposed to sit at the table next to us but must have left early. Sitting next to an Enshrinee's family would be wild. Maybe next year!
In the main hall, you eat lunch with the Enshrinees and their presenters. We can take pictures of the stars but are not supposed to ask for autographs or harass them while they eat. That sounded like a good rule, so we just basked in the glow of our heroes. Each table has a commemorative Fotoball with the Enshrinees pictures that one person gets to keep. The people we share the table with won two years in a row. We were a little disappointed and teased them about collusion but I know that I used up all my luck when I scored those great tickets to the ceremony. Seriously, after lucking into seats right behind the Steelers, I'm not due to win for a few more years.
There are speeches and presentations but the reason we show up comes after the meal. All seven Enshrinees joined the Bills Hall of Fame receiver, James Lofton, for a free-for-all talk about football. Lofton asked each player questions about his career. Things started off quietly but, after a bit, they started interrupting each other and having fun. Lofton asked Jerry Rice about the great catch he made to win the 1989 Super Bowl. Rice explained that, if the Bengals were crazy enough to leave him in single coverage, the ball was coming to him to win the game. Rice must have forgotten that the Bengals Defensive Coordinator was sitting right next to him. Coach LeBeau broke down what really happened on that play, explaining that sometime players don't do what you tell them to do. Rice was actually in triple coverage but did not recognize it. He beat three guys who had zeroed in on him and came away as the hero. LeBeau said that was the only time, as a coach, that he wished he was still a player, saying, "If I'd have been on that field, I would have got that ball!" I really cannot do justice to LeBeau's description. Try to catch it on YouTube.
Emmitt Smith got the most cheers, as it was a Dallas crowd, and had some good stories but he was a little quiet. I thought LeBeau, Rice, John Randall and Floyd Little were the most entertaining. If you have not had the chance to hear Floyd Little talk, the man can speak. He has great stories, dating back to being recruited by the Elmira Express, Ernie Davis. Russ Grimm caused a real ruckus when he said that he hated Dallas. Lofton immediately tried to calm down the booing by saying that there was a fine line between love and hate in football. Russ didn't REALLY hate Dallas, right Russ? Grimm said the Cowboys had some of the most loyal fans (big cheer) and some really great players (bigger cheer) but, as a Redskin, even the word "Dallas" got him going. Randall came to Grimm's defense by talking about how much the Vikings hate Green Bay. I can see the point. If the Steelers had any decent teams in their division, I would probably hate them, too.
Just kidding! Rest assured, I can't stand Baltimore, Cincinnati or Cleveland. The talk went on for more than an hour and was as much fun as I expected. I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon than to listen to football greats telling war stories.
After the roundtable, we packed up and headed home. We don't stay for the game. My cousin tells me that watching the game at the HOF is like seeing a high school game. You are very close to the players. If they ever have two teams I even remotely like, I might stay around. The only way I would enjoy a Cowboys-Bengals game is if they beat each other senseless and both lose. I'd pay to see that game.
So now, needless to say, we start thinking about next year's Enshrinement. I am very hopeful for good things. The Bus is eligible for selection and Canton is already planning for the onslaught. If he goes in, I expect each of you to join me in Ohio. We're are thinking about going a few days early to really get into the party.
I hope you enjoyed the piece. Come join us next year and write your own summary.