I talked before about how welcoming and wonderful the people of Canton, Ohio, are. Every single one of them gets into this whole Hall of Fame celebration. I have exceedingly cool relatives in Canton who host us and hang out with us every year, scoring tickets to big events and making sure we don't get too lost.
Oh. My. God.
I will get the pictures posted after I get back home but I had to write about tonight while the memories were still fresh. What an amazing night. It could have turned out to be very crappy, indeed. I was so excited to see Coach Dick LeBeau at the Hall of Fame parade this morning; I was so busy cheering and clapping, that my pictures of him were not very good. More about that later. Our tickets to the Enshrinement fell through. My cousin and I actually discussed blowing off the ceremony and watching the whole thing on ESPN. We were floating on our host cousin's boat, enjoying cold, refreshing beverages, deciding whether or not to stay at home. We agreed that we came too far and enjoyed last year's ceremony too much to miss out on this opportunity. A lot of things could have gone wrong but things started going right.
Things broke down this year. We did not have tickets and, to make matters worse, we thought the ceremony started an hour later than it actually did. We drove to the field and parked in some nice family's back yard. (Yes, we paid to park. These folks have the right to make a buck on the hysteria, too.) We walked to the field and started talking to the scalpers. These vultures wanted $50 for a $30 ticket and couldn't even give us two seats together. We decided to try the ticket counter but my cousin found the Will Call window and we went there first. The nice people at the window saw we were Steelers fans and said they had some great seats for us and a surprise we would really like. All for the normal price of $30.
We had to rush in because Coach Dad was about to start speaking. We hurried around to our section and hustled up the stairs to find our seats. It wasn't until we were sitting down, enjoying the speech when I looked a few rows ahead of us and saw Chris Kemoeatu. We kept looking around. There was James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark. There was Ben Roethlisberger and Ike Taylor and Max Starks and Heath Miller. Alan Faneca and Joey Porter both made the trip, too. All of the Steelers had Terrible Towels and they waved them freely. I thought it was very classy that Joey Porter, now a Cardinal, waved a Towel with the rest of the team.
Many of the players had on their Detroit #44 LeBeau jerseys and Coach gave a great speech. This is truly an amazing man who deserves every single honor he has received. You can tell his players love him as much as Coach LeBeau loves them. He forgot to mention the linebackers and single out any of them. I am sure he got caught up in the excitement and missed part of his speech. I hope our great linebacking corps does not feel slighted; he certainly talks about their quality every other time he gets the chance.
After the speech, I went down a few rows with the rest of the Steeler fans in that section and got some snaps of the team. If any of them are decent, I will post them here. It was an absolute football fan dream. I got to spend an evening in the sun with the best football team in the world, honoring the best coach in the world. Ahh. Mission complete.
Many of the Steelers took off after that but some stayed around. When John Randall finished his speech, the hoopla started for Russ Grimm and a very cool thing happened. Most of the Steelers who stayed were offensive linemen. They all put away their Terrible Towels and put on Russ Grimm Redskins jerseys. I thought this was a very nice tribute to a great player and a great coach. I guess Faneca was not in on the coordination because he did not have a jersey to wear. But it was good to see him make the trip for an old coach. I always liked Faneca. He still does a lot for the city of Pittsburgh and remains one of my favorite linemen.
Coach Grimm's speech was another very good one. I will replay some of his comments for my sons, two of whom were linemen. The part about the how the best feeling for an offensive lineman was to move another man from point A to point B against his will was pure gold. I hope you all took time to listen to him talk.
The rest of the speeches were good, though Ricky Jackson must have had a few concussions too many. Emmitt Smith sure is a talented speaker, though all his talk of how great it was to be a Cowboy got me nauseous. He started laying it on so thick, I thought someone was going to lay out a patch of water for him to walk across. Dude, you were a fantastic running back and, apparently, a snazzy dancer but get over yourself! All that crap about how the "Triplets" and their incredible balance were what won the Super Bowl against the Steelers. Give me a break! Neil O'Donnell should have won the MVP for Dallas in that game. Seriously! I tried to call Neil to talk about this but he couldn't find his receiver. (That's right! The old jokes are still the best!)
Leaving the stadium, we had to walk up a big hill to get the the right gate. We hadn't taken two steps when a nice Browns fan (Yeah, who knew?) in a gold cart offered us a ride up the hill and would have driven us all the way to my car if we had let him. We had a nice talk about football, the Hall and his restaurant. We may go to North Canton tomorrow and check out Mr. Walther's restaurant. He said he would be open. Come on by!
Just a quick note about the parade. It was very well attended and very well run, like every year. There were more floats than last year and people did seem more into it. I get such a kick out of seeing the Hall of Fame greats like Lem Barney and Art Donovan, who come back every year. Seeing my childhood demi-god, Gayle Sayers, is a high point, each time. What bugged me last year and this year was the lack of Steeler greats in the parade. Franco and Swannie came this year but where were the rest? Dick Lebeau goes into the Hall as a Lion. But, let's be honest: This man is as significant a part of Steelers history as anyone since Our Father, Who Is Art In Heaven learned to play poker and win a football franchise. Rod Woodson didn't even show up for the parade. What was that about. I would like to see more of the alumni come to commune with the fans,
So Day One of fanboy heaven is done. We may hit the Hall in the morning but will play that by ear. All in all, Canton, you have done your town proud. I can't wait for Day Two!