A Pittsburgh native getting elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the contributions he made as the head coach of his hometown football team? That’s why you expected nothing but tears and emotion when former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher found out he will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, this summer.
A 67-year old former safety who contributed mightily to those four Steelers Super Bowl championship teams of the 1970s and got elected into the Hall of Fame 33 years after his final game? It’s safe to say Donnie Shell was simply euphoric when he learned he finally, finally, finally made it!
But a recluse, a mysterious man who often said he didn’t really love football, he loved life, and that’s why he played the game with so much emotion and reckless abandon, someone who said he purposely stayed away from the Steelers and the sport after retiring from the NFL in 2014? Would Troy Polamalu even show up if he got elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Turned out, Polamalu showed up to this past weekend’s Hall of Fame spectacle, where former players and coaches must wait in their hotel rooms for that knock on the door informing them they will be immortalized.
Not only did Polamalu, well, his two boys, answer the knock on the door, he became emotional when he learned of his fate.
Polamalu’s emotions were really on his sleeve a little later when he talked to Missi Matthews of Steelers.com shortly after learning he was named a first ballot Hall of Famer.
I don’t know why it means so much that it meant so much to Polamalu, but it was just nice to see.
Honestly, I didn’t know he cared that much. I mean, logically and rationally, you had to know he cared, but that emotional connection between player and sport is something fans crave. Why? I guess it’s because it allows us to live vicariously through them. Let’s be real, if you’re a die-hard fan, someone who, even as a much older person, wears Steelers jerseys while watching them play, you likely fantasized about being an NFL player when you were a kid—maybe you still fantasize about it as an adult.
Imagine actually getting to live your dream and have it be topped off with the league’s biggest honor—enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.
Wouldn’t you cry?
It’s important to fans that their heroes care. Ever watch one of those interviews with an actor where he or she simply refuses to “live in the past” and relive the favorite moments from their fans’ favorite shows or movies? It’s like, why did you even come to this comic-con?
I realize there are a lot of NFL players who simply view what they do as a job. I get it. Some people are just so talented at something, it would be silly for them to not do it if it can afford them a really great living. But I’d like to believe that the truly great players—the best of the best—don’t make it to Canton if they didn’t care deeply about what they did.
Troy Polamalu obviously cared about being the best of the best when he played strong safety better than few ever have during his 12 years in the NFL.
It’s nice that he let us know just how much he cared.