Pro Football Hall of Fame: 13 September 2019
Updated: Nov 26, 2019
There are a few other reviews on the internet, but they all seem to approach the subject matter with a combination of saccharine and reverence that unfortunately I cannot duplicate.
1. The Hall opens at 9:00 am every day of the year (except Christmas and Thankgiving). Recommend you get there early to avoid the crowds. I'm not a huge football fan (my "expertise" is limited to the late 70s - early 80s), but if you're a "scholar" like myself there is a lot to see. Adults (13-64) pay $26, but if you think you are eligible for a discount (AARP, AAA, AA, Military, Veteran, etc.) then ask. I asked for (and received) a Veteran's discount and paid $21. Parking can be an additional $10/car (as I was dropped off, this was not applicable). If I had to park a car, I would park it a quarter mile due east (on the other side of I-77), in a free city parking lot (directly north of the tennis courts).
2. There is an 11:00 am Insiders Tour that is well worth the $10 fee. Red, our guide did a fine job.
There appeared to be a minimum age for my tour: you could only participate if you were alive when Y.A. Tittle played (they graciously made an exception for me).
Red pointed out a display where Charles Haley (a player I had never heard of), had fabricated his own personal Vince Lombardi Trophy for each of the five Super Bowl victories he participated in (inscribing each with his own name) and then thoughtfully donated them all to the Hall. I wondered to Red "I didn't think you could award yourself a trophy you made yourself". Not sensing the irony, he replied "it's not against the law".
There is a team photo containing all 15 players of the 1919 Rock Island Independents. Obviously most of the team (like a few of my good friends), went both ways.
A photo of Woody Strode, who helped break the NFL color barrier in 1946 as a member of the LA Rams. He later went into acting, remember that scene in Spartacus where Kirk Douglas fights a gladiator who wields a trident and a net?
Otto Graham's Hickok Belt: From 1950 - 1976, the Hickok Manufacturing Company awarded a belt, that Hulk Hogen would be proud to wear, to the year's top professional athlete. Subsequent belt holders included Carmen Basilio (who?) and Sandy Koufax.
Display containing a Super Bowl ring for every Super Bowl Champion: examine the size of the ring for the Green Bay Packers (Super Bowl I) and the New England Patriots (Super Bowl LIII). A sad commentary on what has happened to America over the intervening 52 years. A fellow guest mentioned that next year's champions will need to have a two fingered ring (she said it as a joke, but trust me it's only a matter of time).
Curtis Martin's bible: Prior to each game, Curtis read Deuteronomy 28 ("If you fully obey the Lord your God . . . the Lord your God will set you high above all nations on earth . . . "). I can understand why he read this verse instead of Exodus 21:20-21.
Larry Czonka and Jim Kiick on the cover of Sports Illustrated: Note that Larry is flipping the bird. Interesting how the associated caption doesn't mention this. Apparently this wasn't the first time a sports figure did this.
4. The Busts: There are 326 of them, so you can't examine them all. You will want to look at your favorite based on talent, geography, etc. Instead I have listed a few based on other criteria (with year inducted in parenthesis):
Ed Reed (2018): From an artistic point of view, this is far and away the best of the busts. His distinctive hair causes this bust to come alive.
Franco Harris (1990): The second best. It looks like a Greek statue.
Kevin Greene (2016): His distinctive locks make his look like the bust of a lion.
Michael Strahan (2014): For obvious reasons, he requested that his bust to have a smile.
Class of 1994: John Madden thought that the busts talk to each other after closing. If that is the case then Tony Dorset and Randy White must berate teammate Jackie Smith every night for dropping a sure touchdown pass that cost the Cowboys Super Bowl XIII.
Lawrence Taylor (1999): Oh, how they butchered him.
OJ Simpson (1985): Well, you know . . .
Jack Butler (2012): Shortest induction speech ever (42 seconds). Trust me, this is one record that will never be broken.
Billy Shaw (1999): The only player in the Hall who didn't play in the NFL (go to the bottom of the page to find the answer*).
Cal Hubbard (1963): Only NFL player to also be in the Baseball HoF.
Note: outside the gallery there is a monitor that shows various inductee speeches. Sit down and watch, it's a fascinating display of human nature. Trust me.
5. HOF Cafè: It's very basic. I had a pretzel ($2.75). Recommend you bring your own food.
6. How not to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame:
Be a punter (only one: Ray Guy).
Be a placekicker (only two pure kickers: Morton Anderson and Jan Stenerud).
Be an official (none).
Be Howard Cossel (none).
Not bet on NFL games. Paul Hornung (1986) bet on NFL games and was suspended for the 1963 season. Lucky for him he played pro football, not pro baseball.
7. The Notification Process: 18 Finalists are gathered at a hotel at the site of the Super Bowl on the day before the Super Bowl. After the Selection Committee elects the new inductees, they are informed by a knock at their hotel room door by the HoF President. Those that are not elected, get a phone call. Trust me, I'm normally not the sensitive type, but does't that sound incredibly cruel?
8. The Architecture: The building was built in 1963 with a cool mid-century modern look that whether intentional or not, looked like a church, with a football as the spire. Subsequent expansions in 1971, 1978, 1994 and 2013 have quadrupled its size and unfortunately camouflaged its church-like appearance and corrupted its architecture. It’s no longer a shrine so much as a warehouse.
- there is a fifth expansion in progress that when completed will yield the mellifluous “Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village”.
- Alan Page (1988) actually helped build the HoF in 1962, while working construction in high school.
9. There are two movies theaters in the Hall:
A Game for Life: billed as a “spectacular cutting-edge, multi-sensory immersive theater including holographic representations”. I thought this description would describe a series of football highlights, instead it described a holographic image of Joe Nameth, circa 2017 (and I’m a little worried, he didn’t look so good). The film was about Hall of Famers talking about how great they were as players and now that they’re retired, how they’re even greater. I left after 10 minutes.
Road to the Super Bowl: The first half of the film recaps the regular season on a modest screen, then the seating area rotates 180° to display the “drama“ of Super Bowl LIII on a screen twice as large. Why not show the whole film on the second larger screen? I have no idea.
if you’re pressed for time, give both the go-by, there is more worthwhile stuff.
All all in all, I’m glad I visited. Twenty-one bucks seemed a little steep, but in the end it was worth it.
Lodging: After a thorough analysis of booking.com, I determined that the Comfort Inn - Hall of Fame was in the sweet spot between Price ($98/night) vs. Ratings (8.7). My stay confirmed it.
Coffee: start your day off at Muggswigz Coffee & Tea Co. There are two locations, take your pick. Solid and convenient.
Dinner: Bender’s Tavern is the #1 restaurant in Canton. It reminded me of dining with my parents at one of the numerous German restaurants that once populated Queens, NY (Koenig’s, Neiderstein’s, etc.); oak paneling, old school service and an extensive (and expensive) menu. They are known for their turtle soup (it’s snapping btw), so you can cross that off your bucket list.
*He played his career entirely in the AFL before the merger with the NFL in 1970.