Our time in Canton was terrific. I had wanted to visit since I was a kid and it was worth the wait. Holding a parade the same weekend was an awful idea, though. The people in from out of town had no interest and the two groups just got in each other’s way. Despite that small misstep, I think the people of Canton did a very nice job in welcoming their huge flood of visitors.
We flew into Cleveland on Thursday. The airport there is on the smaller side for a city of that size, which I always prefer. Getting through there was relatively painless. We passed on the Hall of Fame game and watched Corey Kluber handcuff the Yankees in an 11 strikeout complete game victory marred only by a Gary Sanchez line drive home run that adopted a cartoon face and literally screamed in pain while rocketing from the field of play. The other downer was leviathan rookie Aaron Judge sat out, or possibly had a conflicting engagement batting clean up for the Gashouse Gorillas.
We toured the museum on Friday when it was a bit less crowded and had a great time. We didn’t see Terrell’s bust displayed yet, but we watched a Bronco special report last night where they interviewed his sculptor and showed the painstaking process required to breath life into a hunk of metal. I personally think the likeness is exquisite in detail and it truly grasps Terrell’s essence.
The Bust Room in the Hall is really impressive and we took our time going through it. I know the Baseball Hall of Fame might be more impressive to me overall, but there is nothing there or anywhere to compare to seeing all 310 busts of the greatest players in NFL history collected in one setting. I think all five Broncos enshrined had busts that did them justice. The overall quality is high, and some are uncanny in their resemblance. The Bruce Smith bust looks like its ready to talk to you. Along with the enshrined Broncos, I sought out my boyhood heroes. Jack Youngblood and Earl Campbell were both well rendered, but the Walter Payton was incredibly disappointing. I don’t think I would have known it was him if I saw it with no name underneath.
Steven already covered the party details pretty well. I appreciated the quality of offerings and made a very tasty chicken sammich for myself as we sat and listened to music. It was fun spending time with football fans of every kind and it was especially rewarding to see Bronco fans clearly the most represented. We took pictures with some fans, including a charming young lady from Wyoming who wanted my Bronco shoes really bad.
We spent money like drunken sailors in the gift shops on Friday and Saturday and I’m glad to say they weren’t there to gouge anybody. I found the prices on clothing and merchandise to be pretty reasonable pretty much across the board. The guy who sat next to me on the plane got an autographed Terrell Davis football for $135, after his 10% discount for being a HOF member. I wish I had seen them. The good thing is I don’t have buyer’s remorse over anything we bought and we knocked out a ton of Christmas shopping.
The ceremony was handled pretty efficiently. They started more or less on time and I found each presenter and honoree acquitted themselves very well. Not many Seahawk fans there, but only one goof in a 12 jersey, who topped off the douche ensemble with a friggin’ cape. I did share a soulful fist bump with a dude in a Cortez Kennedy jersey who was least as big as Tez at the height of his powers. Many people might not be aware, but Kenny Easley’s career ended prematurely because he had advanced kidney disease. I remember believing he had actually died for a while. He survived a transplant, but is clearly still dealing with serious health issues. Highlights of his speech included his devotion to youth football. He also paid a nice and very humble tribute to his college crosstown rival from USC, Ronnie Lott. Then he made the very classy gesture of promoting other safeties he believes belong in the Hall, including three with Bronco ties. Lynch and Dawkins got polite applause, but the place exploded at the mention of Atwater’s name. Easley paused and said, “Oh yeah, Denver is here,” and then he chuckled.
Jason Taylor nearly had me crying a couple times during an incredibly heartfelt speech. His love and respect for his mother was so beautifully expressed. He never knew his dad. The way he tied things together at the end in saying how important being a father was to him was very poignant. He mentioned all the men who filled the role of father figure to him and his appreciation was so genuine. I officially forgive him for campaigning for Defensive Player of the Year Award during Champ’s incredible 2006 season, but I have to admit both guys were unreal that year and either one was deserving.
Morton Andersen’s speech was perfectly placed as he did a wonderful job of lightening the mood. He talked about his first time on a football field and the “unpleasant sight of half a dozen huge derrières, all pointed at me.” He also got serious for a moment and implored his two sons to “always give more than you take!” For me, the highlight was seeing him tweak the nose of his bust. I forgot that he was out of football for 20 months before returning to set the all time scoring record @ 46. He said he was watching Atlanta on Monday Night Football with a friend when the Falcons kicker had a rough night. After the second missed kick, he turned to his friend and said, “I’m switching to water.” His friend laughed, but they called Morten in for a tryout with “four flatbellies” and he won the job. He had never stopped practicing after being released. Anderson posted the best FG percentage of his career in his final season.
Terrell’s speech was very nice. He had to deal with rain, a problem with his microphone pack and a flaky teleprompter, but he persevered, which was the overall theme of his speech. We all know that Joe Davis was a disciplinarian who came up the hard way. Terrell knew his dad didn’t do everything right, but he always felt he did the best he knew how for his family. Losing him as a 12 year old was devastating and Terrell went into a tailspin. It took having a shotgun pointed in his face as a 14 year old to convince him he was on a dead end path. Makes you think about how much potential greatness has bled out needlessly in the streets, never to be claimed and only mourned by a few. Terrell spent time telling his mom how much he appreciated her sacrifices, working as an RN and then raising six boys. Terrell also had sweet words for his beautiful wife and companion of 19 years. His kids stole the show, though. Those two boys look like a handful and Terrell confirmed as much. And his daughter drew big laughs by looking up at daddy and then staring back at the cell phone they were using to keep her occupied during the long ceremony.
LaDainian Tomlinson delivered a tremendous speech that culminated in a story about his great, great, great grandfather, who was once owned by a man named Tomlinson and a sincere and persuasive appeal for unity. I highly recommend watching his entire speech on YouTube or at least the final six minutes. He gracefully transcended sports in a way that was respectful and sorely needed.
We decided to end on a high note and headed to the Cowboy Haters shuttle. I will eventually watch Warner’s speech on YouTube, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet.