Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Pro Football Hall of Fame

One of the good things about dating someone who lives in a state that I haven't visited extensively is the opportunity for me to be a tourist.  On New Year's Eve, my girlfriend and I went to Canton, OH to visit the one and only Pro Football Hall of Fame.  The pilgrimage was her idea, as she'd never been there either.  We're both Steelers fans, and yet we both neglected to wear anything remotely football-related (unlike most of the other people at the Hall that day, many of whom wore football jerseys or shirts).

The first stop on the tour is the history of the pro game.  There are exhibits of old uniforms and protective equipment and features on early professional teams.  Other panels and displays trace the development of the NFL and its merger with the AFL in the late 1960s.  Next, there's a section dedicated to the NFL's 32 teams, with helmets and team records and facts.  Famous Detroit product Jerome Bettis gets the honor of representing the Steelers.

The next room is the heart of the Hall, with the well-known bronze busts of all the honorees.  I couldn't resist taking pictures of all of my favorite players and coaches (the Hall has a liberal photo policy).  Touchscreen computer displays help you find your favorite Hall members and show highlights and interview clips.  Terry Bradshaw's interview, which must have been filmed for his induction in 1989, shows him wishing for one more chance to run a two-minute drill in a Super Bowl with all of his players.  He says "I could still play two minutes."  I love Bradshaw more than any other former NFL great, but even in 1989 he'd have had a hard time running a few plays.  Other exhibits in the Hall show highlights from past Super Bowls and feature memorabilia from current NFL players.  I liked the exhibit panels for other leagues, like the now-defunct WLAF.  (Scottish Claymores forever!)

The final stop on the tour is the Hall's theater, playing "The Road To The Super Bowl."  I hoped the film would be a retrospective on past Super Bowls, or show how tough it is to get through an entire season and win a championship.  While we waited for the theater to open, video screens on the ramp showed training camp footage from past seasons.  It was fun to see now-fired coaches hollering at their players.  The movie started with playoff highlights from last year, then the theater rotated 180 degrees to show a larger screen on which we saw the NFL Films' reel from Super Bowl XLIV.  We watched as New Orleans beat the Indianapolis Colts, with all the miked-up hits and cheers reverberating around us at top volume.  It wasn't bad at all, but the film made me wish I'd visited the Hall last year so I could have seen the Steelers' victory over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

The Hall has plans to expand further, and some of the displays (especially the history of pro football) are low-tech and antiquated and could use some modernization.  I'd like to go back in five or ten years and see how the Hall has updated their exhibits.  And I'm sure that a decade from now they'll have busts of more former Steelers for me to fawn over.  I like this idea.

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