Thursday, August 04, 2005

I Have Been To The Promised Land

This past weekend, I made a pilgramage to America's Valhalla. The place where the greatest warriors are immortalized.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio sits along the edge of Interstate 77 in the middle of the western third of the state. It was established in 1963.

Well, OK, in the last few years, the definition of hero has changed quite a bit. So I should temper the degree of reverance with humbleness to those who really deserve the title. It's not exactly Arlington Cemetary. But in the Hall is one of the greatest collection of sports heroes of all time.

I was actually a week too early (and way too late to get tickets and a room anyway) for the latest group of players to be enshrined. This coming weekend (Aug 6-8), four men take their place among the honorees: Dan Marino, record setting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins in the mid 80's through 1999; Steve Young, successor to Joe Montana in San Francisco who carried the 49er dynasty throughout the 90's; Fritz Pollard, the first African-American coach (and a great player) in the 1920's; and Benny Friedman, star quarterback from 1927 to 1934, who was a contemporary of Red Grange.

The Hall itself is actually three interconnected buildings, though when you're inside, it all feels like one. You enter at the front door and walk into a spiral ramp under the pointed "rotunda" of the football shaped dome. Most of the exhibits are on the upper floor, the first being the history and origins of the game. Then you go by displays of all the current NFL teams. The next section is the actual Hall of Fame, with bronze likenesses of each enshrinee, and interactive touch screen panels that show info on any of the men. After that, there is a room about the other leagues in history, plus artifacts from recent record breaking feats. Section 6 contains displays from all the Hall honorees grouped by team. The last part is all about the Super Bowls. And at the end, is the rotating GameDay Stadium theater, where you can watch a film about an entire season from training camp to the Super Bowl. The lower floor has areas with more interactive displays, including the Madden video game, trivia and play-calling games, and a carnival booth passing cage, along with artifacts from referees and famous fans. There is also another theater which constantly shows NFL Films programs every hour. Finally, of course, there is the gift shop, with sections for each team, and items emblazoned with Hall logos and the faces of the newest enshrinees. Throughout the entire museum, there are items from players and games throughout history that commemorate milestones and significant players (HOF members and others) from all over the NFL.

I didn't have my good camera with me, so we'll see if the pictures I took with the disposable cameras come out. Hopefully, they won't all be flash reflections from display cases. I got shots of all the Redskins stuff, an overall view of each section, and some shots of the exteriors and preparations for the induction ceremonies.

You can take your own virtual tour here. But it's much better in person, take my word for it. Hail to the Redskins and Hail to the Hall of Fame!

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