I recently celebrated my 21st birthday, and like many boys who take the leap into manhood, I took a pilgrimage to mark the occasion.
However, I didn’t go to any wild extremes. I went to a holy place among sports fans, and I found myself at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
It was an eight-hour trip from Maryville, but it is well worth the wait. When you walk through the front door, the very first thing you see is a huge bronze statue of Jim Thorpe. For those who don’t know, many people consider Jim Thorpe as the first great sports athlete. Thorpe played football, baseball, represented the United States as an Olympian and was one of the 17 inaugural members of the 1963 Hall of Fame class.
The Hall of Fame is broken down into sections, and the tour can begin in a couple of different directions.
We started our tour in the Hall of Champions, which is centered around the Super Bowl era. In the Hall of Champions, a fan can relive the significant moments from Super Bowls broken down by decade.
The coolest part of the Hall of Champions is the 180-degree theater that “brings fans closer to the NFL than they can find anywhere else.” The theater is small, but the movie, combined with the incredible surround sound, brings fans up close and personal to NFL action in a way they will never have experienced before. Beginning with the opening kick-off, it takes you through the entire regular season into the playoffs, and when it reaches the climatic Super Bowl, the whole seating section rotates 180 degrees to a much larger screen.
Viewers then get to experience the Super Bowl like never before.
After the Hall of champions, the next room is the memorable performances room. This room is slightly bigger than the previous one. Once again it is broken down by decade. This is where they keep game balls, jerseys and other framed memorabilia. The room of performances houses the record-breakers that have excelled in the NFL. Peyton Manning’s complete game uniform that he wore during the 2004 season is in a glass case alongside Tom Brady’s 2007 game uniform. Both uniforms were worn during record-breaking NFL seasons. Manning had 49 touchdowns in 2004, and Brady surpassed this mark with 50 in 2007.
Next up is the room dedicated to the history of other leagues. In there is the storied history of the AFL and the not-so-well-known-history of the UFL. The AFL dominates the room because, as many fans know, the AFL was around for many years before the two leagues joined in 1966. The AFL brought about the Super Bowl as we know it now.
The history of the UFL is short-lived, due to their being awarded only one dollar after an unsuccessful lawsuit against the NFL.
Finally, the last stop on the tour is the room of the Hall of Famers. This is the most important room on the tour, and it has a different atmosphere than the others. The Lights are switched off, and the only light comes from the walls where the busts are located. Dramatic music plays softly in the background, and for some reason nobody can speak, as the room is almost over-whelming.
The busts are a sight to behold as they are ordered by the year they entered the hall starting back in 1963. Every player strives to be remembered and wants to end up forever stationed next to the best of his peers in this room. Some of the busts are easily recognizable, while others are not so familiar, but they are all amazing. This room in the tour has the least information, but it is easily the room in which visitors spend the most time. With over 200 heads stationed on the wall, taking them all in can eat up some time.
My first trip to the Hall was everything I thought it would be, and I would recommend it to anybody. It doesn’t matter what your degree of interest is in the NFL, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has something for everybody.
My words cannot do the experience justice, and I don’t want them to. It is something fans need to see for themselves, from the Hall of Champions to the breath-taking Hall of Famers room.
So if anybody finds themselves near Canton, Ohio, you must stop by.