As part of our 40 GREAT Days of Summer
promotion, we’re celebrating Throwback Thursday as we look back at the 1980s. While, I’m not dressed in a jersey from that era I will recount one of my favorite personal football memories.
Kickoff weekend 1980 in Orchard Park, N.Y. Well, first of all, the term Kickoff Weekend wasn’t around but hearing “Week 1” or “Home Opener” sufficed for all football fans excited for a new season. I grew up in Buffalo and was an ardent Bills fan. The team had never really experienced much winning during most of my childhood but like every year, there was hope in the air!
Buffalo opened the 1980 season against their arch rival Miami Dolphins. To make matters worse, the Bills went 0-for-the-1970s versus Miami. Yes, twice a year for 10 straight years, Miami beat Buffalo. It remains the biggest consecutive winning streak of one team over another in NFL history.
That day – Sept. 7, 1980 – was an exhilarating and thrilling day for me and the other 79,597 fans on hand at Rich Stadium (#TBT #TheRalph). The decade of near misses and utter frustration finally came to an end. When the final gun sounded, the scoreboard glowed BILLS 17, DOLPHINS 7. The 20-game losing streak to the Dolphins was over! Bills fans stormed the field. I stood at my seat 11 rows above the Miami bench and watched the bedlam. The mob made its way to each end zone and tore down the goal posts.
In case you might want to see a bit of what I’m recounting or if you’re a big Pat Benatar fan, here’s a low-quality YouTube video of the highlights.
Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson
rejoiced in the aftermath by declaring, ““It’s the biggest win this club’s ever had,” he commented. “Bigger than the AFL championships. I’ll be happy to buy new goal posts.”
So, that’s my 1980s Throwback Thursday memory. Now, it’s your turn to share your favorite NFL memory for the 1980s. Post a comment hear or on social media. Be sure to use our handle @ProFootballHOF and hash tag it #TBT.
Friday, February 01, 2013
I write this from the Super Bowl Media Center in New Orleans. I’m here, not for the game but for our annual election of a new class on Saturday! You can watch the announcement live on NFL Network starting at 5:30 ET (4:30 local time) and then jump back to our site for all the details on the newest inductees.
A buzz is building here with conversation regarding who will comprise the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.
Here are three things I know for sure about Saturday.
1. Our Selection Committee will lock themselves in a room for the better part of eight hours on Saturday to debate the merits of the 17 finalists. From that meeting will come the new class of enshrinees – no less than four and no more than seven.
2. Much focus by the media and fans will be placed immediately on the new class of football legends who will be permanently honored in Canton with a bronze bust. Their enshrinement on August 3 will be the marquee event of our Golden Anniversary Reunion which will attract upwards of 130 Hall of Famers to the Hall of Fame to honor the new class and celebrate our 50th Anniversary.
3. Almost as instant as the praise starts flowing for the new class will be the intense scrutiny about who didn’t make it!
We often say about those who aren’t elected each year that it’s not a case of “if” but “when.” In fact, numbers support that claim. The procedure of cutting down to finalists was added to our selection process in 1970. Since that time, a total of 83 percent of finalists have ultimately been elected to the Hall of Fame. That number jumps to 89 percent when an individual is a finalist more than once.
So, just how hard is it to elect a class of enshrinees? Our Selection Committee has a daunting task on Saturday. To a person, each member of that committee takes great pride in being a part of such an important panel. They clearly are honored to have the responsibility bestowed upon them and they treat the process with the utmost seriousness and diligence. That stated, they indeed have a very difficult task before them.
We wanted to put this in perspective. So we went to our longtime Researcher Saleem Choudhry, kind of. Actually we relied on his younger brother Aleem Choudhry who received his undergraduate degree from Stanford before earning his Master’s from the Harvard Business School and is now a partner at Crane Street Capital.
Saleem described our selection process to his brother. From there, Aleem went to work and determined all of the combinations and permutations that can result from a class numbering anywhere from four to seven members pulled from 17 finalists with the caveat that the class can only consist of six or seven individuals if one of both of the seniors are elected.
The answer to our riddle is that the class elected by the Selection Committee on Saturday will be one of a possible 18,942 different combinations that can come from this list of finalists.
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears most Thursdays.
Today is Hall of Famer Ace Parker
’s 100th birthday. He is the first member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to reach 100 and just the fourth former NFL player to celebrate this incredible milestone birthday. I would have to say it’s one of the unique aspects of my job to say that I’ve personally met two of the NFL’s four centenarians.
We’ve splashed lots of stories, photos, and some video about this great star of the 1930s and ’40s on our website. But, unfortunately, we aren’t able to add an interview of Ace on his special day. While he still lives in his home thanks to some terrific 24/7 care from two women who are like family to him, he’s not able to carry on much of a conversation.
Fortunately though I had a really great phone conversation yesterday with one of his long-time friends who serves as Ace’s health Power of Attorney. Buddy Lex, who himself was a fine athlete and is a fellow member of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame along with Ace. He provided me with an update on Ace and also told some great stories about his friend. Buddy, who is 86, told me how Ace was his hero when he was growing up. Later the two would cross paths which led to a great friendship that continues today.
Lex educated me on how Parker’s nickname came about. Apparently, sometime around Parker’s sophomore year at Duke, a sports reporter by the name of Bill Cox wrote that whenever Duke needed five yards, or eight yards, or twelve yards, or whatever they needed; they had an “Ace in the hole” in Clarence Parker. From that day forward, it was “Ace” Parker. Buddy shared other stories like when Ace beat some golfer by the name of Sam Snead in a driving contest during high school; and how Parker hit a home run in his first at bat in the majors.
But, he mostly talked with pride about his great friend. It’s really quite recent that Ace isn’t able to get around very well but Lex reports that Parker still possesses a good grip. He also enjoys going for a car ride every day to get out. It wasn’t until but 10 months ago that Ace was still golfing a few holes with Buddy. Imagine that … we should all be so fortunate to still be hitting a golf ball at 99. Lex even shared how Ace could still putt rather well. And, occasionally he would connect on a nice fairway shot and would instantly turnaround and flash his big smile back at Buddy.
All of us at the Hall of Fame remember that smile fondly. Ace and his wife Thelma, who passed away just two years ago, were regulars every summer when they would return to Canton to participate in the annual Enshrinement Festival.
I imagine Buddy and other friends will see that great big smile this afternoon when they gather to celebrate Ace’s 100th birthday with some cake and balloons.
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.
Well, it’s finally here. Happy Draft Day to all!
Tonight’s first round means that the season must be just around the corner. Before you know it, we’ll be tuned into NFL Network as they air the New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals in our game played in classic Fawcett Stadium across the street from the Hall (Get your tickets). That night, many NFL hopefuls will begin their journey to land a spot on a roster.
But, first we get to enjoy the draft and the great event that it has become for fans. The other day I was doing an interview with a member of the media and they asked if I watch the draft as a fan. The fact is that, in my job, I really don’t. In fact, I probably get less caught up in the pre-draft coverage than most and rarely spend much time studying mock drafts.
I’ve been conditioned to look at football from a historical perspective. So, tomorrow I’ll look BACK at the first round and absorb all of the storylines. I’m always fascinated by the wheeling-and-dealing that takes place and how it potentially changes history.
For instance, had the Dallas Cowboys not worked a trade in 1977 to move up and grab the player they wanted, would Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett had a Hall of Fame career as a Seattle Seahawk? Back in the days of the AFL vs. NFL draft wars, how would football history have changed if Alabama quarterback Joe Namath signed with the St. Louis Cardinals who drafted him in the first round of the NFL draft in 1965 instead of the New York Jets of the rival AFL?
I could go on and on and I imagine much of the talk tomorrow will focus on trades that occur today and tonight as teams strategically plot their futures.
Last year, I shared some tidbits on draft day in my blog. Among them was an interesting nugget I uncovered that went back to the league’s first draft. The owners and league President Joe Carr gathered for the inaugural draft and apparently really enjoyed it. It went so well that they unilaterally agreed on the spot to add four more rounds. Imagine what would happen to the NFL Network and ESPN’s coverage if Roger Goodell shared with them on Saturday that we’re going to throw in a few more rounds of picks because everyone is having so much fun!
If you jump around our website you’d see lots of facts and interesting side notes from past drafts.
I’ve shared many of them with you also through my blog. I’ll end my annual draft day blog by stealing a note from NFL.com’s Gil Brandt who shared this little known fact with us the other day. There has only been one player who has been drafted three times! This intrigued me enough to dig through the files to find out more on this story.
University of Houston fullback/linebacker Donnie Caraway was drafted in three successive years in the 1950s. He was the 7th round pick of the Washington Redskins (83rd overall) in 1956; picked as a future choice in 1957 by the Chicago Bears in the 29th round (348th overall); and one final time in 1958 when he was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Giants (47th overall).
Interestingly, between being drafted by the Bears and Giants, he played one season in Canada with the Calgary Stampeders.
Eligibility rules of the day weren’t as clear as today for sure. Teams often grabbed a player only to find later they really weren’t eligible for the draft. Caraway never suited up in the NFL. Although signed in January 1958 by the Giants, he was among the final cuts the team made prior to the start of the ’58 regular season. He, however, was around the team enough to get a bio in that year’s media guide which also sheds details on how he could have been drafted three times!
I’m looking forward to some of the “oddball” side stories that will be created during the next three days.
Happy Draft Day(s) to all!