Super Bowl frenzy


I recently took some time to watch a DVD recording of the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 announcement show on NFL Network that aired live on the eve of Super Bowl XLIV. Sure I was there and technically saw the whole show, but I really don’t have much recollection of how it all transpired. It’s not that I’m forgetful; it’s just that I was completely preoccupied with getting the newly elected class on the set or connected by telephone. I just didn’t have time to soak it all in. In any case, the show was as great. Based on what I saw from Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, this year’s Enshrinement Ceremony will be an emotional one.

{GALLERY}Getting the new class on the show is always an interesting feat. It’s not as though we have much time to prepare. We learn who has been elected the same time everyone else does; when Hall of Fame President/Executive Director Steve Perry opens the envelope presented to him by the accounting firm representative who actually tabulates the voting.

Now sure, having been in the meeting, I know the seven finalists. What I don’t know is who among them have met the 80 percent threshold necessary to be elected. That’s what we all wait to hear. As a part of our annual preparation, however, I speak with each finalist and tell them that in the event they are elected I will call them right away. I have each of their cell phone numbers. Once I reach them I either instruct them to come to the announcement stage if they are in town for the Super Bowl – which several of the finalists usually are – or connect them to the show for a quick interview via telephone.

Thankfully, this year we were able to stash Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, and Floyd Little in nearby “Green Rooms.” While Hall of Fame staffer Pete Fierle worked with the Network to get them on stage, I was busy in the back of the room attempting to reach Rickey Jackson, Dick LeBeau, Russ Grimm, and John Randle. Sure it sounds easy enough. However, you can only imagine how difficult it is to reach someone via the telephone after it has been announced on national TV that he has just been elected to the Hall of Fame. Thankfully, our advance planning usually works out and eventually we get through. Even though all the phone numbers and phone equipment is checked and double checked, it is still nerve raking. After all it is live TV and everything needs to be perfect.

Most of the time, including this year things run smoothly. Okay, so we had one bad connection, but I put that one on a not-to-be-named enshrinee’s bad cell phone. Usually, newly elected Hall of Famers have to apologize to a few excited friends and relatives when they call to congratulate them, explaining that they need to keep the line open as they await our call; but even that doesn’t always work.

In 2006, for instance, I told John Madden to keep his cell phone clear so I could reach him in the event he was elected. Well, John and his family saw the announcement almost simultaneously with my call. When he answered all I could hear was the excited screaming from friends and family in the room with him. After a few attempts to shout out my good news, John shouted into the phone that he couldn’t talk to whoever it was calling him because “the Hall of Fame was trying to reach him.” Before I could tell him it was the Hall of Fame, he hung up on me. I think I’ll review that show next.

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Written by: Joe Horrigan