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Visiting the Hall of Fame as a Lions fan

Visiting the Hall of Fame as a Lions fan

07/12/2020
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Story courtesy of Jeff Risdon, USA Today

For the first time in nearly 25 years, I made a return visit inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Friday. Along with my family, I made the trek back to where pro football began.

I’ve been at the Hall of Fame for the enshrinement ceremonies and the annual exhibition game (canceled this year) several times over the years, most recently in 2017. But I haven’t toured the Hall since 1995, when I was fortunate enough to get to access some of the archives in the basement library as a college student doing research on my senior thesis.

It had been too long. Even as a Detroit Lions fan, there’s still a lot to take in and experience at the Hall of Fame.

Despite the team’s relative lack of success for the last few decades, the Lions are distinctly represented. One of the very first busts you encounter in the (truly grand) hall of enshrinees is Dutch Clark, the touchdown master of the 1930s. Seeing the busts of Joe Schmidt, Charlie Sanders, Dick Lebeau, Lem Barney, Barry Sanders and other Detroit legends brings an instant connection with the reason why we are Lions fans.

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Outside the main hall, there is quite a lot of fascinating NFL history. Some of it encapsulates the Lions, with mementos like Matthew Stafford’s draft selection card from 2009 and a purple (?!?) coach’s jacket with Honolulu blue trim from a bygone era. The large board with the team records year-by-year and color coding for success is a reminder of the Lions’ dominance back in the 1950s, the Bobby Layne era. Layne is the featured performer in the Lions section of a well-produced video on NFL dynasties.

Outside of Lions fandom, it’s worth a trip. The theater featuring a Joe Namath hologram is impressive. My kids were both worried it would be cheesy but the technology worked well. The Madden exhibit is currently limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, unfortunately. I enjoyed the small USFL display and the Black College Hall of Fame in that area.

Some of the objects on display are eye-opening. Seeing the progression of helmets from leather to the modern ones is crazy. The old uniforms are fascinating too.

Canton is a little over a three-hour drive from Ford Field. If you haven’t been in the last few years, it’s worth a refresher trip. Tip: wear Lions gear and represent your fandom.

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