The Blue Angels thundering overhead. Fireworks. A 1970 Chevelle SS. Mile High Stadium. The flag drop at the Daytona 500. The Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Things guaranteed to quicken the pulse and bring on a smile of pure joy. Despite the game debacle, and its betrayal of Mr. Pat Bowlen, it is still a shrine for football and that is good enough. For this writer, anyway. Unless you've seen one of the above, it's tough to describe the instinctual excitement and fulfillment. And a low key yearning when it's over.
The outside of the HOF is unassuming, almost secretive. Little gives you a clue of what's inside. The wins and losses, laughter and tears, agonizing defeats and momentous victories. Games of old, mixed with technology of new. All encased in a building beside a freeway and an unassuming Canton, Ohio neighborhood.
The last item one is prepared to see when entering these walls of history is a 1920 car. Yet, there it is, looking as if it just left a showroom floor. Why is it there? Because the NFL was conceived in the offices of a car dealership. Does John Elway give a hat tip to this inauspicious beginning by owning a dealership himself? Who knows, but if I ever meet him and my brain isn't frozen, I'll ask.
For the first time, the HOF offered special tours and I was among the few. To top off this lucky timing, I was able to meet the President, Mike Baker. The largest man in the world. The largest I've ever seen, anyway. 6'10 and 400 pounds with hands that would rival a bear's. Unlike a bear, his handshake was careful, as if he knew he could snap your hand in two. Don't think even Bill Kollar could take him.
He welcomed us to Heaven on Earth. This Bronco fan, with no filter, couldn't help but say, after Mile High!! Glad my tiny hand was no longer encased in his giant mitt. Did I mention he's from California? With his black hair and eye catching size, one could picture him in the Black Hole of Oakland wearing a KISS wannabe costume and scaring little children. He was gracious enough to say, wait until you see the Super Bowl movie.
He wasn't kidding. If you have any plans on seeing the HOF, NOW is the time. For one year, a twenty minute movie is shown of the playoffs and the World Championship game. In surround sound. On a 16' high definition screen. In chairs that move.
Will go into more detail on this glorious experience after sharing with you the Broncos treasures that can be found enshrined in the HOF. The movie was the last thing seen, the climax of the adventure, so will make you wait.
When going up the ramp into the main area, there are life sized paintings spanning eighty years of some of the league's most iconic figures. The first one you see? Peyton Freakin' Manning. While there aren't a lot of Broncos in the HOF, there are many sightings of Peyton as a Bronco. It's safe to say of all the tens of thousands of players over the long history of the NFL, no player is represented more than Manning. Not sure there's even a close second.
Some Broncos items you will find is, Shannon Sharpe, and his autographed cleats from 2003 when he established a new TD record. He retired with 815 receptions, 10,060 yards and 62 TDs. Not sure what size AJ Derby wears, but those are some big cleats to fill.
There is a kick off game ball from the Broncos first game in 1968 (no comment on the score against the Bengals). In another room is a golden SB50 ball.
John Elway has a placard calling him one of the most feared quarterbacks from 1983-1998. Five out of six AFC Championship wins, plus 47 fourth quarter game-winning drives and two Super Bowl wins are in no small part what legends are made of. He may not have all the records, but he has the gold jacket. The bronze bust. The words etched in lucite: John Elway. Quarterback.
When you enter the hall of busts, on a poster depicting how they are made, is none other than the Duke. When a bust is created, the artist uses hundreds of pictures to create a composite that fits the player. The HOFer is then asked if he wants a smile or not, hair or not and even which hair style of the photos provided. Three of our four men chose pleasing countenances. From a grin to a smile with teeth. One choose a frown and a slight look of, I dare you to touch my face. That guy was Shannon Sharpe. FYI, this visitor kept her hands away.
Seeing Floyd Little, Gary Zimmerman, Shannon Sharpe and John Elway within feet of each other, says something is wrong with the way players are chosen. The wall is lined up by year. To have only four players picked and only over a very short span indicates it's time for the Broncos to find better representatives to make their pitch. Pay him if you must. Or send me. I'll talk until they give in and agree.
Moving on, while many of the displays don't change over the years, most do. That's what keeps you coming back. To see new history shown or old history unearthed from someone's basement. Players donating items, like turf from Three Rivers Stadium.
If your sole purpose of making the reverential trek to Canton is purely to see Broncos memorabilia, that doesn't include Peyton, you're going to be disappointed. Some of the many displays with Manning, all but two as a Bronco, were: most yardage, most TDs which includes the 509 sign with he and DeMaryius Thomas, most MVP's, and a full uniform including size 13 cleats from the game he set the season TD record.
One display has most TDs without an INT (last time this was accomplished was in 1968). This may draw boos, but I was thrilled to see it share a case with Jameis Winston's record ball, as well. Nothing like your favorite quarterbacks sharing a case.
Mike Anderson, who received the 2000 Offensive Rookie of the Year award, has his jersey alongside other notable rookies. When the Marine vet gave the, Mile High Salute, it elevated it to national recognition. It started with Terrell Davis, but every few years, one player makes it his own. TD, Mike and now Emmanuel Sanders are the fan favorite saluters. Hopefully, E finds his way to the HOF, too.
Speaking of Terrell, to the ire of Broncos Country, only TD's jersey from his 2,008 yard SB winning season is in the HOF. Yes, this writer, on three occasions, brought his absence up to the HOF members. The first was after entering the bust room and asking them to point me towards his bust. Shockingly, one of the guides didn't even know who he is. Trust me, he does now.
Some history on Super Bowl rings: there are size restrictions in place. Teams who win a second time, may have a bigger ring, those who win back-to-back, even bigger. So, the creaky Cowboys have pretty big rings and a cold harbor team has the biggest in size. If the Broncos were to win next year, the size would be bigger in length than most players wearable area. Not sure how any ring can tops this year's, but if it does, they'll need a sling to keep their hand up. The funny thing is, all three, and possibly a fourth ring, are in the same area. You can take a picture and get them all!
This is basically the extent of the Broncos in the HOF, minus an occasional mural or picture (and a Tebow jersey). There is a gift shop with a Broncos area. Hopefully as a foreshadowing of times to come, only one jersey was for sale and it was the #12. Paxton Lynch twenty feet from where greatness is honored. No pressure, though.
While being the team with the most Super Bowl appearances and three World Championships is grossly overlooked, the movie makes up for it. Sort of. Well, just for the day.
I went two days in a row. It's sad when the ticket takers remember you. In two days, saw it eight times. Three years ago, it was the Ravens. That nasty feeling and anger towards John Fox needed to be washed away, it took two times to get the job done. The other six were for pure JOY. In the dictionary after the word Joy, should be seeing this film.
No filming is allowed, so I audio taped it. After eight times, can picture the sights and pair it with the sounds.
The SB portion of the movie begins with a shot of just Emmanuel Sanders walking through the tunnel. While Peyton was the QB, E was the offensive poster boy. Von Miller was shown plenty of times, one instance was with his fellow defensive players in a hand clapping, laugh fest of hurt and abuse upon the Panthers.
Luckily, the sound is quite loud and for the most part drowned out the cheering and all around sounds of glee emanating from a certain lone Broncos fan. On both days, my companions were Cleveland Brownies. Yes, they do exist and weren't amused by such exuberance. Still smiling.
Dave Logan's voice, fireworks, and a flyover. Words from Peyton. A Strip Sack 12' feet high. Norwood returning. Luke Kuechly saying, these guys are pretty good. They have like 30 dudes in the box (I laughed out loud).
Cam running from another fumble. TJ Ward intercepting. DeMarcus sacking. You're never too old to giggle in glee at seeing that defense in action!
I got a ring, you got one, too! I got a ring, you got one, too!
The HOF is a wondrous place that any football lover can enjoy. When you're the reigning World Champions, and feel under appreciated, remember what Von said, we got the ring! It's Gary Kubiak though, in a shared moment with Elway, that sums up our mantra and the last season...
Here's to another year of it, Go Broncos! And have a wonderful Thanksgiving today!