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The Suburbanite
  • Canton's HOF playmakers make magic happen

  • Steve Doerschuk, on assignment at the Super Bowl, presents a daily inside look at the buzz around Saturday’s vote to determine the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.

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  • The big election comes Saturday, a mysterious mile down the street from the Super Bowl.
    The big game will played Sunday, after some miracle workers from Canton round up the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 for the coin flip.
    Certain faces floating around New Orleans — Bill Cowher, Ray Lewis, Jon Gruden — will be recognizable from two blocks away.
    The people coming from Canton will be faces in the French Quarter crowd; yet they are well known in NFL circles.
    Joe Horrigan, who will represent the Hall of Fame in the secret location of the election meeting, is in his 36th year with the museum.
    Dave Motts, who is operating a luncheon that will be going on at the same time as the election, featuring 30 Hall of Famers, is in his 41st year.
    Tammy Owens, in charge of somehow getting everyone who is elected Saturday to New Orleans no later than Sunday morning, is in her 39th year.
    Some of the NFL people who are up for the HOF know some of the Canton people. Some of the former are superstitious.
    For example, Horrigan and Pete Fierle are the Canton guys who race around behind the scenes before and during the live TV show on which election results are revealed. They are the Hall’s liaison with NFL Network. They are responsible for making new Hall of Famers magically appear on the show.
    Three-time Super Bowl winner Troy Aikman had met both Horrigan and Fierle prior to election day, 2006, when the Super Bowl was in Detroit. The three men happened to pop up at the same hotel elevator the night before voters would decide Aikman’s Hall of Fame fate.
    “He wanted nothing to do with us,” Fierle said. “I think he thought we might curse him.”
    Only The Shadow knows whether Aikman would have been denied election the next day had he shaken the Horrigan or Fierle hands. The former Cowboys quarterback made it in his first year of eligibility.
    John Madden, a face recognizable from four blocks away, was up for election the same year. Horrigan was in the ballroom where the Class of 2006 was revealed. Madden was in town.
    The famous coach, announcer and video-game tycoon was in production for his own TV duties — he and Al Michaels had the Super Bowl XL call for ABC the next day.
    Madden took a timeout to check into ESPN’s Hall of Fame feed from the ballroom. He went right back to work when he mistakenly thought he had heard he hadn’t made the cut.
    Others in ABC’s production room stayed in touch with ESPN. They went into party mode when they heard then-HOF Executive Director John Bankert announce Madden as part of the Class of 2006.
    Page 2 of 2 - Back in the ballroom, it was up to Horrigan to move Madden to the Hall of Fame set.
    “I had been in touch with John’s agent, Sandy Montag,” Horrigan said. “We made sure I had a number where I could reach John if he was elected.
    “I called, John picked up, and there was all this yelling and screaming. I said, ‘This is Joe Horrigan from the Hall of Fame.’ I knew he hadn’t heard me when he said, ‘I can’t talk to you. I’m waiting for a call from the Hall of Fame.’ ”
    Click.
    That was when ESPN carried the election announcement live and before NFL Network turned election day into a 90-minute TV special.
    Steve Perry has been the Hall’s executive director during the NFL Network era. He has the best seat in the house. He runs the election meeting, where the 47 media types with a vote huddle for upwards of eight hours.
    From there, he hustles to the NFL Network set, where he faces the camera, is handed the envelope whose contents only an accounting firm has seen, then reads, in alphabetical order, the names of the election winners.
    “Any time an individual faces such a large audience or is presenting an item of such importance,” Perry said, “it’s only natural that you’re nervous. And I am certainly nervous.”
    To the world, Perry sounds like the coolest cucumber in the room.
    “If there’s a methodology,” Perry said, “it springs from two things. One is trying to be well prepared. Two, I don’t try to ad lib too much.”
    Perry played high school football for Timken under the lights at Fawcett Stadium, next to the Hall of Fame. His job at the Hall has taken him to NFL stadiums around the country.
    Hall of Fame rings aren’t presented until football season. Enshrinees declare the stadium in which they wish to receive their rings. Perry flies out to renew their acquaintance. He will have been around them already on election weekend, at an orientation in Canton, and during enshrinement week.
    “Fans enjoy seeing their guy get his ring in his home stadium,” Perry said. “I can tell you the men getting the rings really enjoy the experience.
    “It’s a super highlight. In some sense, it is equally as significant as the enshrinement.”
    COMING TUESDAY: Steve Doerschuk looks at how the list of Hall of Fame voters has evolved over the years.

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