The Suburbanite
  • Countdown to Canton: HOF nominees await their fate

  • Steve Doerschuk, on assignment in New Orleans, makes his daily rounds with the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the biggest day: Election day. Time to fly. Or not.

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  • “The waiting,” as Tom Petty asserted in a halftime song at a recent Super Bowl, “is the hardest part.”
    The waiting ends on Saturday with — for some — the harder part.
    Somebody’s flight will get canceled Saturday afternoon. At least 10 of the 17 finalists up for election won’t get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
    The ones who make it and aren’t in New Orleans already will get on planes booked by the Hall of Fame. The ones who don’t, won’t.
    Tammy Owens handled the whirlwind of just-in-case booking for all 17 finalists when they were revealed a month ago. She has been with the Hall for 39 years, a sympathetic and familiar voice for those who don’t make it.
    “It’s hard on them,” she said, “and it’s a hard job for me to do, just because it is gut wrenching.
    “Andre Reed, for example, has been on the finalist list how many years? So when he made it again this year and I called for flight arrangements, I said, ‘You ready to do this again?’ ”
    Reed has been eligible for induction since 2006. He is in an election-day logjam of wide receivers that includes former Ohio State player Cris Carter (eligible since 2007) and Tim Brown (2010).
    Part of Owens’ job is to help disappointed or frustrated candidates feel better. She touched base with Carter about a week ago.
    The conversation started like this:
    Owens: “Everything good?”
    Carter: “You guys in Canton always make it a positive experience.”
    Owens is in New Orleans with a Canton contingent including executive director Steve Perry, the museum’s four vice presidents, and five board members.
    Board member Dave Robinson, a long-ago Green Bay linebacker who lives in Akron, is a finalist for induction. He had made himself scarce at the Hall in recent weeks, careful not to jinx his chances.
    Most of the Canton contingent will attend Saturday’s election announcement, which starts at 5:30 p.m., Canton time, as part of an NFL Network 90-minute live show.
    Only Perry and one of the VPs, Joe Horrigan, will have been in the election meeting that starts in the morning and tends to last long enough to make the TV people nervous.
    After the 45 voters debate and vote, Perry will go to Hall C of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where at about 6 p.m. he will open the envelope that contains the names of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.
    There’s a little Pandora’s Box in that envelope. It unleashes a barrage of phone calls, a flood of emotions and a whirlwind finish to Super Bowl week for the Canton contingent.
    Page 2 of 2 - In the old days, new Hall of Famers were introduced at Pro Bowls, played a week after Super Bowls. Now that Pro Bowls are played before Super Bowls, the “new guys” are introduced at the coin flip of the Super Bowl, roughly 24 hours after the election.
    “It’s better for the Hall of Fame this way,” Perry said. “It’s more of a worldwide audience. The coin flip is a very exciting moment for us.”
    The thrill is on hold until Perry opens that envelope.
    When he does, the men who are elected and not in town will pack and fly. The Hall pays for each man and his wife (or one traveling companion) to fly to the Super Bowl city.
    The electees will hang around through Monday, when the Canton contingent will conduct an orientation as to induction week in Stark County.
    “Sometimes I think they listen to half of what we’re saying,” Owens said, “They’re over the moon about being in.”

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