Owner vs. owner. Receiver vs. receiver. First-year superstars. Canton’s day in the Super Bowl sun will be stormy right up to the time “The Envelope” is opened. Steve Doerschuk, on assignment in New Orleans, continues an inside look at the Pro Football Hall of Fame election.
This week feels like a drum roll for “the Canton party.”
They’re bracing themselves for that big brass band of a day when the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 is shouted to the skies.
First comes the slow cooking — about nine hours worth — in a secret election-meeting room somewhere on the banks of the Mississippi River.
“It’ll be a long day,” said Joe Horrigan, a Hall of Fame vice president who will help executive director Steve Perry marshal the 45 voters through the marathon. “It starts at 5 a.m., when we start getting everything set.
“In the meeting, you’re bombarded with information, but the time flies, because it’s all extremely interesting.”
Voter Howard Balser, who has been covering the NFL for decades, dispels a popular criticism that elections are driven by premeditated deals.
“This whole notion we are this gelatinous blob of people, and we go in and decide what to do as a group is unfounded,” Balser said. “The discussions are incredible ... extremely informational.”
The debates as to who among the 17 semifinalists should be among the four-to-seven enshrinees-elect could be a doozy.
There will be scrums among:
• Four serious contenders in their first year of eligibility, Johnathan Ogden, Larry Allen, Michael Strahan and Warren Sapp.
• Three wide receivers stuck in a perpetual logjam, Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed.
• Two former owners, Edward DeBartolo Jr. and Art Modell, whose franchises are in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
• A big-name running back, Jerome Bettis, and a big-name coach, Bill Parcells.
• Two recommendations from the powerful seniors committee, Dave Robinson and Curly Culp.
• Pass rushers Kevin Greene and Charles Haley.
Will Shields and Aeanas Williams are the only semifinalists who don’t fit into “a debate category.”
“It’s only natural that it’s a long meeting,” said voter Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. “There are a lot of players to talk about, and there are a lot of people in the room.”
The lights will come on at 5:30 p.m. upstairs in the New Orleans Convention Center. NFL Network will hit the air live with personalities Rod Woodson, a Hall of Famer, and Chris Rose. In a first, two voters — Gosselin and Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated — will do a segment.
There is no set time for Perry to step onto the set with The Envelope. Its contents are known only to an accounting firm — until he opens it and reads the names of the Class of 2013.
The rule of thumb: Get that envelope up there early, so the live voices of the men who are elected — and living — can be squeezed into the show.
Page 2 of 2 - The production is typically done on a stage in a convention-center ballroom. Horrigan and HOF sidekick Pete Fierle work fiercely during the broadcast to track down the men who were elected.
Last year, one of the men who made it got stuck in Indianapolis traffic. NFL Network signed off before he arrived.
“There’s some organized chaos,” Horrigan said, “because you can never count on everything going as smoothly as you’d like.
“I guess you’re on adrenaline at that point, and all’s well in Hooterville at the end.”