Hall of Fame Week is near, and there are big plans afoot.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton has just finished a 32,000-square-foot expansion project, and there could be more big plans as the Hall celebrates its 50-year anniversary next week with a record number of returning enshrinees to celebrate this year’s class of seven. Induction comes August 3 in Canton.
I’m hearing the league is looking into having a second Hall of Fame game—a game that would be played during the regular season to great fanfare, in a move designed to increase interest in the Hall of Fame. There’s no question Hall fathers are trying to boost attendance at times of the year other than Hall of Fame week, when the place is bursting with fans. And calling a big regular-season game “The Hall of Fame Game’’ could focus attention on the Hall, particularly if there are programs in the home city of the game designed to spur interest and tourism there. As for the game, maybe it’s a Thursday, Sunday or Monday night primetime game. Maybe the Hall sends a traveling collection of busts and memorabilia to the game site, or to a museum in that city.
My idea? Get a traveling collection of leather helmets and the like, and find a good museum in New York to house the display during Super Bowl week this year. Maybe you’d get people to say, “I’ve never been to the Hall. I’ve got to go.” I have a vested interest; I’m a Hall voter, and I’ve been there more than a few times, and I know how fun it is to get lost in the place for a few hours and experience the roots of the game. If the regular-season game works as a concept, along with the attendant network and media promotion of the game, I say why not?
Getting to know you.
Sports Illustrated managing editor Chris Stone, I am happy to report, allowed me to sign my top three draft choices earlier this year as the writers for The MMQB. Why’d I pick Bedard, Vrentas and Klemko out of such a crowded field of good journalists? They’re young (average age: 30.7), which I liked; I wanted new ideas. They’re eager. I’ve watched them all in action and have been impressed with how hard they work and how much they want to be good. And I think they’re versatile. But I kept coming back to the second point. I wanted smart people who love this job. So off we go.
I wanted to let you see a glimpse into each of the three correspondents for The MMQB. So I asked them: How’d you figure out you wanted to be a writer?
KLEMKO: “I grew up in a family that put a high priority on the historical record. My father, an office mover who doesn’t care about sports, keeps a library of more than 100 Civil War history books. He dragged the family to places like Antietam and Gettysburg during our childhood summers, asking my two brothers and I to imagine the sacrifices men on both sides made for what they believed America ought to be. My mother, a veterinarian, kept a catalog of Sports Illustrated magazines in a bedroom in our home in Silver Spring, Md. I was around 10 years old when I asked the question every warm-blooded Maryland boy eventually asks: ‘Who’s Len Bias?’ She unearthed a dust-covered, decade-old magazine from a pile: June 30, 1986, ‘Death of a Dream.’ I read every word, and I remember feeling as though I was holding something tremendously important. Years later, I imagined the great sense of responsibility the writer must have felt, asked to sum up a man’s legacy with words. I wanted to feel that.”
VRENTAS: “I always get the same questions. ‘What was your major again?” Biochemistry and molecular biology. ‘And WHY did you become a journalist?” I know, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. My older sister, Cathy, was actually the first person to suggest I try out for the student paper, The Daily Collegian, when I was a freshman at Penn State and she was a senior. I found out I loved it: meeting interesting people, telling their stories, sharing with readers things they wouldn’t have known otherwise. Choosing journalism as a career was a bit of a leap of faith, but it was one I couldn’t imagine not taking—and that’s how I feel about joining The MMQB.”
BEDARD: “I knew that I wanted to be a sports writer when I was given my first beat, the women’s softball team, at the Rutgers student daily newspaper, the Daily Targum. I loved everything about it. I covered that team like it was the Red Sox. I would skip classes to cover a doubleheader at Princeton. The ability to immerse yourself in everything that comes with being on a beat—the day-to-day ups and downs, developing relationships, covering exciting games, analyzing why things went bad or well, and translating that for the reader—was intoxicating. Almost immediately, I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Me? Well, I got incredibly lucky. We lived in northern Connecticut, halfway between New York and Boston, and my father was a big newspaper reader. He’d buy four or five newspapers on both Saturday and Sunday, and I’d devour the sports sections. If I couldn’t grow up and play left field for the Red Sox, well, maybe I could write about them. When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a one-sheet neighborhood newsletter in the summer every couple weeks. My mom would put carbon paper between sheets in the typewriter and type up the thing for me, and I’d distribute it to a few neighbors. Can you imagine what a nightmare nerd I was for those neighbors? Don’t answer the doorbell Mabel! It’s that King weirdo again with the stories about his wiffleball games! Anyway, I got lucky. I found out what I wanted to do early in my life. And 46 years later, I still really want to do it.
So there we are. We look forward to telling you some good stories.