So, I am sitting in my hotel room trying to unwind from a most memorable weekend, and I thought I’d put some of my thoughts down on keyboard…
When the Hall of Fame class for this year was announced and there were two Indianapolis Colts inductees and one Green Bay Packer, my mind immediately started spinning about the possibilities. And so we planned for 3 Generations of Kolpien men, 3 Generations of football fans to spend this weekend at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I was so glad that my dad was able to come down to Indy to pick us up and head over to Ohio for the weekend.
I can’t tell you in enough words how thrilling it was to sit and watch the Hall of Fame inductions and hear the speeches from my football heroes with my dad, who taught me the love of the game, and encouraged me to push beyond myself to try and play football. And then to share that with my son, who is just starting out in his love of football. I posted some thoughts last night about how inspiring it was to hear from Tony Dungy and Brett Favre, but really all of the speeches were emotionally fulfilling and inspirational.
So today, we were looking forward to another big day at the Hall of Fame, culminating with the Hall of Fame Game featuring each of our favorite teams. I’ll be honest when I tell you that walking through the Hall was not quite as much as it could have been, but that is because of the shear volume of people that were in there, it was just too busy to get to spend any real time going through that, so we will just have to go back. We bought a package that included entrance to the HOF, the game and a tailgate party before hand. So we hung around and went to the tent event waiting for game time. It was so cool to see all of the football fans who by and large were so friendly and accommodating. (even if they were mostly wearing Green) We met people from all over the country.
And so then it was time to head back to the stadium to get ready to watch the game. We got in a very long line, right around 6:00 p.m. (the time that the gates were supposed to open). And we waited, and waited, and waited. People kept going up to the security staff asking when the gates would open and they were as ill-informed as we were. They didn’t know why there was a delay. And so we waited.
Finally after close to an hour of waiting, we started to move towards the gate and got into the stadium. As is our custom, we headed to our seats to scope them out, and then came down to get concessions. It was interesting to note that about an hour before game time, and we didn’t see any players warming up. I had been to enough football games to know that something wasn’t right, but I really didn’t give it much thought because we were there, and it was awesome!
When I returned to our seats with the overpriced beverages, we began to hear some rumbling about something going on with the game. Rumors were going around about the game being canceled because of field conditions. Field Conditions? It was sunny and 85, and there was field turf, how could their be field condition issues. Then my phone started blowing up with friends sending me their condolences about the game being cancelled, but I looked up at the pregame clock and it was still counting down – they had to be wrong. It had to be a social media hoax, right, because certainly they wouldn’t have made us stand in line for all that time, come in and spend even more money on concessions and souvenirs only to tell everyone else but us that the game was canceled.
Then the word came down, still not yet from inside the stadium, but officially from ESPN, the NFL Network, RTV6, and other media outlets that the game was in fact canceled. But we still haven’t been told anything. There were then rumors that they were going to try and make some sort of fan fest and possibly have some autograph opportunities with the players, and so we waited, and waited, and waited some more.
Finally with the pregame clock ticking down to zero, the announcement we already knew from everyone but the people who should have told us was made. But we couldn’t hear anything that David Baker from the HOF was saying because of all of the boos being sent his way. There was something said about player safety, something about their disappointment, something about refunds to be determined later (after we have all left and headed home) but really, I couldn’t tell. I was still getting more information from social media and my friends who knew I was there that were passing me information.
And so the pregame clock finally clicked down to zero and the stadium announcer as if he were completely unaware of the previous announcement about the game being canceled (maybe he couldn’t hear over the boos either) – began to welcome the coaches and players from each team as they came out on the field and faced each other on opposing 45 yard lines. They were just standing there looking at each other. We thought maybe they were going to play dodgeball, or corn hole, or maybe have a water balloon fight, but alas none of that. (More boos and chants of “Let Them Play”)
The announcer then welcomed the Class of 2016 Inductees to the HOF and the booing slowly started turning to applause in recognition for why we were really there.
And then it was time for the “half-time show” Lee Greenwood tried his best and played to our patriotism singing for us and inviting us to sing along. (And we got the chance to recognize the service men and women who were there representing the branches of the military). The Colts Cheerleaders performed and then the announcement came, “Thank you for coming to the Hall of Fame, drive home safely” – wait, what? That’s it? No Fan Fest, No Autographs, nothing else, just “you don’t have to go home, but you got to get the heck out of here.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly did not want the teams to play on a field that was unsafe. I don’t blame the decision being made. I blame the manner in which it was communicated to us, in the stands. There was blatant disregard and down right deceit in their actions (IMHO). They were more than happy to continue to take our money for as long as they could.
There were no winners tonight. Neither team won. The fans certainly didn’t win. The Hall of Fame didn’t win (not the way they wanted their biggest event of the year to end). The volunteers who work the concession stands in order to raise money for their charities didn’t win. And the NFL didn’t win – but unfortunately they were the only ones who had any control over the events of the evening.
So there is talk about a refund, but what exactly that means has yet to be determined. What about all of the ancillary expenses outside of the ticket price? Hotel rooms, food, travel – and we were part of a package deal – how does that work? It makes my head hurt to even think about it.
And so I’m left here where I started. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something with my dad and my son that I know I will remember forever. While the sting of the game is fresh now, I know that will not be the lasting memories of this weekend. The lasting memories will be seeing my dad revel in the “Go Pack Go” chants and watch one of his favorite players from his favorite team go in the Hall of Fame; seeing my son look on with wonder and amazement at all of the NFL players and all of the festivities; seeing the culmination of a life’s work and the just rewards of excellence and being inspired by their journey.
In closing I’m reminded by something that Brett Favre said last night in his speech that I think is perfectly fitting for this experience. He talked about having no regrets. Things didn’t go perfectly in his career, he didn’t always make the right choices or the right plays, but he always gave everything he had. I have no regrets as it relates to this trip. We went and experienced everything we could and while it wasn’t all we hoped it would be, in many ways it was more because it was all we had and we did it together.