The Hall of Fame game
This weekend marks the unofficial start of the National Football League season with the induction ceremony at the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

I know that the real season starts in a little more than a month, but I must admit the Hall of Fame weekend is when I finally get into football mode. It also helps that my local baseball team, the Cleveland Indians, has totally gone into the tank so I am more than happy to start getting into football.

Canton is just a little over an hour away from my home in Northeastern Ohio and I can honestly say that Hall of Fame weekend is the biggest event of the year for this region. The National Football League was founded in Canton and I must admit that I am impressed that the NFL did not try to put the Hall in a more tourist-friendly area in their never-ending quest for the almighty dollar.

That is not to say that the NFL hasnít screwed up some of the magic of the festival. First off, they moved the induction ceremony and Hall of Fame game from Saturday. The induction ceremony is now on Sunday afternoon and the game is on Monday night. That took away a very beautiful aspect of the festival, that it was a small-town event that happened to feature national teams. Now it is just another way for the NFL to print money.

Oh well, it is still a nice parade, a nice induction ceremony and I still get a kick out of the NFL staging a game at a high school football stadium. Fawcett Stadium is pretty tiny, but it has seen some very big stars.

Pre-season games are meaningless, but admit it. You get as big a thrill as I do out of finally seeing NFL uniforms on the field. We donít care that by the third quarter we are watching future UPS drivers and substitute teachers crash into each other. Itís finally time for football!

Looking through the history of the Hall of Fame game I learned some interesting things. If you donít want to watch the second half, invite the Green Bay Packers to play. In 1980 and 2002, the Packers appearances at the Hall of Fame game were cut short due to severe lightning and rain.

Even though the AFL and NFL competed in pre-season games for the first time in 1967 following the merger, it took until 1971 for an original AFL team to be invited. The old Houston Oilers lost to the then Los Angeles Rams 17-6.
Watching a biography of Howard Cosell, I learned that he called former Kansas City Chief tailback, and current announcer Mike Adamle, a ďlittle monkeyĒ during the 1972 Hall of Fame game. Of course Cosell would ignite a storm of controversy when he called Washington Redskin receiver Alvin Garrett a little monkey a decade later.

Speaking of announcers, ABC Sports had former or future Hall of Famers Frank Gifford, Joe Namath, O.J. Simpson, Dan Dierdorf, Dan Fouts and John Madden in the booth for Hall of Fame games. Continuing on the announcer front, the failed Dennis Miller experiment got its Monday Night start at the 2000 Hall of Fame game.

But since this a column on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers website, letís not forget the important role played by our team in the history of the Hall of Fame game. The worst loss in Hall of Fame game history occurred in 1984 when Tampa Bay fell to Seattle 38-0. On the plus side, Lee Roy Selmon was able to get an up close look at the facility in which he would be immortalized.

The 1995 game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers followed the induction of Lee Roy Selmon and Steve Largent. It was only fitting that the match-up between the two 1995 expansion teams took place on the same day that the two best players in the histories of the 1976 expansion teams were inducted. Older brother Dewey Selmon introduced Lee Roy to the audience in 1995. I do remember thinking that this might be the only time in my life that I would see a Buccaneer on national television. Thank goodness for Tony Dungy.

In 1998 the Buccaneers routed the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-6 in the first primetime Hall of Fame game. It was also the last Hall of Fame game to be played on a Saturday.

In 2005 Steve Young became the second player from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be inducted, although I was shocked that he didnít invite Leeman Bennett or Mack Boatner to introduce him. Enjoy the game and festivities. I hope in the years to come weíll reunite for the inductions of Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber, Mike Alstott (Iím serious!! IĒll make the case in a future column!!) and God-willing and football fate smiling, Jon Gruden.

Denis Crawford, August 2006