I am in no way a VIP. But I have had the luck to experience a lot of special memories from the NFL over the years. I will share a few.
When I was young I had the chance to go see some games with Dad. And car pool to the games with our family. Everyone should have a chance to go…at least once. I received a signed ball from the Super Bowl V Champion Baltimore Colts. The ball was also signed by several great players (from the 70’s) who were not part of that team. I also have a briefcase that is blind embossed with the NFL logo. It came straight from 280 Park Avenue, New York, NY. And if you do not know the address, it is the league headquarters. I carry it everywhere.
Additionally, I have had the good fortune to tour team facilities. On two separate occasions. And on the second tour, our group was lucky enough to see Ed doing some squats – and Ozzie on the treadmill. It is a special moment in a fan’s life to have these experiences. The memories will last a lifetime.
Recently I was overwhelmed to have the opportunity to cover this year’s Hall of Fame Enshrinement for Lone Star Struck. And on this occasion I was to be the reporter of record. Being though I have never had a course in Journalism, I like to consider my part in this role as a “reFANer”. A new word. It even has one of those squiggly red lines under it (in my software) that indicate a miss-spelled word.
As the “reFANer” of record, I feel it is my duty to attempt to provide adequate words for the weekend long thrill ride.
In the film “Rudy”, the character Daniel Ruttiger said, (upon entering Notre Dame Stadium), “This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen!” And those sentiments are not far off. I have seen the front entrance to the Hall hundreds of times, but it has never looked quite so “beautiful”.
To add an extra feeling of joy to this journey, I had credentials. I had access. But I also had responsibility. I was to interview Deion Sanders (in a small group) and have a story to tell. Not too hard for a guy who enjoys any creative outlet. It actually turned out to be the easiest part. And I say that because as a reporter, or in this instance a “reFANer”, I had to maintain a sense of dignity…of professionalism…and composure.
I have had some experience in that role from my previous good fortune. While taking the tours, I had to promise I’d respect the fact that I was given that access – and I was responsible for the group I brought as well. So this time would be child’s play. But it wasn’t. Not in the least.
This time I was exposed to players who were from MY team. And they were from an amazing time in our team’s history. My three favorite Cowboys were all on hand. And I stood about three feet from Emmitt Smith, who ranks at the top in my book. My family even named a pet after him.
It was all I could do to contain myself and not run up to him to shake his hand. “I must remember composure and dignity”, I thought to myself. “Calm down, this weekend I am with the media – a professional…not a fan”.
I would have no respect for some of the great reporters of this game if they acted like a child when a player was around. So I went with the flow and I acted appropriately. But it was great to feel that child inside. The kid who got goose bumps as a 44 year old man. I smiled from ear to ear and took it all in.
The whole experience: admission in the Hall; seeing members from my team; being part of a very small group who witnessed the signing of the CBA; attending a Hall Ground Breaking; and interviewing Deion; shaking hands with Chris “back, back, back” Berman and Ed “Too Tall” Jones. I could go on and on. Not very far from a fan’s utopia.
I even had the pleasure of being in the same small circle with some of the people who help make this game so great for the fans. As some of the NFL front office staff were on hand. I even stood about a foot from Roger Goodell at one point.
Others may have been seeking personal photo opps. Or autographs. But not me. I did my best to be a reporter.
Luck can take you to places you have never been. So can hard work. I have experienced both over the past few years and look at where it got me. Behind a narrow, yellow strip of paper. Past Security. Within arm’s reach of some of the greatest men to ever wear a helmet…and take the field.
This reporter didn’t even care that the suit I brought on the trip. The one I was to wear (and did) to the formal dinner presentation of the gold jacket…had a tear in the seam that I forgot about. It was in the worst possible place. I remembered while putting it on, a half hour before the event.
I was happy the full time photographer let me crouch in front of him. Now he is a professional. He got a great look…and he had a great laugh. I am a giving person after all. I am so glad I did not pack the neon boxers though. And that I have never really been a Commando kinda guy.
Thank you Lone Star Struck…for the most beautiful weekend this football fan’s eyes have ever seen…