In a summer for the National Football League that has centered largely around futile attempts at resolving the protest-during-the-national-anthem issue and an unwieldy new helmet rule designed to make the game safer (that will only make the game more infuriating), the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Saturday night gave us a nice break (for the most part) from the self-inflicted dysfunction the game has suffered from over the last few months.
In Canton on Saturday, the speeches were largely great, but at times bizarre. The best way to break this past weekend down is by (a) embedding the video for you room service-style (you're welcome!), and (b) denoting the winners and losers. So let's do this!
4. Robert Brazile
After 29 years of waiting, Dr. Doom was finally admitted into the Hall by the senior's committee, which includes longtime Houston Chronicle writer and Brazile supporter, John McClain. It was an emotional night for anybody with Houston Oiler ties, as Brazile was likely the last of the Oiler football refugees to go into the Hall of Fame. Brazile was presented by his father, 86-year-old Robert, Sr., who doesn't look a day over 65, by the way. My biggest takeaway, in looking at Brazile's resume and his highlights, is "What the hell took so long?"
3. Jerry Kramer
Well, if you think it took Brazile a long time to get into the Hall of Fame, Jerry Kramer would like you to hold his beer, because prior to Saturday's induction ceremony, Kramer had waited nearly five decades for that knock on his door. In fact, Kramer had made a virtual cottage industry the last couple decades for being the "best player left out of the Hall of Fame." If you're into great Vince Lombardi stories, watch Kramer's speech.
2. Chris Berman
Berman handled the emcee duties on Saturday night. Hey, I'll admit it, for the last ten years or so, Chris Berman has been like sugar for me — something that was seemingly in everything I consumed, and something that I've been trying to replace with a much less harmful substitute. Well, ESPN finally put some Splenda in its programming a year or so ago, removing Berman from virtually all of his duties, including its NFL programming on game days on Sunday. So, here is where I admit something else — I miss Chris Berman. Now, I don't miss Berman infringing unnecessarily on things like the home run derby (BACKBACKBACKBACK!), golf, or football play by play. However, I do miss him guiding us through our Sundays during the NFL regular season and playoffs. Yeah, I'll say it, it was good to see Berman on Saturday night. Sue me.
1. Brian Dawkins
Dawkins is a Philly legend, arguably the biggest icon in the history of that franchise. I thought the video presentation package they did on Dawkins was the best of the bunch, truly capturing how much he meant to the vibe and the identity of a hardscrabble town. Dawkins then went out and topped that with his speech, a 22 minute whirlwind of inspiration, in which he revealed how close he was to suicide at one point. He gave a great message on seeking help, and picking one's self up and moving forward. Watch the speech.
4. Terrell Owens
Conversely, not much need to watch ol' T.O.'s speech, coming to you live from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Watch it if you want to, but Owens, who eschewed Canton altogether, basically used his rogue ceremony as another opportunity to bitch and moan about not getting into Canton on the first ballot, even having the balls to couch his self-imposed absence from the real ceremonies as some sort of movement on behalf of those wronged by the Hall of Fame committee. Appropriately, Owens was working out for Saskatchewan's CFL team the day after the ceremonies. Rest in football peace, T.O.
3. Johnny Manziel
Speaking of the CFL, Johnny Manziel made his debut on Friday night, starting at quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes. My radio cohosts, Rich Lord and Ted Johnson, and I were so excited for this that we planned our three man watch party in West Virginia three days ahead of time. We sat down at a place called The Asylum in Lewisburg, ordered our drinks, some appetizers, even fist bumped each other. We were SO excited! Johnny Football was back!
And then the bell rang. And then Johnny threw a pick on his first throw. Then another. And another and another. By the end of the night, Montreal had lost 50-11, with their one touchdown coming from a fourth quarter drive engineered by their backup QB. Unfortunately, Johnny Football is not back....
Now is a good time to reintroduce you to the coach of the Montreal Alouettes pic.twitter.com/kbFvYUQTW0— Telco (@TelcoAg) August 4, 2018
2. Mike Sherman
....however, when your coach can barely put on his headphones, is it really your fault if you're the starting QB?
1. Ray Lewis
Ok, as I said earlier, the speeches in Canton were largely great. Seriously, up until the very end, all of them had great messages, funny stories, and they made you appreciate that player MORE than you did when the speech started (always a big criteria point for me). Then came Ray Lewis. Certainly, there is no argument, based on resume and star power, that Lewis should have been the final inductee to speak that night. However, in his 35 minutes or so on stage, we were predictably reminded what a self-absorbed kook Lewis is. First, he didn't use the normal microphone, but instead went with the Garth Brooks-style earphone and mike, and he walked the stage back and forth like Joel Osteen or something. He then constructed a montage of verbal diarrhea the likes of which Canton hasn't seen, maybe ever — awkward quasi-religious declarations about his number 52, weird thanks to people that seemed more about declaring how awesome HE is than really thanking the person, a diatribe about Art Modell's amazing "vision" (ballsy, considering the state the Hall resides in), and a constant reminder of how godly Lewis claims to be, despite never really answering for his role in the murders of two men in Atlanta prior to the Super Bowl in 2000. By the end of the speech, Lewis had actually sweated through his gold jacket, and thankfully the speech was over. Go away, Ray.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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