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AFL in the Hall of Fame

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on ArenaFan.com, Friday, July 6, 2007

When I heard that the Arena Football League was getting its own permanent exhibit at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio my first thought was, “It’s about time.” I have visited the Hall of Fame several times over the years and I now had an excuse to go there yet again.

It makes sense for the Hall to recognize the AFL. The League has been around for 21 seasons now and it is second only to the NFL in longevity. After all, it is the “Pro Football” Hall of Fame and not just the “NFL” Hall of Fame. It has exhibits on the World Football League, which was only around for a year and a half (1974-1975), the United States Football League, which lasted three years (1983-1985) and several other leagues that have come and gone over the years including the recently terminated World League of American Football / NFL Europe / NFL Europa (1991-1992, 1995-2007).

When the AFL exhibit opened to the public back in March of this year, I saw a picture of it on the Internet. There was a mural on the wall that showed a packed AFL arena (the Kansas City Brigade arena to be exact) and all 19 of the League’s current team helmets were mounted on the mural. It looked pretty impressive in the picture.  

I recently made a trip to the Hall of Fame from my home in Michigan with my two youngest sons to check out the new AFL exhibit first hand.

As we entered the Hall of Fame, we proceeded to the area where I assumed the AFL exhibit would be located. I figured it would be in the room where the exhibits are for the WFL and the USFL. However, it was not there.  

After looking through the entire main level of the Hall we went down to the lower level to have a look around. The lower level contains a snack bar, several interactive games and the gift shop. As we walked towards the gift shop I saw the familiar AFL logo in the distance. As we approached it, I was a little disappointed with what I saw. There was the mural and the mounted helmets, but the helmets were all mini helmets!

Now don’t get me wrong, I love mini helmets. I have over 125 of them in my own personal collection. But it just surprised me to see that they used minis for the AFL display. Is that because the Arena game is played on a 50-yard field so its display should be half the size as well?

The helmets appeared to be up-to-date versions with the exception of the team I cover, the Grand Rapids Rampage. It was the silver helmet that the team switched to this year, as opposed to the black helmets that they had been using since 2000, but the facemask was the wrong color. It was black and it should have been red.

One thing I do like about the exhibit is the large flat screen display above the helmets that shows continuous highlight of Arena games. That was pretty cool. On the right side of the exhibit there is a white, full sized Schutt DNA helmet with the AFL logo on it and an official AFL game ball. On the left side is a Clint Dolezel number 13 jersey from the Dallas Desperadoes. There is also a copy of the League’s Fan’s Bill of Rights and a replica of the famous manila folder that League founder Jim Foster used to sketch his idea for the game of Arena Football on way back in 1981. And speaking of Jim Foster, shouldn’t he have his own place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Another small, interactive screen in the exhibit provides highlights and information on the AFL’s developmental league, arenafootball2. 

Overall, it is a good exhibit but it turned out to be somewhat smaller than I was expecting. There are plenty of things that could (and should) be added to the exhibit in the future. Things like AFL players who went on to play in the NFL, the 20 greatest games ever played, current League records and past ArenaBowl champions.  

Hopefully, the exhibit will grow and improved as time goes by. And when it does, I will just have to make another trip to the Hall of Fame to check it out once again.

If You Go

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio is located just off I-77 at Exit 107A. The Arena Football League exhibit is currently on the Lower Level near the entrance to the gift shop.


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