CANTON, Ohio -- We've just arrived in Canton.
As you pull into this town, it doesn't take long to see what football means to the people here. We're bathing in it deep.
A few early Canton-esque takeaways:
- It's still sleepy on the streets, but with the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement just one day away, our little Marriott hotel off the highway doubles this weekend as a celebration of the game. As you enter the building, a hand-crafted sign outside reads: "Have a legendary day." Inside, the Marriott's meeting rooms aren't named after forgotten explorers or dead presidents, but Paul Brown, Len Dawson, Alan Page and Marion Motley.
- There's a little pub off the lobby featuring a bartender who can tell you more than you'd ever need to know about Dermontti Dawson. The bar itself is decorated with Bernie Kosar wallpaper, an aesthetic choice that sounds outlandish elsewhere, but should come as no surprise here in Canton. After all, we're just a short drive away from Cleveland, and most of the people here root for the Browns (although the staffer who checked us in dropped disturbing hints of being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan).
- Speaking of the Brownies, our flight landed in Cleveland on Thursday just minutes after the sale of the team to Jimmy Haslam III was announced. Final approval from NFL owners is pending, but local news here was wall-to-wall Browns coverage Thursday night. They're serious about the team in this part of Ohio and we plan to talk with a few of the locals after Haslam speaks this afternoon.
- That, of course, is a side job. ATL's primary task in Canton is to dig into this weekend's Hall of Fame celebration, which hits its stride over the next three days. My traveling partner is NFL photographer Ben Liebenberg, and his car is waiting outside. We're off to hunt down Curtis Martin, Willie Roaf and the rest of the icons. We'll report back soon.
In the meantime, friends, you have a legendary day.