Big City Tales

A Pilgrimage to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

September 12, 2018
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It’s that time of year when summer turns to fall, sweaters and sneakers replace shorts and sandals, and millions of football fans are in a frenzy for the start of the new season. It’s also a time when many embark on a pilgrimage to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF) in Canton, Ohio. So it was in the fall of 2017 that this Canadian fan of the American game paid a visit to the HOF’s hallowed halls and its gallery of bronze busts.

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Game of Inches and Hall of INTEGRITY

Football is a game of inches that requires its participants to possess both physical strength and mental acuity in order to achieve greatness. “Doing right” by teammates, coaches and fans is of utmost importance in evaluating a successful career, as well as demonstrating commitment, courage, respect and excellence on and off the field.

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As one of first HOF inductees in 1963, George Halas embodied the game’s core values and earned his place in the annals of football history for his accomplishments as a player, coach and franchise owner. He was also one of the co-founders of the National Football League (NFL) back in the 1920s, and co-developed the T-formation offensive scheme that revolutionized the game in the late 1930s. Over the course of his storied and celebrated 60-year football career, Halas fittingly earned the nickname “Mr. Everything” and among his many honors he was a two-time NFL Coach of the Year winner. Given his myriad contributions to the game, it is little wonder that the official address of the HOF proudly bears his name.

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Huddle Up, America 

For those familiar with the “take a knee” controversy that plagued the National Football League last season during the playing of the pre-game national anthem, it should be no surprise that the HOF came up with a flag-planting campaign to counter the negativity. Using the flag as a symbol of national unity, the HOF planted 300 of the good ol’ red, white and blue on their front lawn and shared that the goal of its “Huddle Up, America” initiative was to encourage the broader football community to come together and constructively work through issues. The garden of flags certainly made for a striking and colorful visual on the walkway to the main entrance (especially on a cloudy day), and stirred patriotic emotions even within this proud maple-loving Canuck.

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Inside the Hallowed Hall

The NFL will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2020 and what a first century it has been. From the league’s earliest superstar players such as Jim Thorpe to pioneering teams such as the Canton Bulldogs and the Akron Pros, the HOF pays tribute to days gone by and highlights each decade with incredible artifacts and numerous interactive exhibits.

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Individual and Team Accomplishments

Be it the perfect regular season of the Miami Dolphins in 1972, the career rushing yard mark held by Emmitt Smith, or the winning ways of the league’s great dynasty teams through the decades, The Record Book exhibit celebrates the significant achievements of individual players, coaches and teams.

As a longtime fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I was delighted to see the various displays pertaining to the exploits of the team during the powerhouse 1990s. Troy Aikman was the team’s all-star quarterback and led the Cowboys to an impressive three Super Bowl championships in 1992, 1993 and 1995 with ample support from the likes of Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

Aikman, Smith and Irvin are among over 30 Dallas Cowboy Hall of Famers, a group that includes coach Tom Landry, owner Jerry Jones, and players Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Randy White who made their marks in earlier eras during the 1970s and 1980s.

Football Immortality

You know you’ve made it into football glory status when your bust is cast in bronze and mounted in the HOF Gallery alongside fellow inductees.

In addition to the bronze bust, the custom-made gold jacket that inductees wear during the enshrinement ceremony (and can take away with them) is another symbol of their high performance standard.

Many deceased inductees are buried in their treasured jackets and those still living are more than happy to don them for special appearances or when conducting official NFL business matters.

Measured to fit like a glove, the jacket also features custom lining and buttons with the HOF logo, and a special label with the inductee’s name and enshrinement number. Even the toughest “big guys” of the game admit to becoming emotional upon receiving their finished jackets and joining the ranks of HOF immortality…the forever NFL brotherhood.

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Culture with a Capital ‘C’ in Cleveland

April 4, 2018
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When it comes to words associated with the city of Cleveland, Ohio “culture” may not immediately jump to mind for non-residents but tried and true Clevelanders know otherwise. Yes, culture with a capital ‘C’ is alive and well in Cleveland and can be experienced around the city in many different ways.

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University Circle

Home to the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Cleveland Botanical Garden and other attractions, University Circle (also known as ‘The Circle’) has the distinction of being the densest concentration of cultural sites and performing arts venues in the United States. Located on the city’s east side, the region also includes thousands of students attending Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland School of the Arts, and Montessori High School/Elementary among other educational institutions. The Circle encompasses 550 acres and features abundant green space that makes for a peaceful and picturesque drive between venues. Other notable landmarks in the area include the community of Little Italy and historic Lake View Cemetery, which contains the James A. Garfield Memorial built to honor the 20th President of the United States who was assassinated in 1881.

Downtown

Eclectic architecture and a vibrant arts and entertainment scene reigns supreme in downtown Cleveland. The city skyline can be admired from many vantage points, one of the best being from the Lake Erie waterfront. The view from The Flats located on the western banks of the Cuyahoga River also offers an interesting perspective. Downtown Cleveland consists of a number of distinct districts such as Public Square, Historic Gateway and North Harbour.

Public Square

As the city’s historic center, Public Square dates back to 1796 and includes notable structures such as Terminal Tower, once the world’s second-tallest skyscraper when it was completed in 1930, and Key Tower, currently the tallest building in Ohio. The square also contains some important historical monuments including statues of city founder, Moses Cleaveland, and former city mayor, Tom L. Johnson.

Historic Gateway District

Thanks to a major revitalization project during the 1990s, the Historic Gateway District has become a popular spot for sports, entertainment, restaurant and shopping outings. The area is home to Progressive Field where the Cleveland Indians play and Quicken Loans Arena where the Cleveland Cavaliers play. Music lovers flock to Cleveland’s House of Blues and foodies enjoy the many eateries along East 4th Street. The Cleveland Arcade, one of the first indoor shopping malls in the United States, is located along the ritzy Euclid Avenue and was financed by wealthy Clevelanders such as John D. Rockefeller when it was constructed in 1890.

North Coast Harbor District

The major landmarks in the North Coast Harbor area along the Lake Erie shoreline include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland Browns Stadium, and the Steamship William G. Mather Maritime Museum. It is the primary tourist hub of the city and there are many terrific photo opportunities be it during the day or at night when many of the buildings light up.

Go Browns! / Go Indians! / Go Cavaliers!

Okay, sports isn’t typically considered to be a ‘high-brow’ activity but cheering on the home team is very much ingrained into Cleveland’s cultural identity. The city’s world-class stadiums are filled with die-hard fans, even when the teams aren’t doing well (sorry, Dawg Pound lovers of the Browns!), and especially so when the teams make the play-offs. Both the Indians and Cavaliers have won their respective league championships in recent history, and back in the day the Browns have been close so there is a strong and proud tradition of winning franchises.

Go Cleveland!

With so many ways to appreciate amazing art, be in awe of incredible buildings and cheer on talented athletes, Cleveland is a definite go-to destination for culture seekers, architectural buffs and sports enthusiasts alike.


Along the Banks of Cincinnati’s Beautiful River

March 2, 2018
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When it comes to cities with interesting and expansive riverfront development, Cincinnati ranks right up there with the best of the best. There is truly much to please the eyes along the banks of its beautiful river, the mighty Ohio, and the views are fantastic be it day or night.

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John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge

For anyone who has flown to Cincinnati and stayed in a downtown hotel, they know that the road from the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky (CVG) airport in Hebron, Kentucky to Cincinnati’s city centre travels across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. They also know that when the river valley and city skyline suddenly appear as you proceed along the interstate, it is a breathtaking sight to behold.

The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, formerly known as the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge, spans the Ohio River and was once the longest suspension bridge in the world. To this day it is still an impressive structure, especially when lit up at night from end-to-end.

Along with its heavy automobile traffic, the bridge is a popular pedestrian route particularly when Cincinnati’s professional sports teams have home games at Paul Brown Stadium, Great American Ball Park, or U.S. Bank Arena. Fans living in or staying at hotels on the Kentucky side of the river can enjoy a leisurely stroll to and from the games instead of being stuck in a log jam of pre- and post-game vehicle traffic. They can also take advantage of a vibrant bar and restaurant district called Roebling Point, which is located at the foot of the bridge on the Kentucky side.

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Smale Riverfront Park

With its prime location and pristine scenery covering 45-acres, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s interests at Smale Riverfront Park. Kids gravitate to the splash parks to cool off in on hot summer days; adults congregate on porch-like swings to rest their weary feet and enjoy the river view.

Other attractions include an old-fashioned carousel with brightly painted animals of historical significance to Cincinnati, a memorial that honors African American volunteers who protected the city during the Civil War, and numerous gardens and green spaces along the Ohio River Trail.

Great American Ball Park

Home of the Cincinnati Reds, Great American Ball Park is named after the Cincinnati-based Great American Insurance Group. The company’s corporate headquarters overlooks the stadium and both are impressive structures.

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As baseball’s first professional franchise, the ball park and Hall of Fame Museum is full of historical references to the great players, coaches and sports media personalities of the past. For example, a rose garden was planted in the area where the ball from Pete Rose’s record-breaking hit landed when the Reds played in the old Riverfront Stadium. The ball park also features two large smokestacks in right-center field that pay homage to the steamboats that used to regularly travel along the nearby Ohio River.

National Steamboat Monument

Located in the riverside park known as Sawyer Point & Yeatman’s Cove, the National Steamboat Monument is an exact replica of the original red paddle wheel from the American Queen riverboat.

Standing three stories in height and weighing 60 tons, the monument highlights the historical contribution of the riverboat trade in Cincinnati. At its peak, Cincinnati was one of the largest ports in the region and was known for manufacturing companies that produced quality steamboats.

In addition to the paddle wheel monument, there is also a series of 24 metal smokestacks that are found in the area known as the Dan and Susan Pfau Whistle Grove. The smokestacks demonstrate the importance of steam technology that powered the earliest steamboats.

The Whistle Grove is an interactive display that is controlled by synchronized computer motion sensors that are activated as people walk by. Along with the emission of steam, other sounds are offered including an old-fashioned calliope steam organ, a steamboat whistle, and the voices of riverboat workers talking about the trials and tribulations of the trade.

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Purple People Bridge

It’s purple and it’s all about people!

The Purple People Bridge connects downtown Cincinnati to the city of Newport, Kentucky across the Ohio River. Beyond its unique color, its other notable characteristic is that it is pedestrian-only.

The primary purpose of the bridge is to make it easy for people to cross the river and access the myriad entertainment options and open park spaces in both regions that are minutes away from the bridge off ramps.

For those not in a rush to get from one side of the bridge to the other, there are festive floral displays, cheery benches and clear views looking west toward Cincinnati’s football and baseball stadiums.