(Hall of Fame photos by Clark Judge)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Gentlemen, start your watches.
In just over two weeks, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will induct eight new members, including former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, and while keeping their eyes on the prize the Hall’s newest members must also keep their eyes on a familiar target.
Reason: Now, more than ever, brevity is demanded.
I’m talking, of course, of acceptance speeches, and it’s a tightrope the Hall must walk every August when heeding inductees to keep remarks to “reasonable” lengths -- meaning something under the 20-to-40-minute soliloquies we’ve gotten in recent years.
The Hall understands that inductees have only one opportunity to relive memories and to thank family members, teammates, coaches, owners, you name it. But it also understands it has a line to move (there are eight inductees this year, including two who are deceased) on live TV, so it would like to wrap things up in the neighborhood of three hours.
“But here’s the issue,” said Joe Horrigan, executive vice president and chief communications officer of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “We’re asking guys to summarize a 15-to-20-year career in 10 minutes.”
And, as Horrigan acknowledges, that’s hard – both on the speakers and the guy trying to move the program along.
Namely, Joe Horrigan.
(Joe Horrigan photo by Rick Gosselin)
He works with inductees prior to August, offering suggestions with speeches and offering to edit addresses to keep them from running into the night. And he makes it clear he’s available only to help.
“I will never change their context or their flow,” he said.
Nevertheless, the Hall has had to make changes elsewhere to keep its ceremony from stalling. It recently acted to make presenters pre-tape addresses rather than do them live—in essence, holding each to the same stop watch. That helped. Most presentations now last approximately three minutes, though those for deceased inductees like this year’s senior nominees, Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel, are allowed to run twice that long because they're not followed by acceptance speeches.
But the presenters aren’t the issue. Nor are they the focus of attention.
Inductees are, and, two years ago four of them had speeches that lasted 30 minutes or longer, including one that went closer to 40 minutes. That kept the induction going too far into the night, with what should have been a three-hour ceremony turning into a five-hour marathon, and the Hall implored the Class of 2015 not to follow its predecessors.
And, for the most part, that happened – with all but two speeches under 17 minutes, including three that went no more than 8:21.
Nevertheless, the Hall has a program to run and networks to satisfy, so this year it will offer inductees a chance to reduce speeches by addressing those they want to thank on the Hall’s website. There’s also a plan to have inductees include their thanks on live network crawls – an idea that could be adopted as soon as this week.
Both proposals aim to achieve the same solution – brevity -- with the idea that the less inductees have to say the more chance they have of keeping their remarks on topic and economical.
But let’s be real. If someone wants to stand up, as Michael Strahan did two years ago, and speak for over a half hour, nobody is going to ask him to sit down. Nor should they. The Hall-of-Fame induction is the culmination of a great career, and selectees have one opportunity … and one opportunity only … to celebrate it in front of millions.
But this isn’t the celebration of one or two individuals. There are eight inductees, and the Hall’s push for brevity is as much out of consideration for all eight as it is in consideration of TV’s time constraints. As Horrigan rightly pointed out, for all but one speaker, there’s someone else waiting to follow and an audience waiting to hear him.
So, gentlemen, start your watches. The clock is about to become an issue for you.