Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Researchers' Weekend in the Steel City

I joined a group of my fellow football researchers for a get-together in Pittsburgh this past weekend. Most were members of the Pro Football Researchers Association (PFRA), but it wasn't an official gathering. Friday night we all went to dinner and then screened the film "Leatherheads." The next morning, we gathered in a conference room to talk about the projects we were each working on and how we could help each other. Ken Crippen and Andy Piascik spoke about their efforts to track down and interview all of the surviving players from the All-America Football Conference. It's a daunting task, and time is running out. Most of the men who played in this league (which ran from 1946-1949) are in their eighties.

(Note: We're still trying to track down 12 AAFC players, and as far as we can tell they're all still alive. They are: Ezzret "Sugarfoot" Anderson, Robert Francis "Bob" Callahan, Norman Lawrence "Norm" Cox, Raymond L. "Ray" Evans, Paul Edward Gibson, Richard H. "Dick" Handley, Joe Winfred Morgan, John Puckett North, James C. Summer "Jim" O'Neal, Dewey Michael Proctor, Prince Arthur Scott, Linwood Bookard "Lin" Sexton, Gaylon Wesley Smith, Robert Lee "Bob" Sneddon, Robert Porter "Buddy" Tinsley, Jr., and Jack Gressert "Tex" Williams. If you have any info on their whereabouts or would like to help the effort, please contact me. )

T.J. Troup, who served as a technical advisor on "Leatherheads", shared stories about working with George Clooney and teaching the cast how to play football like they did back in 1925. Denis Crawford talked about his experiences writing his book on the 1979 Buccaneers called "McKay's Men." And we spent a fair amount of time just talking football. I wish more members had turned out, but those of us who were there had a lot of fun. I drove up to Canton on Sunday and spent a couple of hours at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They've added a lot of interactive exhibits since I was last there, particularly in the Hall itself. Large touchscreen monitors let you call up and view a highlight film of any inductee. One of the newer exhibits in the museum honored those players who had served in the armed forces during wartime. no matter how many times I go, I always come away feeling like I've seen something new.