Warren native Joe Reedy left the Valley well over a decade ago but he’s still got Youngstown in his voice (when he says “to tell you the truth,” it comes out “to tell you da troodth”), around his neck (when complimented on the gold chain/chest hair combination peeking out above his shirt, he smiled and said, “I try”) and, especially this week, on his mind.
Because, see, Reedy isn’t just the Bengals beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer, he’s one of just 46 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. And outside of picking the pope, there aren’t many higher honors a Warren JFK high graduate can earn, particularly when that Catholic school boy has roughly the same physical dimensions as Rudy Ruettiger.
“It’s one of those things where, my dad and I went to the Hall a bunch of times and I think if you’re a northeastern Ohio guy, you know how much the Hall means to the area and the joy and reverence people have for it,” Reedy said following Saturday’s induction show in New Orleans.
“This is the fourth class I’ve helped select and just being part of that is something special.”
Of course, this year was extra special — or extra maddening, depending on where you’re sitting. Of the 15 modern-era candidates, two had northeast Ohio ties: Youngstown’s Eddie DeBartolo, the beloved former owner of the San Francisco 49ers and Art Modell, the despised (at least in Cleveland) former owner of the Browns and Ravens.
“There was a lot of scrutiny this year,” Reedy said. “I heard from a lot of people who didn’t know I was a selector before this year.”
Neither owner made the committee’s first cut from 15 to 10 but while DeBartolo’s candidacy (which Reedy supports) seemed to move forward, Modell’s candidacy (which Reedy opposes) has stalled.
“I think Eddie’s making headway,” Reedy said. “We keep talking about the on-field accomplishments. I think the fact that with the modern NFL, with the modern facilities and teams traveling in these giant jets and the [understanding that] the way to get to a player is to get to the wife and make them and the whole family feel that [love], that was Eddie. You trace the Super Bowl and the owners who have got there [in recent years] and they all followed that DeBartolo formula.”
Modell’s case, even without the move from Cleveland to Baltimore, isn’t nearly as strong, Reedy said.
“You look at the on-field record, especially compared to Eddie DeBartolo, it’s not close,” he said. “It’s not close at all.”
Like Modell, the DeBartolos (first Eddie, then John and Denise DeBartolo York and now Jed York) spent years trying to get a new stadium built. Unlike Modell, they didn’t move the team, even after the San Francisco Giants got a new stadium more than a dozen years ago.
“I think Eddie’s getting closer,” Reedy said. “Hopefully some of the stuff presented this year will help him out and hopefully he gets back in the room [for discussion] next year.”
Reedy knows no matter who the selectors choose, someone will be unhappy. But when he sees the reaction of those who are picked (like Cris Carter, who grew up in Middletown, less than an hour from Cincinnati), he says it’s worth it.
“That’s the most rewarding thing,” he said.
By the way, his first word sounded like “Dat’s.” But dat’s Reedy — Youngstown in his voice, football in his blood, the Hall of Fame in his future.
And, if Reedy has his way, DeBartolo, too.