The first and only time I stepped into a professional sports hall of fame I was blown away by the experience.
Canton, Ohio's mark on the sports world -- the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- is everything I wished my history field trip would have been.
My entire life I had envisioned the hall, filled with busts of all the enshrined members -- the pinnacle individual achievement for any football player. Something I dreamed about as a kid, I had waited almost twenty years to walk inches from the bronze symbols that honored pro football's greats.
However, as I toured the facility I found myself less interested in the iconic statues themselves. Instead, the history and stories that were told through artifacts captivated me the most. Historic jerseys, cleats, goal posts, championship rings, draft cards and more -- the place had it all and each had something to say.
But when I finally had the chance to walk through the dimly lit room with bronze busts illuminated by the soft light, I wondered to myself if the darkness was doing more than setting a mood. Was the shadow-filled shrine a symbol of those left out -- those players and stories who belong in the hall, but are hid in the shadows?
The place it hits the hardest isn't football, of course, it's America's pastime. Baseball has Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and others. Each has admitted wrong-doing at some point in their professional sports career, but all were phenomenal talents with Hall of Fame skill outside of their illegitimate actions.
The voters and purists, however, have little respect for such players. Despite the scandals and eras that have defined the history of baseball, the fantasy of a pure sport guards the entrance to Cooperstown.
But instead of ignoring them away, each should be embraced and enshrined for exactly who they are and the stories they tell.
Put them in their own dark corner of the building. Give them The Asterisk Room. Darken the light even more on their busts, but don't pretend away a part of the game's history.
The hall-of-fames of the American sports world are acting like a club house when they should be serving as a light house. Instead of fixating on the imagined purity of the sports world, fans should be guided to the truth and history that has defined each respective sport from beginning to present.
What should be the purpose of a Hall of Fame?
Justin Mikels is a staff writer for Operation Sports. Follow him on Twitter @long_snapper.