Art McNally will be the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s first official inductee

Art McNally worked for the NFL for 58 years, first as a referee, then as an officiating director. He kept the number of his suburban Philadelphia residence openly throughout the years. It rang quite a lot because of the fans who believed McNally's officials conspired against their team.

Brian O'Hara his son-in law, stated that Art would answer the telephone every time. “He would talk to anyone that called as long they didn't curse, yell or scream.”

“They would be upset, and would tell him how wrongful the officials were in the game. The officials were usually correct. He would explain to them the rule. He would explain the rule to them.

McNally joined the NFL's leadership group in 1968. At that time, the director of officiating was able to defend calls on an individual basis and not on a set on the NFL Network. The nation was still not interested in the league.

McNally's name may not be as well-known as the names of some of the NFL pioneers from that era, such as commissioner Pete Rozelle. Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula to Dallas Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm. McNally was involved in the growth of the game so much that the Pro Football Hall of Fame will honor him. first official to be enshrined.

McNally will be 97 in the next month. The Hall of Fame declined to interview McNally. Tom McNally's son said that it is not yet clear if McNally will attend the August 6 ceremony of enshrinement in Canton, Ohio. In a video that captured the momentMcNally, upon being informed in February of his election, took off his hat and simply stated, “That's a surprise.”

McNally believed that he would not be enshrined. Family members confirmed this. O'Hara pointed out that the selection committee is primarily made up of media representatives. He also recalled McNally saying, “The only thing they ever write is when we make mistakes.” Why would you vote to elect someone you believe has always made mistakes?

McNally stated that the best day for an NFL official was when they are completely unnoticed. He said that their job is to perform in a manner that makes them feel appreciated. “hopefully nobody is going to even know you're around.”

This mentality has shaped the relative anonymity of today's NFL officials. The league strives to keep them out of the public eye. Except for short post-game pool reports, they are not available to media interviews. The NFL does not generally publish their bios or disclose their background.

It's no surprise that 16 referees are enshrined into the Halls of Fame, 10 for baseball and 10 for basketball, but McNally was the first one to be seriously considered for pro football. In 1966, Hugh “Shorty” Hayes was enshrined. He was an ex-officiating administrator who had no experience on the field.

Tom McNally stated that Art didn't mind it. He was perfectly content with being absent. He is content and happy with his life and doesn't need the Hall of Fame to make it complete. That's who he is.

“But for us it will be amazing to have his bust in Canton forever. His family is extremely happy for him. He was a trend-setter and made history.”

McNally's influence is responsible for much of what fans see on the field today. McNally was the one to translate owners' demands for more offense in the 1970s into enforceable rules. McNally oversaw the relocation of the hashmarks, the elimination of the chuck rule allowing defensive backs to hit receivers as well as the introduction and enforcement illegal contact. McNally was responsible for adding a seventh member to the original six-person team, revising their mechanics and then declining requests for another.

McNally led a decade-long experimentation that culminated in the introduction of a regular-season instant replay system in 1986. McNally is considered the “Father in Instant Replay” because he was open to using technology that the league wanted to improve the game's credibility.

McNally's drive was driven more than anything by a deep sense fairness. According to Tom, his father officiated his first game in World War II when fellow Marines stationed at the Pacific started organizing teams. After choosing their sides, McNally was elected referee.

Tom stated that they wanted everyone to play fair. “So they chose Art.” They knew that he was straight-shooting and would judge the game as it should be.

He continued officiating even after the war and was soon appointed referee for a CYO Football Championship game in Philadelphia. O'Hara stated that he was overwhelmed by the emotion he witnessed on the field after the last whistle.

O'Hara stated that he once told me that the winners were happy and those who lost were sad. He just kept thinking about how important it was that these games are fair. He wanted to ensure that everyone was treated equally if these boys were so passionate about the game. As a referee, that was his job. He wasn’t necessarily a football player. He was a man of fairness.”

This passion was evident throughout his time in the NFL. Jim Tunney, a former referee, wrote in February that McNally was enough of a friend. “play poker over the phone” He is with me. Paul Tagliabue, former commissioner, said McNally “never spoke anything flippant” and instead relied on his extensive knowledge of the rulesbook and details of his daily film reviews.

John Parry said, “He didn't speak often,” and was promoted to side judge to referee. He is now an ESPN analyst. Art would shut down meetings when there was discord, disagreement or questions about why things are done the way they are. He would rise and give you the history and reasons for the change, as well as the context of how the issue came about and who made the changes. The room was silent when he spoke. Art spoke and people listened. They were open to his ideas and asked for the right wall.

He had a soft spot for his family. O'Hara tells O'Hara that McNally received an angry phone call once. Chicago Bears fan. He eventually settled down. He told me he owned a Chicago barbershop, and was passionately involved in his team.

They developed a friendship. They exchanged letters. McNally helped the man obtain tickets to Super Bowl XX. The Bears won 46-10 over the Bears. New England Patriots. McNally's extended relatives were sent candy each Christmas by the barber.

McNally happened upon Chicago the next day and stopped at the barbershop. McNally was not recognized by anyone. After all, officials are most effective when nobody notices them. He simply extended his hand to the barber, and said “Hi. Art McNally, National Football League. It's a pleasure to meet you.

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