Mixed in among all the hubbub of the Super Bowl, the 2018 class of inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was announced. In case you missed it, here are the 8 members of that class:
- Bobby Beathard
- Robert Brazile
- Brian Dawkins
- Jerry Kramer
- Ray Lewis
- Randy Moss
- Terrell Owens
- Brian Urlacher
I have no argument with any of those selections; in fact, I was surprised to see Jerry Kramer’s name on the list only because I assumed that he had been inducted long before now. The name on the list that can spark discussion is – of course – Terrell Owens. Let me use his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a reason to proclaim what would be my voting criteria for Halls of Fame if I had such franchise.
I believe that any Hall of Fame is supposed to honor the achievements and the memory of the greatest players and coaches and “contributors” to the sport. [Aside: I am only talking about sports Halls of Fame; I consider the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a museum. That’s just me…] I believe that there is a significant distinction that I would make between “great players” and “very good players”. If someone wants to start up the Hall of Very Good Players as an adjunct to the Hall of Fame, that would be hunky-dory with me. However, I would not add the “very good players” to the Hall of Fame. Remember, this is how I would vote if I actually had a vote…
Terrell Owens has been eligible for the Hall of Fame for several years and was denied entry until this year. Many folks have opined that the voters were “teaching him a lesson in humility” by delaying his entry because Owens was not the greatest teammate ever and was not a great “ambassador of the game”. Since I am not part of the process that selects Hall of Fame members, I have no idea how true that is; so, let me assume it is true for the sake of argument.
I think that sort of behavior is petty, childish and small-minded. If in fact, someone with a vote thought that Owens’ behavior was such that it made him unworthy of entry in Year 1 of his eligibility, then changing one’s vote a couple of years later makes no sense since none of his “bad teammate-ness” or “bad attitudes” have been cleansed away in the intervening time.
I believe that members of the Hall of Fame should be there because of their performance on the field – – or in the Front Office or the League Office or whatever. The Hall of Fame should not be an assembly of “Great Players Who Also Happen To Be Great Humanitarians”. In fact, there are players in various Halls of Fame who are not particularly nice people but who happened to excel in their sport.
- Ty Cobb was not a nice person by most accounts.
- Tris Speaker may indeed have thrown games as a manager and bet on them.
- Babe Ruth was hardly a model citizen or role model for children.
- OJ Simpson – – you know…
- Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was accused of sexual harassment and plead to charges of bribing of a governor.
- Marvin Harrison has been in and around several shooting incidents in Philadelphia.
You get the idea…
Notwithstanding any or all of the human frailties of the players above – and the team owner on that list – they all deserve to be in their Hall of Fame because they were outstanding practitioners of their sport when they were involved in their sport. I would have voted in favor of every one of the people on that list – and probably would have done so in the first year of their eligibility unless voting restrictions in that year precluded such a vote.
Please note that Ray Lewis is on this year’s list of inductees. He was involved in an incident where someone died, and Lewis plead guilty to obstruction of justice. Notwithstanding that reality, there can be no doubt that Ray Lewis was a great player in the NFL for about 15 years and the Pro Football Hall of Fame is there to honor that achievement in his life. He belongs there.
To be sure, there is a level of heinous behavior that can trump the most outstanding on-field career achievements and that behavior would cause me to ignore the on-field stuff and to vote against someone’s induction. Let me give two examples. Neither of these people have any achievements that are “Hall-of-Fame-worthy” but pretend for a moment that they had them. I would still vote against:
- Rae Carruth: Convicted of conspiracy to murder his pregnant girlfriend.
- Dr. Larry Nassar: I’m not big on child molesters.
For me, the real conundrum comes when considering steroid users in MLB. My problem there is very simple:
- Steroids – and Performance Enhancing Drugs as a class – were a part of the regimen that produced the eye-popping career stats that brought Joe Flabeetz’ name to the voters. In that case, the “greatness” of the athlete becomes a bit fuzzier than I would prefer it to be.
- I would not vote for a known steroid user.
- If there were a preponderance of evidence (say 75/25) indicating steroid use, I would not vote for a player.
So that is what I think about people in Halls of Fame and that is why I have no problem with all the inductees in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame; Bobby Beathard was a great GM/Personnel Guy and the others were great players.
Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:
“At Super Bowl opening night, Tom Brady was asked if he’d rather battle a duck the size of a horse or 100 horses the size of a duck. Folks, this is what we’re left with when newspapers lay off lots of sports reporters.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………