Hall of Fame Revisited … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs

There’s a downside to our world today where information has become a 24/7 fact of life – the news beast is never satisfied. It’s always in need of another feeding.

It wasn’t that many years ago that the “news” after the election of that year’s class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame was about the men entering the football shrine and their accomplishments in the game. Today, the attention in the days after the announcement seems to be dominated by those that did not make the class. Various avenues report on the absent names and quickly assign blame to the Hall’s board of selectors, labeling them pinheads, idiots, criminals, ne’er-do-wells and media scum on the take.

Count me among those pinheads. I’ve served on the Hall of Fame Board of Selectors for 17 years now and I do it proudly, working at every turn to research and study the players, coaches and contributors that come before the board each year. Most of the 43 other people on the board do the same. There is no pay check for serving on the board. We get breakfast and lunch during Selection Saturday and the chance to be called idiots in the aftermath. Actually for someone like me, who pays his way to the Super Bowl each year, I’m kicking in my own good money to be called a bum.

So excuse me if my feathers get ruffled when those with no idea of how the system works want to place me in some sort of cabal to keep certain men out of the Hall.

As a refresher course, let’s talk about numbers – there are 44 voters, one representing each league city (New York has two), a representative from the Pro Football Writers Association and then 11 at-large voters. This year the group included 29 newspaper writers, 10 writers from dotcoms, two magazine writers and three that work in television at the local NFL city level.

This group votes six times over a five-month period, taking the list of potential candidates from more than 100 to 25 and then to 15. Those votes are done via mail. That last group is taken into Selection Saturday, the day before the Super Bowl. At that meeting, the 44 voters sit around a table and discuss the credentials and careers of the 15 candidates, plus two potential members from a separate seniors committee.

Last Saturday, it started with the seniors and the discussion-voting period for Jack Butler and Dick Stanfel was just under one hour. The remaining 15 were discussed and voted on during the next six hours, 30 minutes, give or take a few moments for potty breaks. The 15 names were cut to 10, then down to five. Those last five names are then voted yes or no on individual ballots.

When the board left the meeting room last Saturday after seven hours and 30 minutes, we had no idea who was part of the class of 2012. We knew the final five that still had a chance to get in, but each one of those had to receive 80 percent of the vote to earn induction and that’s no automatic.

The equation eventually comes down to this – 44 voters, 15 candidates, five finalists and 80 percent.

All that gave us the six-man class of Willie Roaf, Cortez Kennedy, Chris Doleman, Curtis Martin, Dermontti Dawson and Jack Butler.

OK, name the guy that does not belong?

Forget it you can’t … they are all qualified.

That does not mean the other 10 are not qualified. In that group, I’d say eight or nine will be inducted into the Hall of Fame over the next five years.

The Hall of Fame has asked the board of selectors not to reveal their individual votes. They say it causes problems from voters who do not want to make public their decisions and can sometimes create harsh situations for inductees or those that did not make the class. As a member of the board, I will adhere to their request, even though I disagree.

OK, so how does Martin get in and Bettis does not? Why do blockers like Dawson and Roaf earn enshrinement and none of three receivers like Tim Brown, Cris Carter and Andre Reed can crack the Hall’s front door? How does a two-time Super Bowl winning coach like Bill Parcells not become an immediate Hall addition?

This supposedly is where the conspiracy comes in. I’ve read all sorts of stories and comments about how groups of voters band together to keep certain people out or to make sure certain candidates get in. Suddenly it’s a smoke-filled room, with all sorts of favors being traded back and forth.

I’ve never seen it, and don’t believe it. Anybody knows that controlling 44 media types is like herding cats. It’s even more impossible in a room filled with media types who range in age from early 30s to 70+ years of age. Then, there’s the geographical diversity of the voters that adds even another dash of impossible.

There’s no question that there are times within the committee that those who live west of the Hudson River get tired of having anybody that played for the Giants or Jets portrayed as the greatest figure in football history. How did Parcells not make it with his two Super Bowl championships? The Big Apple folks are pointing out black helicopters and conspiracy theories everywhere.

Parcells’ dual Super Bowls is not a guaranteed ticket to Canton, much the same way that Tom Flores hasn’t made it with two Super Bowls with the Raiders, George Seifert with two in San Francisco and Jimmy Johnson with two in Dallas. All are eligible for induction as coaches; none have ever come before the board of selectors for consideration.

Listen, I supported Parcells. But others did not and I understand why.

Why can’t the receivers get in the Hall? Because with three of them, they divide up the votes and kill each other off. That’s a simple matter of mathematics. I don’t know how that logjam gets broken and it’s only going to get worse as more receivers with big numbers become eligible. I have no major problem with all of the receivers, but I’ve found other candidates that I felt were more Hall worthy.

I’ve acknowledged that the voting system for Canton is not perfect, and there are tweaks to be considered that would make the process better. I’m for making all votes public although that may be the worst thing the Hall could do, considering the garbage dumped on 44 as a whole right now. But I’ve got nothing to hide and no conspiracies to cover up. Make the group larger, make it more diverse (people other than media), televise the proceedings . . . if somebody can explain how any of those possibilities can make for a better procedure then bring it on.

This is simply a difference of opinion that continues each year because the 24/7 information beast needs to be fed. It blows up because legitimate differences of opinion can no longer be discussed without charges of sinister behavior being thrown about.

That’s the case in politics and that’s the case in Hall of Fame voting.

4 Responses to “Hall of Fame Revisited … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs”

  • February 10, 2012  - aPauled says:

    Nice article Bob. Personally, I would hate to see the feeding frenzy if the Hall vote was made public or televised. I like the scrutiny. The WR log jam at WR just indicates that these guys from the same era may not have distinguished themselves. That is good for the process. If we could all predict who was going in…why would we pay attention? A little controversy is always good to maintain the attention of the audience.

  • February 10, 2012  - BigJimInWisconsin says:

    Bob, I’m surprised that 80% of your 44 can even reach agreement on one of these candidates! Even the clueless have a vote (I’m looking at you Peter King).

    Go CHIEFS!

  • February 10, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    Look at politics; you’re not going to make everybody happy. All you can do is make the right choice for you and ignore the one’s that don’t agree. Need to grow some Bob.

  • February 11, 2012  - rufus says:

    I think you had to be around when Parcells won those championships to fully appreciate what his team did. Each time they had to gun down the Bill Walsh 49ers with Montana, Rice etc.

    The first time they won it all, they beat the 49ers 49 – 3 and the second time, again they hammered the Montana led 49ers, who were headed to a 3peat but instead were smashed by the NYG as this was the playoff game that features Montana being decked by Leonard Marshall, leaving the game with broken ribs and hand.

    To me, that was a huge feat for Parcells. The NFC was clearly the power of the NFL back then, comparing Flores’ victories pales in comparison imo and Seifert took over a winner, though he was a good coach, obviously.

    Hank Stram won only 1 SB. So did Barry Switzer. But there is no comparison if you are familiar with what each coach did to win.

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