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As we football junkies wind down from the ethereal high of draft weekend thoughts turn to other, well, football things, or all things football, whatever. Soon spring camps/drills will begin and new found franchise savers/rookies will run the gauntlet of evaluation and veteran hazing. Then training camp will start sometime in July, usually in sweltering conditions, and under the gaze of ruthless task masters.
Then sometime in the fall the preliminary list of 125 candidates for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be mailed out. The 44 writers given the immense privilege and responsibility for selecting the honorees will then whittle the list down to a handful of deserving enshrinees.
Therein lay the rub…football’s sepulcher of greatness, a place considered one of the true cathedrals of the sport, where inductees are en-“shrined”, is presided over by roughly 40 journalists, most of whom never set foot on a football field for any reason other than paid observation. Things must change. The process must change. The selectors must change. The Hall must change.
No longer should 44 stuffed shirts be given sole responsibility for anointing the sports’ deities. Spread the wealth or rotate the honor. The current Board of Selectors are all lifetime appointees, a system that ensures stifled and monolithic thought as to who deserves a bronze bust in Canton. So I propose the Selectors should be rotated every ten years yet remain representative of the cities wherein the teams reside.
The individual franchises should have a voice as well. The 32 teams that comprise the league should each be able to appoint their own representative to the Selection Board. Any member of the organization would be eligible and would be appointed yearly. Teams could even appoint journalistic proxies if they so choose. Either way the franchises would finally have a voice in this process.
Then do away with the at large committee members, the Peter kings and John Claytons would no longer have a free pass to give the proverbial “Thumbs Up…Thumbs Down” in perpetuity.
Now you have a 64 member board with selectors from various backgrounds and possessing various
But wait, there’s more. Let a rotating group of HOF inductees, say 36, you know, so the selection committee has an easily devisable number, one that is Roman numeral friendly. It’ll be the “C”, as in 100, Canton, Committee, etc. The Heisman Trophy lets past winners vote, why not let members of the HOF enjoy the same privilege. After all, it’s their likenesses and legacies that are the real drawing card of the Hall. Give the greats a voice in the process as well.
I propose yet another change. The Hockey Hall of Fame, or Temple de la renommée du hockey in French, has waived the mandatory waiting period for retired players whose careers were so exceptional their membership in the Hall is a foregone conclusion. The Pro Football Hall of Fame should follow suit. Was there really any doubt that Reggie White, John Elway, Joe Montana, Barry Sanders, Dan Marino, Jim Brown, Deacon Jones, Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Dick Butkus, Joe Greene, Johnny Unitas, Anthony Munoz, Willie Brown, Darrell Green, Vince Lombardi, and George Halas would all be inducted in Canton? No, there wasn’t. These men had careers that were otherworldly, transcendent, and legendary. There was no question they’d be enshrined. So why wait? Yes there might be a knee jerk urge by some to waive the mandatory five year waiting period for notable players who had great but not transcendent careers but this would be tempered by the committee. Members of the HOF wouldn’t let the waiver be applied at will.
Some would scoff at the mere notion of altering a system that makes Canton, Ohio arguably the most difficult professional sports Hall of Fame in which to gain membership. This is a flawed view. Perhaps if there didn’t exist a monolithic cabal of journalists, all with personal & professional agendas, who had sole responsibility for selecting members of the HOF, players like Randy Gradishar, Derrick Thomas, Cris Carter, Andre Reed, Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm, Kenny Easley, and Sam Mills would not be on the outside looking in, despite being among the best ever at their positions. The only receiver in history demonstrably better than Cris Carter is the immortal Jerry Rice; the only linebackers of the era better than Gradishar were Jack Hamm & Jack Lambert; no guards were the human snowplows Jacoby & Grimm were.
Yet there the current process and its arbiters sit, in an ivory tower of sanctimony and misguided myopic glee, secure in their status as football’s equivalent to the Vatican’s College of Cardinals. Unfortunately, they’re also every bit as stodgy and unapproachable as their Vatican counterparts, though they’re more closely akin to the United States Supreme Court.
Change the system and improve the Hall.