The Pro Football Hall of Fame could take on a decidedly Bay Area tinge come Saturday afternoon if the stars, and votes, align properly.
They wont, but they could.
A field of 17 finalists that includes Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Eddie DeBartolo The Younger, Chris Doleman and Dick Stanfel goes into the selectors room in Indianapolis Saturday morning for several hours of warm coffee, relatively fresh pastries and arguments about whose favorite guys get picked over the other guys favorite guys.
And therein lies the real secret of the Hall of Fame process. Its all about the room.
There is such a backlog of candidates that just getting to be a finalist is a gauntlet few men can handle, so the notion that someone is a sure Hall of Famer is typically a ludicrous statement. Bob Brown was by common agreement the most dominant offensive lineman in the game for a decade, and he had to wait 26 years for induction.
That is the thing to keep in mind when you hear the words, Brown, Haley, DeBartolo and Stanfel are probably not going to get in this time.
Not because they arent worthy candidates lots of players are capable of being a worthy candidate. No, theyll probably miss because the room is a hell for resumes like theirs. Judgments and regional biases are in play, and the strength of a candidacy is often based in great part on the strength of a presenters argument in the room.
Brown has a ton and a half of catches in his time with the Raiders, but the argument against him has always been the same he didnt have any true signature moments for all those catches. Yes, he is being punished in the room for being on a series of mediocre to poor Raider teams, but thats the way it plays in the room.
DeBartolo is upheld as a great owner who lavished money and care on his team, but is also dismissed as a creature of the time. Yes, he found Bill Walsh (or more precisely, Walsh was found for him), but he never had to cope with a salary cap, and his dalliances in Louisiana politics got him in trouble with the law. There are corners of the room that do not hold kindly to that.
Haley was an exemplary player in San Francisco and Dallas, but his mercurial nature (and we cleaned that up) will be used against him in any argument. Also, Cowboys tend to get more spirited arguments for and against because theyre, well, Cowboys, making him a borderline candidate in the room.
Doleman has been a finalist before, but he is known mostly as a Minnesota Viking; he played only his last three years in San Francisco, so he is a 49er in the same way that Eric Dickerson is a Raider. His overall resume is better than Haleys, except for the Super Bowl rings
And Stanfel, the USF grad who played seven years in Detroit and Washington and then compiled a long career as an assistant coach, is a senior nominee with Jack Butler the old 50s Pittsburgh cornerback. Both are mild stretches because most of the people in the room didnt see them as players, and their candidacies depend almost entirely on the presentation.
The most likely enshrinees are believed by amateur sleuths to be Willie Roaf, Dermontti Dawson, Jerome Bettis and Andre Reed, though nobody is a slam-dunk. The room is a cruel place, though, and for the Bay Areas contingent, for at least another year.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.