The Baseball and Pro Football Halls of Fame are discussed in earnest and at great detail at the same time each year, a happy circumstance that is largely designed to transform amiable companions into tedious, closed-minded blowhards.
And these days, that passes for quality entertainment.
This is noted because the Pro Football Hall committee released the identities of its 15 finalists and three veterans/builders Tuesday, and included Terrell Owens yet again.
This is not the place for a discussion of the worthiness of his candidacy – I will leave that to your own pre-homicidal leanings – but he is a special kind of candidate in the same way that Edgar Martinez is in baseball. He is that guy whose numbers make him indisputable but whose very candidacy is just a rolling argument.
And let’s be clear on this. He is not yet in the Hall of Fame for one reason only; because his detractors have spoken with coaches and executives who say with vehemence that his disruptive capabilities made him a poor teammate and explain why each team he was on moved him to another team despite his talent.
That’s it. Comparing his numbers doesn’t matter. Talking about his 20-catch game or playing the Super Bowl on a broken leg doesn’t matter. In a small room (there are 48 selectors), it takes a small number of people (in this case, 10, or 20 percent) to keep a player out, and for at least 10 people, that case is persuasive.
The problem, you see, is the small room, but it is the system the Hall has chosen, and the Hall decides what makes a Hall of Famer. You can argue it any way you want, but the Hall owns the words, and owning the words means owning the definition. If you don’t like it, start a hall of your own.
The other thing to remember is that it is entirely a political process, which kind of defeats the objective notion of a hall of fame. It becomes a Hall of Guys We Like, or in some cases Guys We Like Now That We Didn’t Used To Like, or in other cases, Guys We Didn’t Like Until The Composition Of The Selectors Changed.
Baseball is better in that the large number of voters reduces bias without actually getting rid of it, because bias means arguments. The LPGA Hall of Fame has a points system that eliminates bias, but the Pro Golf Hall of Fame rejected that system for its own, which has a committee (ick), an age requirement (50, unless you have been retired from competitive golf for at least five years).
But back to Owens. As a debating point, he actually becomes a more famous candidate than he ever will as an inductee. More people discussed former Raider Tim Brown ripping the committee for not voting him in than when he was actually confirmed. I guess it all depends on how you define “fame.”
And fame isn’t nearly as much fun as it used to be.