Do We Make The Hall of Fame Too Important??
Another year of Hall of Fame selections have come and gone. Soon the induction ceremonies will be just a memory and it will be time once again, for the endless debate about who should be on next year’s ballot.
It seems just about everyone has an opinion on who’s worthy of having their bust placed in the hallowed Hall. If the HOF committee took all of these opinions seriously, then half the league would be in Canton.
But issues facing the Hall of Fame go far beyond who should be selected in 2021–or any year, for that matter. Answers to fundamental questions are elusive: Who gets in? Why? When?
It seems that pro baseball does a better job of answering those questions.
Consider the comparison. This year the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee selected twenty new members. In contrast, the baseball Hall of Fame committee selected only four new members. As for history, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which opened in 1963, has 346 inductees, while baseball’s Hall of Fame, which opened in 1936, has only 333 members.
You can, of course, make the argument that the NFL has a lot more players than MLB. Still, though, I’ve always believed that any hall of fame is for elite players only. Pro baseball has tried to hold true to that premise, while pro football seems to have gotten away from it.
It also seems that NFL players from the 1970s, 1960s, and before are being forgotten, while modern-day players are being ushered in quickly, some in only their first or second year of eligibility. Is it because they have impressive stats and big numbers? Is it because many are still in the limelight? Why the rush to get modern-day players into the Hall so quickly?
Until recently, players had to wait their turn, no matter how deserving they were. Take Green Bay’s Herb Adderley, who played from 1961–1972. He’s considered by many to be the best all-around cornerback to ever play the game. But Adderley wasn’t voted into the Hall until his third year of eligibility.
Mel Renfro is another example. He had to wait until his fourteenth year of eligibility.
Renfro, who played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1964–1977, played in eight NFL/NFC Championships (winning four of them), while also winning two Super Bowls. He played cornerback, safety, punt returner, kick returner, and even had a brief stint at RB in 1966.
In his rookie year, he not only led the team with seven interceptions, but he also led the League in return yardage. He had 52 career interceptions, was voted All-Pro five times, was voted to the Pro Bowl ten years in a row (winning the MVP in 1970), and was only the fifth player in Dallas Cowboys history to be inducted into that team’s Ring of Honor (1981).
Yet, somehow, even with all of those impressive credentials, he had to wait 14 years to get his bust in Canton!
What should be done to improve the selection process? Here are some suggestions.
1- As it stands right now, the Senior’s Committee can only select two inductees each year–two players or coaches who retired prior to 1985. I believe they need to increase that number to at least three per year. (Note: this year they went too far and selected ten members.)
2- I also think the committee should consider allowing only one non-player into the Hall per year. I’m not saying that coaches, owners, GM’s, and other non-players shouldn’t have a place in Canton, but I think the players should take precedence over non-players.
3- The voting committee needs to get back to a mentality of selecting only the players who were dominant at their respective position. I believe there should be a limit of six inductees per year.
I’ve visited both the football and baseball Hall of Fame several times. They are both wonderful places to learn the history of two great sports and to learn about great players who played and great coaches who coached. While I’d recommend visiting the Hall of Fame to any sports fan, I also wonder if we overhype the importance of it.
What about all the great players and coaches who may never get inducted? That list includes the likes of Drew Pearson, Mike Curtis, Otis Taylor, and Coach Tom Flores. Are their contributions to the NFL–and to their respective teams–any less important or impressive just because they’re not in the Hall? Absolutely not!
In the end, who gets in and who doesn’t get in is always a matter of opinion. Each year the debate begins anew.
But, for me … I’d rather just cherish the memories.