Ordinarily, I don’t conduct an article when I’m irked. However, I’m making an exception here on behalf of one of the most established sportswriters alive—Sports Illustrated NFL Senior Writer Peter King, a household favorite of many on the staff here at GridironGrit.com.
Every year 44 voters receive the tremendous honor of selecting who they each feel to be most deserving to end up in Canton. That tremendous honor, however, is also met with often overwhelming pressure and responsibility, as King points out his latest column.
While a certain level of criticism is inevitable when you’re in the public eye and are frankly living a career that most fans would trade for in a heartbeat—the criticism coupled with the anxiety is forcing many, including Peter King to debate even resigning from his position as one of the 44 voters. Well, Mr. King, I have a few choice words for those who insult your intelligence, resort to name-calling and cross the line simply because they disagree with a Hall of Fame decision.
Let’s be clear—he did not ask me to write this. He probably has never ever heard of me, but I frequently read his compelling columns and I can empathize with his position. Why is that? Because I can put myself in his shoes. I’ve role-played being a HOF voter and I appreciate and know enough of the history of the game to make some of the daunting decisions and recognize the difficulty.
Peter King’s job is not always a picnic, and when any of you “fans” take potshots at him and blindly claim he doesn’t know his material, I just shake my head and mutter to myself a few thoughts about you “fans.” I use the term “fans” to refer to those who watch football, understand some basic knowledge about the game, but don’t know enough details and history to be construed as experts. However, often they fall under the impression that they are experts.
While there are plenty of fans who are more observant, objective and informed, the “fans” in this case are narrow-minded. They are kind of like Wile E. Coyote in his constant pursuit of the Roadrunner even though he often requires medical attention during his ventures. They never think that just maybe the analysts are aware of the reality and that they—the “fans”—just might be misguided.
These “fans” notice that their beloved players they grew up watching are not inducted into the Hall of Fame. Some simply believe they can relate and judge just as well as the voters and people who cover the games because they know a lot of big names. They don’t come to terms with the fact that just because they love a specific player, know them very well as an outsider and can compare and contrast them with other players that it doesn’t mean they should be regarded as a Hall of Famer.
Let me give you an example and a clearer understanding. It’s no secret that I love—and I mean absolutely love—Charlie Waters, the defensive back from the Dallas Cowboys in the 70’s. He has more playoff interceptions (nine) than any other player in the history books. But that doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer.
Waters wasn’t on the same level as Mel Blount of Willie Brown. That doesn’t mean Waters wasn’t a great player, by all means, he was a star, but there are many stars that have graced the field and not been inducted into Canton. There are many middle layers.
The average NFL career is right around 3.3 years, according the the NFL Players Association. Just take a gander at your favorite team’s draft picks through the seven rounds of the last decade. How many of them are still with the team? How many of them are still in the league?
Many are still shell-shocked that Bill Parcells and Cris Carter did not get into Canton and even demand that these voters resign from their post. The sad truth is that’s just the luck of the draw this year, but to blame the voters is lacking intelligence and awareness. The voters put in a great class of players. All four of the linemen selected had been on an All-Decades team.
That’s an honor is stating that they were the most dominant players at their position during a particular decade. Willie Roaf made two of them over a 13-year career and when he retired at 35, he had been selected as an All-Pro tackle for the 2005 season. Check out how he paved holes to Canton in a recent piece by GridironGrit.com NFL Insider Barry Barnes.
Curtis Martin, the fifth and last modern era inductee, is fourth on the all-time rushing list. Only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders have accumulated more career rushing yards. Perhaps his only flaw is that he doesn’t have these highlight reels all over YouTube for the casual fan to reminisce. Anyone who follows the Jets and Patriots will never forget his amazing ability, nonetheless.
Football personnel stamp the age of 30 to be the beginning of the end for most star running backs. Well, Martin led the NFL in rushing yards at 31 with 1,697 yards in 2004. It didn’t matter if the team was winning or not, Martin would get you the yards. I don’t care if he doesn’t have the giant “wow” factor to him like Sanders, the man is a Hall of Famer.
Before anyone dares to question why a person was left out of the Hall of Fame, first take a look at who was inducted. If anyone wants to put Parcells or Carter into Canton, who do you take out? If you feel the need to take out Martin and replace him with Parcells, I’ll bet my savings account that Parcells will be mighty mad since Curtis Martin was one of his favorite players that he ever coached.
While everyone is entitled to their own opinion and we like to empower the fans to not only have a voice, but have their voice heard, if anyone has a right to be outraged, it is those men who were left out—not the fans. Do you hear them clamoring for an uproar or a riot? All I can hear is the sound of crickets chirping…or rather, the air conditioner in the room.
Parcells, Carter and everyone on that list KNOW that the men selected are Hall of Famers. They KNOW that to say they belong over them is not only indecent, but just plain wrong. Cris Carter probably screamed inside with joy when he heard that his fellow teammate, Chris Doleman, was finally inducted into the HOF, just like I bet Bill Parcells flashed that trademark big smile when he heard that his player, Curtis Martin, the player he drafted, coached, and worked with for many years was finally inducted as well.
Take this fan named Brad, who is completely out of line when he writes to Mr. King and managed to be published in King’s mailbag for his Tuesday column.
“You say you 44 HOF voters are getting some flak these last couple weeks? Good! It’s about time. No organized group I know of does their job so poorly as that one. First of all, the answer to your own question who of the just-elected should be left out to put Parcells and Carter in?: Answer, ALL of them. The very idea of Cortez Kennedy and Chris Doleman being IN the Hall of Fame, and Ken Stabler, Terrell Davis and Charles Haley NOT being in is so far from absurd that one cannot be justified even wasting time on it, as I am doing with you now. It is roughly the equivalent of the notion of Stan Musial and Warren Spahn not being in the baseball Hall of Fame and Alan Trammell and Tommy John being in it.
“As for Stabler, all you need to reflect on is that Bill Walsh — arguably the brightest football mind ever, certainly relating to offense, a man who has forgotten more about football than you ever knew — once was quoted as saying “Ken Stabler is a first-ballot Hall of Famer if ever there was one!’ Makes you small-minded conspiracy theorists that have kept him out look pretty small, huh? Write me back and make your case. I dare you.”
OK, this revolutionary thinker falls under that category of not knowing enough history. He says all five of them don’t belong? Really? Since he brought baseball into the equation, I’m going to borrow and paraphrase a line from Bill James, the inventor of sabermetrics, and say I don’t know whether to look at this guy’s opinion with disinterest or contempt.
King gave a small case back to him here, but I want to tell our genius Brad that forgets that Ken Stabler had a few good years with the Raiders then did nothing with the Oilers or Saints after being traded. He should also be reminded that while Charles Haley was a dynamic player, Haley was also a very hard personality to contain and in a lot of locker rooms, he would’ve been a distraction that would’ve hurt his team. I am saying that and I’m a hardcore supporter for Charles Haley’s candidacy as evidenced here.
How about the fact that Terrell Davis’s rushing numbers are roughly 54 percent of Curtis Martin’s and that Davis just is another of the giant backlog of players? By the way Brad, I think you should re-think Alan Trammell’s case as a baseball Hall of Famer since he is arguably one of the 10 best shortstops of all time, in my opinion. It is alright to believe that a certain player belongs more. I’m a Cowboys fan, so in my heart, I wanted Chris Doleman to be left out and Charles Haley put in due to Haley’s impact on the Cowboys three Super Bowl wins in the 1990s. However, would I say to Chris Doleman that he doesn’t belong?
Absolutely not! Doleman was a quiet man who did his job and just never won the Super Bowl with his team while Haley is known for being the only player with five championship rings. Also, I don’t agree with every selection to the Hall of Fame. I don’t think Art Monk and Lynn Swann were Hall of Fame receivers, but they were inducted.
I don’t believe that Bills owner Ralph Wilson should’ve been inducted over the Bills wide receiver, Andre Reed, who is another one of the men in the backlog of players. I think the voters should put less weight on numbers and more on pure dominance. Yet, to call the voters “small-minded conspiracy theorists” is over the top and quite rude. Can’t Peter King just have a different opinion?
The problem isn’t the voters. All of you Wile E. Coyotes or “fans” need to realize that the problem is the process and the criticisms or insults you have are being sent like bullets at a messenger. The “fans” need to learn about the process and not open their mouths about something with full conviction that they don’t understand. Peter King, to make an analogy, is the professional surgeon.
He’s the guy that can go into an operating room for 18 hours, cut open a person’s body organs, provide the necessary procedure and do it perfectly while saving a patient’s life. He may make some mistakes, but he’s human.
The “fans” are the interns. They scrub in and watch the surgeries and learn from King. That’s why sportswriters write articles. In addition to having a passion for the field, they do it to entertain and inform their audience. They bring up logical points and facts that others overlook. Sportswriters try to teach “fans” with their analysis so the fans can understand what they see as well.
Does an intern tell a surgeon what to do in an operating room? No, not if the intern wants to keep their job.
I applaud PK’s devotion to the study of football history and to his professionalism towards the “fan” that was lacking respect in every word of his email. The only thing he didn’t do was use profanity or say disrespectful things about the loved ones of Peter King.
Deciding between the crème de la crème is like trying to pick between two shades of the same color. There is very little difference to be noticed. Instead of blaming the voters for choosing scarlet red over brick red, why not make it easier on them?
There needs to be a way to induct more players each year in order to thin out this backlog of players. If there was another election process that could elect coaches/owners/executives separately, then we wouldn’t be talking about Bill Parcell’s candidacy. He’d already be in using that method.
I don’t think adding former players to the debate is the right move. Some players just don’t like each other. Some players may like someone else the most. I’m not trying to say they’d intentionally play favorites, but they might do so subconsciously. I am strongly against any idea that fans should play a role in the elections. Whether they are “fans” or well-informed fans, it doesn’t matter. It becomes a poll instead of an intelligent debate process.
Casual fans just know popular names, and the idea that Brad from King’s mailbag or someone like him has a say on something as important as Hall of Fame induction makes me shiver. This “fan” wanted to take four All-Decades players and the fourth all-time leading rusher in NFL history out of the Hall of Fame. Think about that.
Come on people. Let’s lay off of Peter King. He does his job and he does it well, and Mr. King, I hope you don’t let the Brads of the world keep you from being what you are—which is an honest, reliable Hall of Fame voter with conviction.