Monday, March 11, 2013

Hall of Fame

What does it take to get into the Hall of Fame?  The typical answer is prolonged dominance. 10+ years of statistical excellence.  500 Home Runs.  10,000 Yards.  100 Touch Downs.  3000 hits.  20,000 points.  A lot of importance is also placed on winning.  Joe Namath put forth what most would consider below average stats, but he won an AFL Championship and a Super Bowl.  Namath is one of the least statistically accomplished professional athletes to gain entry into his sport's HOF.  He didn't break any barriers but I guess you could say he was a cultural vanguard.  He earned the moniker "Broadway Joe" for his flamboyant sideline wardrobe & for his bold prediction in Super Bowl III, which wouldn't have come true if Johnny Unitas started the game (Jets fans & Namath can thank their lucky stars for that fact).  I think if you asked guys like Deacon Jones or Jim Brown about Joe Willie, they'd give an interesting editorial on how screwing broads and doing commercials shouldn't get you into the Hall.  Or maybe that's just my take.

Football is the ultimate team sport.  Statistics are of less importance in a game where team cohesion and winning are the prime goals.  Although offensive positions like QB, RB and WR are often judged by the numbers, the act of getting the 'W' always supercedes individual accomplishments and stats.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are the best example of this premise.  Players like Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth won 4 Super Bowls for the Steelers from 1975 to 1980, but none of them accumulated 'the numbers' usually attributed to top offensive players.  The three of them were elected to the Hall of Fame along with five other members from that team.  Obviously the "Steel Curtain" defense of the 70s Steelers teams played the most prominent role in their victories, but in the NFL key role players are rewarded when teams win multiple championships.

Baseball & Basketball are historically different from Football in this regard.  The Yankees in MLB and the Celtics in the NBA have a host of players in their respective HOFs, none of whom achieved average or below average statistically with the exception of Phil Rizzuto (Sorry Scooter).  The intangibles i.e. personality, leadership, drive, intensity etc... won't get you into Cooperstown or Springfield.  The Yankees of the late 90s, early 2000s won 4 titles in 5 years.  Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are the only two that will be enshrined from those teams (Tim Raines & Andy Petite might get in eventually).

Recently Major League Baseball's 2013 HOF ballot was unanimously rejected by the Baseball Writers Association.  The last time this occurred was 1996.  Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Schilling and Sosa were all on the ballot for the first time.  The unified snub was an indictment on the 'Steroid Era' and a clear message to all those suspected of PED use.  You're not going to get in without a fight or proof that %50 of the league was doing it.  All the HOFs have Character & Integrity criteria in their guidelines so until the Writers feel they've made the suspected players wait long enough, guys like Bonds and Clemens will be made to suffer maybe 10 extra years added to the 5 they must wait after retiring.

If you want to know what a First Ballot Hall of Famer looks like just look at the picture above.

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