The Denver Post
August 5, 2007
Secret’s out on Fame game
I raved on.
“He was the greatest linebacker on third- and fourth-and-1 anyone watched in the 1970s and ’80s. He stuffed quarterback sneaks, tailback runs and fullback dives by lining up 10 yards back and racing to the spot before the back arrived. He was a true student and gentleman of the game, an all-pro and a winner.”
I quoted his coaches and teammates and opposing coaches and offensive players. And I closed by saying, “The Denver Broncos don’t have one player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Honor the players who have passed through Denver over 40 years by recognizing Randy Gradishar as their first inductee, the heart and soul of all of those before him.”
Adam Schefter, then the pro football writer for The Post and the president of the writers association, followed up powerfully.
A writer from an Eastern city, sitting next to me, said before the proceedings: “I will support Gradishar.”
He was one of only two electors to negatively cast Gradishar: “They always handed out too many tackles in Denver.” (Gradishar began his career playing in 14 games, and half his games were on the road.)
Another voter, from a Midwestern town, said a (highly respected) NFL franchise executive told him Gradishar “is not a Hall of Famer.”
Gradishar fell short and has not made it back to “The Room,” as the selection meeting is called.
Blame me. Blame the NFL executive’s unfair evaluation. Blame an influential writer. Blame Gradishar for retiring prematurely.
Blame the system, which is subjective, biased and weighed so heavily toward offensive players (2 to 1).
To misinterpret Winston Churchill, the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection process is the worst, until you consider all other forms.
I have a lifetime right to vote on Cooperstown candidates. You are sent a list, check 10 names and send it back. No discussion.
At least with professional football, experienced football observers confront each other in a room, argue and advocate and vote (with secret votes, unfortunately) on potential Hall of Famers. Eight of 40 voters can prevent the inclusion of an aspirant.
In 2004, the Broncos’ superstar quarterback was eligible for induction. I uttered the shortest speech in the committee’s history: “Gentlemen, I give you John Elway.”
There was applause, as much for brevity as for Elway.
I’m no longer on the committee- because I was working in New York in 2006 (and there was a sentiment among HOF officials that there would be too many voters from New York) and because when I returned from New York, The Post had instituted a policy prohibiting writers from serving on Hall of Fame committees, and a Rocky Mountain News reporter replaced me.
But I still get e-mails about contenders, and more about Art Monk than anybody else. He retired with what were then the most receptions (940) in league history. Monk is always close, but not in. (Some claim he was Washington’s third most effective receiver.)