In my opinion, NFL fans should have absolutely NO say in who gets enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Think about that for a minute. If you are like most NFL fans, you will take offense. Something deep and guttural within your being will rise up and shout, “NO! THAT’S NOT RIGHT! WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE!”
Why should this notion illicit such opposition? Because it is “Un—American.” Well, sort of.
Many Americans are confused enough to believe that this great nation of ours is in fact a democracy.
Those of us who paid attention in social studies class in grade school will recall that it is in fact a representative republic. The public vote does not decide the presidency (as we very publicly found out in 2000), the Electoral College does that. The Congress determines laws and legislation and not all of them are put to a public vote.
Still, most Americans believe they have the right to vote on and decide EVERYTHING, now including Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement, apparently.
Last year saw the first time a fan vote had been held on which eligible players should be selected for Hall of Fame enshrinement in Canton. While this initiative was supported and advertised by San Francisco 49er Hall of Fame QB, Steve Young, I still hated the idea.
Those of you who have read all my articles (and thank you to those who have) might find this odd coming from me. After all, I wrote a piece about the Top five 49er Hall of Fame snubs of all—time. You would think I would jump at the chance to make my opinion heard and do my part to get these players cast in bronze.
But I have too much respect for the game of football and the sanctity of the Hall of Fame and what it stands for, to support a gimmick that reduces something so sacred to the level of an election for eighth grade class president (I can say that, as I was an eighth grade class president).
There are certainly a good number of NFL fans who could make intelligent contributions to the conversation about who should be in the Hall of Fame, I will not deny that. Most of the people who frequent this site are probably knowledgeable enough to have reasonable opinions on the matter. However, the problem with a public vote is that you have to open it up to EVERYONE.
There is no way to filter out the riff—raff in an open vote and keep it from turning into a popularity contest. Players should not be in Canton because they have won the hearts of commentators and fans. They should be in the Hall of Fame because of their merits on the field.
I will not deny that there is a correlation between the two, but it is not one to one. In a public vote, popularity will beat qualifications hands down.
Case in point: Whose body of work is more deserving of Hall of Fame induction? Ricky Waters or Eddie George?
Most fans would automatically assume Eddie George, because his name is more contemporary and recognizable. But Waters has him beat in total yards (handily), touchdowns and the very important fact that Ricky has won a Super Bowl, something George never accomplished.
Put to a public vote, I am certain Eddie George would be in the Hall of Fame over Ricky Waters and that would be a shame.
The current selection committee is not infallible. As I have written before, Roger Craig is not in the Hall of Fame and definitely deserves to be, along with a sizable group of other players. Still, the selection committee does a better job than a public vote would, with every drunken frat boy imploring his pink—jersey-clad girlfriend to vote for his guy. (I know there are numerous very savvy female NFL fans, but there are still plenty more who have no clue.)
And I won’t even bring up the possibility of fraud with an online ballot. I don’t care if the vote counts for only one one—thousandth of one percent of the overall vote. If it has any chance of affecting the final outcome, that is too much.
That is not to say fan voting has no place in football. I have no problem with fans selecting Pro Bowl players. That is an exhibition for the fans that has no other significance. This year’s 75 Most Valuable Draft Picks competition is another good outlet for voting.
Let the fans vote, name a winner and hold an awards show for the guy and give him a nice little trophy so he can feel good about himself. Leave awarding of bronze busts to a more formal process.
Other than a Super Bowl title, Hall of Fame enshrinement is the highest honor an NFL player can ever hope to achieve. It is tantamount to immortality. Such an honor should not be left up to a public vote, “Un—American” though that notion may be.