Andre Reed and the Hall of Fame: A Frustrating Mystery

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Andre Reed and the Hall of Fame: A Frustrating Mystery

Bills fans should already be preparing torches and planning to storm the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the fact that Steve Tasker hasn't yet been elected.

Now, with Andre Reed once again absurdly snubbed, it just means there's a reason to bring Molotov cocktails, too.

Ranking fifth overall ever for receptions, and in the top 10 in both receiving touchdowns and yards, Reed is perpetually snubbed by a committee whose motives for exclusionary behavior remain as shadowy and perplexing as the Stonecutters' willingness to make Steve Guttenberg a star.

The brilliant stats are all familiar: Reed caught 951 passes, 87 of those for touchdowns, gaining 13,198 yards overall. Those are numbers that place him in all-time superstar territory, but the truest evidence in his favor was the way he played.

Not blessed with top-level speed, Reed was at his best when he ran precise routes into dangerous spots. He wasn't so much a physical force as he was a player who was simply unafraid of contact, a rarity among wideouts that, not coincidentally, led to him being incredibly successful.

But, for whatever baffling justification, that doesn't matter to the selectors, who have made this into a bizarrely clownish annual event. The Hall of Fame induction procedure is silly in many ways, such as the ceiling on the number of members to be enshrined each year: If there are more than half a dozen qualified candidates, change the rule and let them all get in.

And that's just the start.

Even worse is making guys wait in what I can only assume is an extended power trip. For example, what changed between Harry Carson's 12th and 13th year of eligibility to make him a better candidate? Did it take them that long to check all his statistics?

The process now leads to absurdities like, say, yanking worthy choice Art Monk's chain for ages before he's finally allowed in. It's like some sort of excruciating fraternity pledging initiation for football's best.

If the voters want to reserve the honor of electing only the most elite ever in the first year of eligibility, that's understandable; otherwise, send in everyone worthy by, at most, six years after retirement.

Voters have also arbitrarily created the odd situation where they pitch retired players who competed at the same position against each other. Specifically, Reed's outlook for next year is weak simply because Cris Carter, who was rejected this time in his first shot, figures to be a leading candidate. Monk's election this year may have done the same thing to Reed.

There's no reason two guys at the same position shouldn't enter at the same ceremony, unless the voters are concerned that one will attempt to upstage the other and provoke some sort of slap fight. And that would be great, as it would make for better television than an endless stream of tedious speeches thanking owners and family members.

Even more exciting than the prospect of a brawl between gold jacket-wearers was watching Reed excel for years. The primary aerial weapon on what was a tremendously prolific offense might get passed over again next Super Bowl weekend on account of some schlubs who will point out, that, say, he only had four 1,000-plus-yard seasons.

That ignores the point that he was steadily excellent on a team that put forth one of the top sustained offensive outputs in memory.

Andre Reed was really good for a really long time, and the cold truth that he'll be absent from the Hall of Fame for at least another year is a case of the selectors throwing around their weight simply because they can.

All it does is deprive a guy who's a lock for admission from enjoying it until 2009, or, quite possibly, later.

Meanwhile, if Bruce Smith doesn't get in at his first chance, that's when it will officially be time to assemble, march, and pillage Canton. Bring the Zippos.

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