So here it is: Hall of Fame Induction Weekend. The official start of the football season is upon us. This is the moment when some of the BS starts to end, and we can actually start enjoying the game of football, not just talking about situations and contingencies that will never happen or endlessly micro-analyzing every offseason move to fill air time.
Of course, this weekend is highlighted by the Hall of Fame inductions at 4 p.m. today, and that is always my favorite part of this event even though Andre Reed was not voted in this year. The main reasons why I love watching the inductions are that with me being thirty years old, the great players that I watched as a kid are being inducted one by one, and this is the one weekend of the season that is entirely dedicated to remembering the history of the NFL.
Besides seeing Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, James Lofton, Bruce Smith, Ralph Wilson, and Marv Levy inducted, my favorite moment during the induction speeches themselves was back in 1996 when Dan Dierdorf was being inducted. Up until that point, I only knew him as one of the voices of Monday Night Football. I didn’t know that he had a stellar career as an offensive lineman for the not-so-stellar St. Louis Cardinals.
While he was giving his speech, he stops his train of thought and says [paraphrasing], “There are two light bulbs on this podium. A white one lights up when you are supposed to start wrapping it up, and the red one means ‘get off the stage’. I have just unscrewed the red light bulb”. Then he holds it up for all to see. How could you not like Dan Dierdorf after that?
When you’re a kid watching the inductions, you’re seeing players that all played before your time, and you have to ask Dad, “Who is that?”, and you have to rely on the five-minute-long highlight reels they show prior to the induction. But now, I get to see guys enter into the Hall of Fame whose careers I watched in entirety first-hand, and even more so in the case of Curtis Martin because he played for two AFC East rivals of Buffalo (New England and the Jets).
Something you have to love about Hall of Fame Weekend is that there is just about zero negativity involved. Once a player is in the Hall, there really is no valid argument for “Player XYZ sucks”. If their performance and body of work is enough to convince thirty-six cynical football writers that they should have their bust in Canton, those arguments just fly out the window. There is no such thing as a player that is in the Hall of Fame but shouldn’t be.
There is only one thing about this weekend that I would change, and it has to do with the selection process itself. After the inductions, I would like the vote to be made public, meaning the general public could see which voter voted for which player, and who voted against which player in the final cut-down from the fifteen finalists. Peter King of Sports Illustrated mentioned that the reason why they don’t make the vote public is that they don’t want irate fans writing in to the voters demanding to know why they didn’t vote for their guy. I can see the point; I wouldn’t want a bunch of barely-literate morons chastising me for voting against a player from their favorite team, but also I think we as fans deserve to know why a player wasn’t voted in. If the vote was made public, we as fans could at least get an explanation of why a player wasn’t voted in. If Congress’ voting is a matter of public record, then the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s should be as well.
And on that happy note, enjoy the weekend, and let the games begin!