This year’ Pro Football Hall of Fame class is strong with John Elway, Barry Sanders, Bob Brown and Carl Eller. Elway and Sanders made it into the Hall in their first year. The discussion was minimal about both during the selection process. Elway is one of the top five or so quarterbacks of all time in the league, capping his career with two Super Bowl Wins. Sanders retired early at age 31, but ten times he broke the 1,000 yard rushing mark in a season, and his impact on the game made it easy to vote for him.
Brown took a while to get into the Hall, and was brought to the full selection committee by the veterans committee. Eller got caught in a numbers game during his eligible time, but finally the dynamic of the committee changed enough to get him in. But this class is incomplete.
One of the finalists, the last six who are put in front of the committee for a yes or no vote was Bob Hayes. Past his eligibility as an active player, Hayes was also brought to the main committee by the Veterans committee. After being pulled out of the morass of players who have slipped through the cracks of the process, Hayes then survived three rounds of voting by the full 38 member committee to become a finalist. As the late Jack Buck once said before the final vote, “I’m here as a selector to put guys in the Hall, not keep them out.” I agree and was pretty irritated when Hayes didn’t make the final cut.
One of the selectors favorite sayings is, “It’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of the Very Good,” and he, along with a couple of other selectors kept Hayes out of the Hall. It’s a shame, because those guys have a bias against Hayes that’s unreasonable. Whether it’s his performance in the “Ice Bowl” where he was no factor in the -13 degree weather in Green Bay, or his off field problems after he retired, those guys don’t think Hayes is a Hall of Famer. But if you use their own criteria, the criteria they used to get Lawrence Taylor in the Hall, Hayes is a slam dunk. His yards per catch, his touchdowns per catch and his overall impact on the game, similar to Barry Sanders warrant election into the Hall.
Those guys who kept Hayes out, they know who they are, and perhaps they have that right. Perhaps they consider themselves guardians of the gates of immortality, and carry themselves, particularly during football season, as some kind of sages with no peer. They’re mistaken. Sometimes swimming against the tide to make a stand is important. But you’ve got to know when to pick your battles. This time they won the battle, but no matter how many battles they win in the future, they’ll never win the war. They don’t deserve it.