I didn’t want to write this article about Terrell Owens snubbing the Pro Football Hall of Fame because it only feeds his problematic (maybe clinical) need for attention. But not going to the HOF induction is unprecedented, and fans, the Hall and even Owen’s supporters deserve better.
Upon being notified by Owens last month, the Hall took the high road.
“We are disappointed but will respect Terrell’s decision not to participate in the Enshrinement,” Hall-of-Fame president and CEO David Baker said.
This week the Hall said they’d basically ignore Owens during the Enshrinement weekend. HOF executive director Joe Horrigan said, “The focus is on the guys who are here.”
You hear that from coaches all the time about players who are holding out. The Hall is following the same procedure. They’ll mail his gold jacket on Saturday morning after the rest of the class gets their coats at the Gold Jacket Dinner Friday night. He won’t be mentioned that night or during the ceremony. But any time the class is announced as a group, he’ll be included.
And that all sounds about right.
Owens gave no real reason as to why he’s not going to his own induction. He didn’t show up with the rest of the Class of 2018 at the Super Bowl this year, so you figured something was up. He was vocal about the process of selection, calling it “a joke” when he wasn’t selected in his first or second year of eligibility.
For some context, you know the names, John Mackey, Mike Ditka, Carl Eller, Jack Youngblood, Jerry Kramer and Kevin Greene? All are Hall of Famers, all waited at least 12 years before they were selected and inducted into the Hall.
From a statistical standpoint, Owens is number two in almost every receiving category and made enough great plays to merit consideration and eventually selection to the Hall. But as I’ve said many times, if we call football “the ultimate team game” doesn’t what kind of teammate you are count?
As selectors we’re given very specific instructions on what to consider when discussing a Hall of Fame candidate. “On the field” is generally the guideline, but does that only mean between the lines on Sunday? What about practice and the locker room? Those count as well. If it’s just about the numbers, it would just easy to add them up and make a list every year.
But it’s not.
In that model Gale Sayers and Lynn Swann would have never sniffed induction. They don’t have the numbers. But they pass the “eye” test. When you watched them play, you knew there was something special about them, something that made them the best of the best. Former Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli falls into that category in my opinion. He doesn’t have the numbers but watching him play you knew you were seeing something extraordinary.
So getting “into the room” is a process that distills a large pool of eligible players, coaches and contributors down to just 15 to be discussed by the committee at our annual meeting. As the Jacksonville representative on the committee, there are confidentiality requirements regarding what I can reveal about the meeting but suffice to say, the opinions are spirited, pointed, well researched and sometimes contentious but they’re honest and authentic. Nothing phony gets into the discussion. Too many smart people in the room.
But here’s the thing: Owens in the Hall.
His enshrinement is no longer in question. Owens received the required number of votes on that Saturday in Minnesota and he’s going to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I don’t care what the reason was he didn’t get in during his first two years of eligibility nor do I can how he got enough votes this year.
He won’t have a special section, or a different place for his bust. He’ll be lined up with the rest of the 318 who have gained immortality in Canton. No mention of any of the negatives that have followed in his career, no asterisk saying he was selected in his 3rd year of eligibility, just a place among the select few who are considered the greatest in pro football history.
Once that announcement is made on the Saturday night before the Super Bowl, the selection process is over. As selectors, we don’t find out who gets into the Hall in each class until everybody else does. We vote at the end of the meeting and we leave. When the announcement is made, that’s when we find out.
There’s a big push these days for players to be “first ballot” selectees. That might be a thing in baseball with many more ballots and a very different process. Nobody ever asks guys in the Hall of Fame if you were a “first-ballot” or second or third or whatever.
You’re a Hall of Famer. Period.
And once that year’s class is named, I can tell you as a member of the Selection Committee, it’s over. The Committee moves on. The process is very serious and very difficult.
One thing it is not is “a joke.”
So I’m not sure what Terrell Owens is trying to accomplish by not attending the ceremony in Canton. If he thinks it’s a snub that will somehow “show up’ the Hall and the selectors for not honoring him sooner he’s sorely mistaken.
We don’t care. It’s over.
Hopefully my friends who have been Owens apologists over the years will stop telling me what a great guy he is.
He’s not. It’s that simple. Not anybody I want to be associated with anyway.
He says he’ll have his own celebration at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, on Saturday, August 4th a few hours before the ceremony starts in Canton. Not on a different weekend, not on a different day, just another attention grabbing stunt by a guy who has no concept of team.
Don’t invite me.