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Calling all conspiracy theorists

Do HOF voters have a bias against former Cowboys?

Posted: Tuesday May 17, 2005 1:37PM; Updated: Tuesday May 17, 2005 3:13PM
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Drew Pearson had 489 catches for 7,822 and 48 TDs in his 11-year career.
Walter Iooss Jr./SI
Cowboys in Hall of Fame
Player Induction Year Years with Dallas
Herb Adderley 1980 1970-1972
Lance Alworth 1978 1971-1972
Mike Ditka 1988 1969-1972
Tony Dorsett 1994 1977-1987
Forrest Gregg 1977 1971
Tom Landry 1990 1960-1988
Bob Lilly 1980 1961-1974
Tommy McDonald 1998 1964
Mel Renfro 1996 1964-1977
Tex Schramm 1991 1960-1989
Jackie Smith 1994 1978
Roger Staubach 1985 1969-1979
Randy White 1994 1975-1988

Sometimes a story gets legs and takes off. People accept it as fact and when someone disputes the premise, people look at the disputer like: "Are you nuts?''

Today's tale: There is an anti-Cowboys bias among Hall of Fame voters.

I aim to dispel it, but let's kick off the festivities with our first e-mailer.

ARE THE COWBOYS GETTING JOBBED? From Bruce E. Sellers of Mapleton, Minn.: "I would assume it is only a matter of time before you address the latest hubbub surrounding Drew Pearson's comments about a bias in the media being the reason he and a number of other Cowboys from those '70s teams (i.e. Pearson, Rayfield Wright, Cliff Harris) have been snubbed by the Hall of Fame. This conspiracy theory has been floating around for quite a few years now, and I never bought into it until recently. My change of heart really started when Michael Irvin didn't get in last year. I thought he was a sure first-ballot HOFer. I don't want to hear about his off-the-field exploits, because there are a lot of characters in the Hall with not-so-glowing resumes. Paul Zimmerman even wrote that Irvin didn't get in because some of the writers didn't like the way he appeared on ESPN in his role with Countdown. If this is true, then that is ridiculous because the voting should be about what happened on the field.''

This story gained some steam on Monday, when Dan Patrick devoted much of his afternoon radio show to the topic, and Pearson called in to rip the process that has excluded some Dallas stars from the Hall. It's the same thing I've been hearing for years as one of the 39 Hall voters: For some reason, we don't like the Cowboys, and so we're not electing a representative number of them to the Hall. Let me make three points:

1. I can't vouch for the other 38 voters. I can only tell you what I think, and I know I have no bias against any player or any team when it comes to Hall voting. "Bias'' is an interesting word. Just because I vote against Art Monk does not mean in any way that I'm biased against him. I just feel he belongs in the Hall of Very Good, not in Canton. Paul Zimmerman may have heard in the room that some voters are biased against Irvin for his off-the-field problems or for his bombastic role on ESPN, but that is something I didn't catch. We are told that only on-field exploits are open for judgment, not what happens to a guy at midnight during the week. Might some voters hold his wild off-field life against Irvin? Could be, but I never heard any of the 39 voters say his vote was going to be affected by it.

2. I don't believe the Cowboys, more than any other team, are under-represented in the Hall. I voted for Wright all the way last year, the same way I voted for Irvin all the way this year. But I've also voted for other guys who don't get in (Russ Grimm and Harry Carson being the most notable ones these days). The Cowboys made it to five Super Bowls during a nine-year period, and 10 people from those teams are in the Hall. Let's exclude the short-timers, such as Herb Adderley, and say that seven bedrock Cowboys from those teams have made the Hall. Compare that to the team from the next generation that was as good, and maybe better historically, than Dallas. San Francisco, over a 14-year period, made it to five Super Bowls and has four people from that era in the Hall. So why don't I hear the same rabble-rousing from the Charles Haley, Randy Cross and Roger Craig advocates that I do constantly from Dallas?

3. The only logical argument for more Cowboys is the epidemic of Steelers in the Hall. I can't defend some of the Pittsburgh choices, because quite frankly, I wasn't in favor of some of the Steelers choices, like Lynn Swann. Just a personal feeling. But the Hall historically has favored players from Super Bowl winners. Pittsburgh was 4-0 in a six-season span. Dallas was 2-3 during a nine-year run. San Francisco was 5-0 in their 14-year spell, which makes the lack of Niners ever more noticeable. And look at Washington, 3-1 in Super Bowls in a 10-year run but just two Hall members -- John Riggins and Joe Gibbs. I'd buy the argument that Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Matt Millen and Darrell Green all deserve their day before our committee.

So, the fact that "only'' seven Cowboys are in the Hall from that era doesn't get much violin music from me.