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Hits and misses

Latest Hall of Fame class deserving but incomplete

Posted: Friday August 3, 2007 11:44AM; Updated: Friday August 3, 2007 12:15PM
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In a 12-year career with the Bills, five-time Pro Bowler Thurman Thomas rushed for at least 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons.
In a 12-year career with the Bills, five-time Pro Bowler Thurman Thomas rushed for at least 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons.
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Can you believe the Hall of Fame game is actually here? Well I can't but Sam P. of Ambler, Pa., has no problem with that phenomenon and he asks the following: "What did you really think of this year's H of F class of Gene Hickerson, Michael Irvin, Bruce Matthews, Charlie Sanders, Thurman Thomas and Roger Wehrli? Are you upset that anyone didn't make it?"

I'm upset that Clark Shaughnessy was not one of the Seniors candidates. I lobbied hard for him, was assured by members of the Seniors Committee that he'd be one of their guys, and then got stiffed. I should be used to it. I mean Hickerson and Sanders certainly are more deserving than the guy who brought in the modern T-formation with flankers and man in motion, a formation that's lasted for 67 years, wouldn't you think? Sure, I voted for the two Seniors. If you don't vote for them and clear the decks, you won't have room for your own guys in subsequent years.

Irvin got my vote. I didn't vote for him the year before. Then I sat down and analyzed myself (the psychiatric term for this is "screwing up your own head") and realized that I hadn't voted for him because I couldn't stand him on ESPN TV. The Advice to Selectors brochure is quite clear on this point. "Selectors shall not stiff a guy because of airwaves trash." Given this mandate, and concentrating more on his ability on the field, he became a yea vote.

Matthews was chalk, based on his 42 years or something hitched up to the Oilers-Titans-whatevers plow. I couldn't be heartless enough not to vote for him. I have always been a very strong Thurman Thomas man. And as for Roger Wehrli, well, I would have laid about 12-1 odds that he wouldn't make it when the enshrinement meeting started, but he gradually started picking up steam, and he became an emotional choice. It was a great pick of a guy who was underrated and unknown for much of his career. I not only voted for him, I gave a little speech on his behalf.

I've already mentioned that Shaughnessy never even made it to the room. For the umpteenth time, another guy I lobbied hard for, Bob Kuechenberg, got turned away. Same for Cliff Harris, whom I'll work hard for next season, along with Kooch. As for Joe Klecko, whom I believe belongs there as much as any defensive lineman, past or present, I don't know what they have against him. He can't even clear the preliminary balloting.

Still with the Hall, Steve of Charlotte, N.C., wants to know if I see Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis as first ballot Hall of Famers? Faulk, possibly. Martin, yes, because there will be a lot of sentiment attached. He's really a terrific guy. Bettis, no. Down the line, maybe.

Dan of Colorado Springs asks whom I feel is the most overrated, undeserving member of the Hall. His candidate is Joe Namath, based on his overall statistics. I don't agree. There's another category for consideration called, How Did He Change The Game? Namath brought credence to an entire league, the AFL, and helped every wage-earner on those teams. Plus he was a master of the two-minute offense, and he rose to the heights when the stakes were highest. I think that in this case you've got to overlook lifetime stats. Most undeserving member? Doak Walker, HB-DB, Detroit Lions.

Doug of New York brings up something I hear every year at this time. The Broncos, who have been to six Super Bowls, have only one Hall of Famer? Is this fair? Is this just? "What about Gradishar, Mecklenburg, Zimmerman, Little and Davis?" he asks. And I could add Alzado and Jackson and my personal choices, Richie, Tombstone, Jackson. Great players all, but not the greatest, except for Jackson. But when Terrell Davis comes up this January, you're going to see some real action. The anti faction will say his career was too short. The pro faction, of which I will be a member, will argue quality over quantity. And thank you for what you wrote.

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