What I Learned About Football This Week That I Didn't Know Last Week
The opposition to Paul Tagliabue for entry to the Pro Football Hall of Fame might be so formidable that he'll never get in.
The way the Hall of Fame system works, local voters advance the causes of players and coaches and administrators from their towns. On league people, one of the at-large voters is chosen to present the case for entry. The Hall asked me to present Tagliabue three years ago, and I've done so for three fruitless meetings. And so a buddy of mine on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee came up to me in the press box last night and said: "Next year, when it's time for you to present Tagliabue, you should say two words: 'No mas.' ''
He's got a point. The first year I was stunned at the vehement opposition to Tagliabue in the room. I'm not stunned anymore. I might be wrong, but I do believe the opposition to Tagliabue is getting more intense, not less. If there's any sort of job action in 2011, which is possible, I think Tagliabue's election will be something close to the impossible dream.
As I write this, early this morning, I've had time to reflect on the events of the six-hour, 45-minute marathon meeting we had to elect the class of 2009. Precisely one hour was spent on Tagliabue. I cannot write about what specifically was discussed in the room because we are forbidden from doing so by bylaws of the Hall. But I can say that I sense opposition based on the two major issues: that the CBA deal Tagliabue helped broker in 2006 may, five years after the fact, result in a strike and that new stadium and new franchise efforts in California failed in his tenure.
I've stated my position often on Tagliabue. He's the only modern major sports czar to lord over a game since 1980 and never have a strike during his tenure; Pete Rozelle had three strikes in his last 17 years, Tagliabue none in his 17. He got the first serious drug-testing and steroid-testing policies written into the CBA. He founded the Diversity Committee when the league couldn't get a black coach hired; under Dan Rooney's direction, the committee made major strides, and 13 franchise in Tagliabue's reign hired minority coaches. The game enjoyed unparalleled success in his reign.
As for the current labor deal, I'm sure he urged the passage of the deal, as any commissioner would. Was it a going-away gift by the owners, who voted 30-2 to adopt the deal on the eve of Tagliabue's retirement? Maybe. But is partial blame for one strike in a 22-year span worth keeping him out of the Hall, when every commissioner who has served more than 10 years already has gained entry?
I think it's time for the Hall to find a new Tagliabue presenter. I'm 0-3. It's a bottom-line business, and I deserve to be fired -- even though that might be like firing Marvin Lewis. If the Bengals do it, that's not going to solve the deeper issues.
Stat of the Week
John Elway played in five Super Bowls. Joe Montana played in four. Kurt Warner has played in three -- and has thrown for more yards than both Montana and Elway.
In 12 quarters, Warner has passed for 1,156 yards, the most in Super Bowl history. In 16 quarters, Montana threw for 1,142. In 20 quarters, Elway threw for 1,128.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
The 44 Hall of Fame selectors get lots of literature to digest about the candidates each year. In the "personal'' section of the final media-guide bio about Miami guard Bob Kuechenberg (who failed to gain entry Saturday) was this line: "As a child, rode in gunnysack on father's back in rodeo clown act.''
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
Something out of Curb Your Enthusiasm happened to me down here. Because of an NBC dinner, I had to jilt a couple of SI.com pals, Donnie Brasco Banks and Andrew Perloff, at dinner Monday night at Capital Grille near our hotel, the Renaissance. Swell guy that I am, and knowing there wouldn't be much I'd have to pay for all week, I decided to pick up their dinner check. So I point over to the table in the densely packed restaurant and the waiter brings me a check, and I pay it.
The next day, I'm surprised Brasco and Perloff aren't pleased about their free meal. Then Banks tell me he paid for his meal. Perplexing. So I call the restaurant. Stewart the manager investigates and finds out the waiter brought me the wrong check. This check was for the table of Merrill Hoge and Mark Schlereth of ESPN. "What?'' I say, and I'm told because Hoge and Schlereth are in TV and I'm in TV, ipso fatso (as Ralph Kramden used to say), the waiter thought that was the table I pointed to. I said no, I had no intention of buying the dinner for those fine but well-compensated fellows.
Now we were in an interesting situation. I'm out $175 for a dinner I intended to buy, but for different people. Stewart and I reached a nice compromise: With the Banks/Perloff spouses coming to town Thursday, the restaurant would pick up the first $150 of their tab. Good deal.
The dinner date takes place ... and the Capital Grille picks up the entire tab.
Now that is some great, grand gesture. All you corporate Capital Grillers on the main office in Restaurantville, USA, take note: You have a superb staff at the Tampa location.
And odd story with a very happy ending for all. Happiest, I believe, for Hoge and Schlereth. Fellas, I'll take a Heineken Light the next time our paths cross, and we'll call it even.