On Monday’s ProFootballTalk Live, veteran NFL journalist Howard Balzer joined the show to discuss the Hall of Fame selection process. Balzer, who currently writes for 101espn.com and The Sports Xchange, serves as one of the 44 voters.
He favors changes such as transparency in the voting, and he talked about the procedures for changing the bylaws and otherwise improving the selection process.
One key question relates to the standard for determining what a Hall of Famer is. Apparently, there is no standard.
Maybe there should be. And maybe it should be a know-it-when-you-see-it-style test that would allow admission only to those about whom there is no debate, such as Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice in 2010.
Of course, that would require the current Hall of Fame to be emptied out and restocked based on only the truly best of the best to be inducted. It also would allow the folks who run the Hall of Fame to move the busts into a much, much smaller room.
The more practical approach would be to come up with some sort of clear standard based on the men currently enshrined that the voters would apply to anyone who is being considered for the honor in the future. The fact that no clear standards currently exist probably means that no clear standards can be created when comparing players from different eras and positions.
Still, at a minimum, there should be a sentence or a paragraph as to what a Hall of Famer is. And in the annual debate, the voters would be guided by that language as to every candidate.
The discussion also included Balzer’s views on whether “contributors” should be competing with players for a spot in the Hall of Fame. Many think a separate category should be created for those who made the game better without wearing a helmet or pads.
The best news is that, more than two weeks after this year’s class was determined, discussion continues regarding possible improvements for the selection process. Hopefully, the discussion will translate not only to short-term change but also to a long-term commitment to constantly looking for ways to make the process better, even if doing so threatens to dilute or undermine the influence that each of the 44 voters currently possesses.