Ten months ago, Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune lamented his looming task of trying to persuade enough other Hall of Fame voters to give defensive tackle Warren Sapp a spot in Canton.
“Some of those people in that room are looking for a reason to vote ‘no’ on this guy based on the way he treated them,” Kaufman explained in April. “We don’t need any more ammo. We don’t need him getting fired from NFL Network, which could happen. We don’t need the bankruptcy. We don’t need him getting him in trouble with Jeremy Shockey. Whether it’s true or not, he shouldn’t have said [that Shockey was the Saints bounty snitch]. All these ancillary things are not helping my case. So from a very selfish and personal point of view, he’s killin’ me.”
And while no one ever will articulate that they won’t vote “no” for a given player because, as Peter King articulately put it on last night’s Pro Football Talk, the voter thinks the player is a “turd,” those factors will necessarily creep into the minds of some of the voters when the time comes to check yes or no.
Technically, the Hall of Fame’s rules and regulations prohibit consideration of anything that happens off the field. As a practical matter, however, voters are influenced by things that happen outside the white lines, especially in close cases.
Even though I’ve had my share of run-ins with Sapp (and I still have the text messages to prove it), I’d like to think that I’d be willing to set aside the fact that, yes, he can be aggressive and hostile and downright mean (but also funny and charming and downright friendly) in order to put him where he belongs, in the Hall of Fame.
If enough of the voters feel that way, Sapp should get in today. If they don’t, it will be appropriate to wonder whether the way Sapp treated the media and otherwise conducted his business away from the business of football affected his exclusion.