T.O. controversy underscores need for Hall of Fame transparency

Getty Images

I started down the T.O. Hall of Fame time out rabbit hole a week ago due primarily to concerns regarding a lack of transparency in the selection process. After a week of arguments, counterarguments, and a few condescending comments from voters who resent being questioned or criticized by people who don’t know the inner working of the process, I’m back to where I started.

Those who criticize the process indeed don’t know the inner workings of the process because the process is kept completely secret. And the T.O. case proves that the time has arrived for transparency.

As Peter King of TheMMQB.com pointed out earlier this week, those who voted against Owens largely have slipped into hiding.

The fact that Owens didn’t make it from the final 15 to the final 10 suggests that the nays are more plentiful than necessary to transform him from one of the final five into a Hall of Famer. Don’t underestimate, however, the possibility that the voters collectively realized that enough of them would never get behind Owens on the final ballot (where it takes only 10 to put the kibosh on Canton) to make pushing Owens to the final 10 or the final five an exercise in futility.

It ultimately may be only 10 people who are anti-T.O. Maybe there aren’t that many; maybe the handful was loud enough and zealous enough that they managed to convince enough of their peers to think that pushing Owens through to the final five would set the stage for an ugly filibuster at best or a complete waste of time (and a spot that could have gone to someone else) at worst.

The only obvious “no” votes currently known (by me) are Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News (he wrote a column about it), Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (ditto), Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts (he made his case against Owens in a radio interview), and Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report (his Twitter account makes his position clear). All of the “no” votes should be known, and those who have kept quiet while the process has been challenged generally and a small handful of their colleagues have been attacked specifically should speak up.

Even if all the “no” votes were known, we still won’t know everything that needs to be known. Those voters who have chosen to disclose their position on Owens refuse to disclose the identity of other Hall of Famers, players, and/or coaches who have privately said that Owens doesn’t belong. Setting aside the question of whether these non-voters should have so much sway over the process, the refusal to name them makes the process even harder to accept.

It’s one thing to gather facts anonymously. Gathering opinions anonymously allows for those anonymous opinions to be tainted by personal animus. Also, it makes objective assessment of the basis for the opinions impossible, allowing for all sorts of subjective factors to be twisted and warped — and for the voters to abdicate their responsibility to assess the candidate to the whispers of those who, given the benefit of secrecy, are far more likely to yield to the temptation of human factors.

The broader concern is this: When evaluating a player based on what he did on a 100-by-53-yard patch of grass or FieldTurf or green cement, it’s easy to assess the opinions of the voters and to develop opinions on the accuracy of the outcome of the votes. When things that happened from the sideline to the parking lot become relevant to the process, it becomes impossible to know what is being considered, why it’s being considered, which others have made it through despite similar concerns, and whether those standards will be applied to future candidates.

There can be no consistency without transparency, and with no transparency it’s impossible for those who view Owens as a knee-jerk Hall of Famer to understand his omission for a second straight year. The voters who oppose Owens can either sneer at those of us who think they got it wrong or they can heed the criticisms, lobby for meaningful change, and bring a different approach to the process in 2018.

If it’s the former, there will be more sneering at those of us who think they got it wrong, both as to Owens and as to others who seem to pass the Hall of Fame eyeball test but can’t get in.

26 responses to “T.O. controversy underscores need for Hall of Fame transparency

  1. This is really about what the Hall of Fame is and who “owns” it. The elitist sportswriters feel they own the Hall while many fans, owners and players believe it is a museum that celebrates athletic accomplishments and portrays our favorite sport as it has evolved. Time for the voters to be rotated or to include the coaches, past inductees, players, fans and sportswriters.

  2. Why do you hate the five guys who got in so much? Why don’t you want one of THEM to be in the HOF this year? Perhaps a voter looked at Bruce’s numbers, and considered that he was playing on the other side of Torry Holt, and then considered Bruce caught a Super Bowl winning TD catch, and voted for HIM. Maybe somebody looked at Jacoby as the best HOG, and considered his three Super Bowl rings, and voted for him. Just because YOU think Owens should have made it this year doesn’t mean he should have gone in. Otherwise, you would be the sole judge, not the 45 football journalists in that room.

  3. Seems pretty cute and dry to me. Does the guy have hof numbers? Yes. Was the guy also a massive douche? Yes

    He’ll get in one day because of his number, he’ll have to wait now because he was a massive douche.

    Personally, I love when arrogant dbags get what’s coming to them.

  4. Let’s be honest … the fans would vote all their players in and almost all opposing players out. Coaches and writers have to deal with the players and their supporters … so they want and deserve anonymity. A secret ballot doesn’t imply something bad. In fact it’s an American tradition. That’s how we vote.

  5. We have two things in today’s sports that are really making it difficult to stomach the sporting news.
    1 – a glut of sportswriters who instead of giving “news” give opinions that they feel are worth more than fans/coaches ect.
    2 – athletes that are more concerned with their numbers/their brand than their team.

    T.O. will get in eventually because he deserves to get in. If it takes a while, so be it – that is fair. He was not exactly the role model that one would hope the HOF players would be. Numbers/production count – but there is nothing wrong with expecting more than that.

  6. I know it’s the offseason but man I’m getting real tired of hearing about this T.O thing. The horse is dead.

  7. I’m not quite sure why sports writers who, lets face it, spend most of their time creating click-bait articles have some sort of special perspective about players that the average fan doesn’t have. I agree with this article; the voting process is dated and most fans don’t get their information from “writers” – there’s so much information now generated by teams and players themselves, statistic sites that allow fans to compare a myriad of scenarios. Jason Cole has a vote? He basically tweets vs writes. If the NFL was smart, they would allow fans to have some say within the process. Let’s be honest, without fans no one has a job…. or a hall.

  8. HOF voting has underscored one thing loudly, get employeed by one of the sports networks after you get out and it increases your chances of getting into the HOF. The media takes care of their own.

  9. You have the transparency of how the process works and who the voters are. That is enough. If you removed the secret ballot aspect of the vote you would have the HOF voters getting bombarded by irate fans every time their guy doesn’t get in.

  10. If I were to visit a hall of fame I would expect it to include all of the best players in the history of the sport. The pro football hall of fame doesn’t. That’s a failure on the part of the hall. It’s like going to a natural history museum that doesn’t include any mention of T-Rex because Rex ate some of their favorite other dinosaurs and was kind of a d-bag about it.

    Seriously? Keeping a guy out because of personality? Grow up.

  11. travishenrykid says:
    Feb 15, 2017 2:14 PM

    Why do you hate the five guys who got in so much? Why don’t you want one of THEM to be in the HOF this year? Perhaps a voter looked at Bruce’s numbers, and considered that he was playing on the other side of Torry Holt, and then considered Bruce caught a Super Bowl winning TD catch, and voted for HIM. Maybe somebody looked at Jacoby as the best HOG, and considered his three Super Bowl rings, and voted for him. Just because YOU think Owens should have made it this year doesn’t mean he should have gone in. Otherwise, you would be the sole judge, not the 45 football journalists in that room.

    ———————

    Dude, they put in a kicker.

  12. Anonymity allows a voter to vote the way they really feel, without intimidation. “Transparency” is the PC term for having a way to bully, coerce, and intimidate voters into feeling no choice but to vote the way the bully wants them to, or face a life of ridicule, shame, and character assassination for voting the way they really feel.

    Just imagine if voting for American President wasn’t anonymous. You might as well just throw “freedom” right out the window.

  13. The problem as I see it is keeping a player out because of something unrelated to his play on the field. The HOF is full of drug addicts, players with personality issues and even a murderer. It also features players who probably don’t deserve to be there based on their on field accomplishments but who were well liked enough that voters eventually felt the urge to honor them. The HOF is no longer about Football and the accomplishments on the field. Instead it’s become a debate about morals and behavior while ignoring on field greatness. Anyone who watched TO play could say he was a jerk and self absorbed, but you couldn’t deny the fact he was usually the most talented player on the field and forced defenses to change how they played to account for him. That is the definition of a HOF player imo.

  14. This column boils down to: I don’t like the way they run this business, so here’s how I think it should be done.

    If this was a taxpayer-supported enterprise, then insist on transparency. Since it isn’t (as far as I know), leave them the hell alone. It’s an entertainment business. They have limited space, and they are faced with an unending stream of potential HOF candidates. If you don’t like their process or their choices, then don’t visit.

    Or start your own HOF and you can include as many as you want. You can have all the people you define as great instead of just some.

  15. He is not a HOF. He has not been voted in. Lousy teammate. SF tried to trade him to Baltimore when they thought he was not a Free Agent.

    He threw Garcia, McNabb and Romo under the bus at different times. 0 Super Bowls.

    NOT A HOF

  16. The essence of you point that the process is not fair. You need to get used to disappointment: life is not always fair and neither is football.

    Calls get missed every game, but over time they swing both ways and things even out. The same is true here. He will be elected in the coming years.

    This is not an injustice. It is an honest choice among educated and knowledgeable people.

  17. Really what this article means is that Florio thinks he should be on the committee.

    If the HOF wants to be respected again they need to completely stop allowing journalists vote in the players and have the guys that have been elected into the HOF vote on it themselves.

  18. I can’t believe how much time has been spent on this issue.

    All because he did not get into the HOF during his first year of eligibility.

    Yes he was good and I’m sure he’ll get in someday. Still, it is not the biggest injustice in the world that a malcontent who could ball was held out of the hall.

    As to hall voters who are remaining silent, I would remain silent at this point after seeing the level of crazy this has become.

  19. “Even if all the “no” votes were known, we still won’t know everything that needs to be known. Those voters who have chosen to disclose their position on Owens refuse to disclose the identity of other Hall of Famers, players, and/or coaches who have privately said that Owens doesn’t belong. Setting aside the question of whether these non-voters should have so much sway over the process, the refusal to name them makes the process even harder to accept.”

    Jesus Christ it’s not a trial and the voters aren’t publishing an in-depth expose so they don’t have to reveal sources. In fact, they don’t have to justify their votes at all.

    A secret ballot is not an unfair process.

  20. wcman says:
    Feb 15, 2017 3:00 PM
    The problem as I see it is keeping a player out because of something unrelated to his play on the field. The HOF is full of drug addicts, players with personality issues and even a murderer. It also features players who probably don’t deserve to be there based on their on field accomplishments but who were well liked enough that voters eventually felt the urge to honor them. The HOF is no longer about Football and the accomplishments on the field. Instead it’s become a debate about morals and behavior while ignoring on field greatness. Anyone who watched TO play could say he was a jerk and self absorbed, but you couldn’t deny the fact he was usually the most talented player on the field and forced defenses to change how they played to account for him. That is the definition of a HOF player imo.
    _______________________________________

    The flaw in your logic is that he is being kept out because of his actions as a teammate while on the clock, so he should be judged by those actions. Drug use and all that other stuff isn’t related to his ability to be a teammate or help his team win or lose games (short of PEDs or unless those things became a distraction to the team, like showing up high and screwing up your plays or getting hurt).

    No one is saying guys who were raging alcoholics shouldn’t be in…as long as their drinking and partying doesn’t affect their play or their ability to be a good teammate then, to each his own. When they start impacting the team, then they are football related.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!