Saturday, February 04, 2006

U-Shaped Logic

I’m glad that I don’t have a son.

I’m most thankful for this because if my boy ever spent a weekend with my Ex and her new husband, I’d never wish to be put in the position of cleaning up their mess and the brainwashing which surely would’ve taken place if my son had asked his step-dad,
“How come Dermontti Dawson isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?”

It's true: Step-dads warp the minds of their step-sons once they start talking about that place in Canton, Ohio.
Conversational Cantonese is a matter for a boy and his deadbeat dad (along with an explanation as to why the child support $$$ is late).

The reason that this topic comes to the forefront is that, only minutes ago (at 2 p.m., Detroit Rock City Time), the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s “Class of ‘06” was announced … and Canton has six new enshrinees for the August induction ceremony.

Dermontti Dawson was not among this august group – and I’m glad that I don’t have to explain the “why nots” to my son.

Again … that’s a job for his 4th-period P.E. teacher.

Or his Webelos-troop leader, I’m not sure which (I never wanted him to join the Webelos in the first place ... that is, if my son actually existed).

With the recent endless blather surrounding a certain future Hall of Famer who wears #36 for the Steelers, it seems as though someone has to speak on behalf of flip-flopping the “3” and the “6” on the jersey and making the center who wore #63 the center of attention.

Although Dermontti Dawson didn’t miss a start as the Steelers’ center for 10 seasons (from 1989 thru 1998, doubling as long-snapper for the first years of that stretch) and although he went to seven consecutive Pro Bowls (1992 thru 1998) and was All-Pro for the final five of those seasons, he probably didn’t receive any love today.

At least, I think Dermontti Dawson was eligible since he retired following the 2000 season, so he’s no longer frozen out in that absurd 5-year “waiting period.”

It’s anyone’s guess as to whether Dermontti Dawson’s name was actually on the preliminary list of 112 eligible candidates which was issued last Oct. since “remembering stud players of the ‘90s” doesn’t fit into the five elements which most-prominently dot the NFL landscape nowadays.

That scenery consists of:
1) TV revenue
2) Bookmaking
3) Fantasy leagues
4) Jersey sales
5) EA Sports Madden ‘01/’02/’03/’04/’05.

Remembering someone who stood out from 1988 thru 2000? Unless he’s on ESPN teachin’ ‘Merica about blocking schemes in some sort of Schlerethics … or unless he was on PCP or X when he wrapped his car around a telephone pole, he be fo’gottin.

The way recognition works nowadays, #63 Dermontti Dawson just might make it into Canton before Birthday #63 (which’ll be in 2028, by the way).
Luckily, my step-son should be 37 by then.
And he can explain it to me.

Officially, the NFL states that the National Board of Selectors is a 39-member panel composed of one media member from each NFL city, six at-large representatives and someone representing the Pro Football Writers of America.

And, when The Sporting News recently ran a “What’s The Deal With: Voting For The Pro Football Hall of Fame?” piece, there wasn’t much amplification provided, save for this paragraph:

“… the committee will convene at 7:30 a.m. February 4, the day before Super Bowl 40. A continental breakfast will be served, then the selectors will sit down at a U-shaped table – Hall of Fame representatives will sit at the head – and get down to business …”

See? That’s where they lost me.

Where exactly is “the head” of a U-shaped table? Doesn't a U-shaped table, in fact, have two heads?

Or is the middle of the bend in the U actually considered the head?

And, what about the U-ness of the U-shaped table? Is the bend a rounded curve – or are we talking about five or six rectangular tables arranged in the shape of a rectangular U?

I mean, how many table makers out there manufacture U-shaped tables? Don’t U-shaped tables take up a lot of warehouse space?

The abundance of illogical answers to logical questions means that Dermontti Dawson will, in the end, be betrayed by a bunch of pear-shaped dorks seated at the U-shaped table.
Which illustrates what exactly is wrong with this nation.
Not enough "U-shaped-table justice."

They’ve been playin’ pro football since 1920 … and of those enhrined in Canton (which'll swell to 241 members come early August), only 10 (Chuck Bednarik, Frank Gatski, Mel Hein, Jim Langer, Jim Otto, Dwight Stephenson, George Trafton, Bulldog Turner, Mike Webster and Alex Wojciechowicz) played the most-difficult position in football … what they used to call “offensive center.”

All but Langer, Otto, Stephenson and Webster were two-way players.

The process isn’t perfect, or so we’re told – although, according to the 2005 NFL Record & Fact Book, “any fan may nominate any eligible player or contributor simply by writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

Hmmmmm ... writing to the Hall of Fame to nominate Dermontti Dawson seems like a lot more work and a lot less fun than bashing the bejeezus out of the dopes who are assigned to recognizing the sport's legends.

Y’see, the process requires serious upgrades and modifications before we start serving up any free continental breakfasts.

One way to do this would to be randomly pick “panelists” and, if they can’t spell “DeLamielleure” on the spot … POW! Immediate expulsion.

If they haven’t watched an NFL Films presentation in the past 24 hours … POW! Lifetime voting ban.

C’mon … did more than four of the 39 panelists actually see Rayfield Wright play or watch any NFL Films footage of Rayfield Wright in action?

Okay … what number did he wear? ("w
ithout looking at the program, jerk-off!")

Seems to me as though an important process such as Hall of Fame voting should have more of a blue-ribbon panel distinction … something worth noting when you consider that 87 percent of your NFL writers are stat-collectors and quote-gatherers (and salary-cap wizards who are adept at analyzing -- drum roll -- "cap space").

In other words, they didn’t play the game -- which is fine, if all we ask of them is to compute stats, stats and stats and to collect quotes, quotes and quotes.

Without sounding too Cosellesque, doesn’t it seem completely out of place to have stat-collectors and quote-gatherers judging the elements of what’s necessary to be grouped among the best football players of all-time?

Wouldn't it be refreshingly honest if one of those media members stood up from his free continental breakfast, wiped the the egg stains from his moustache and brushed the pancake crumbs from his polo shirt and admit that he was not qualified to vote on a matter of such import and prestige?

Right ... 39 know-it-all lobbyists and statement-makers in a room and one's gonna confess?

That's like telling one of them they cannot have a fourth helping of breakfast sausage.

If you’ve never been in the foxhole with bullets flying overhead, can you really know battle? If the “media” people in the room are NFL-linemen-turned-broadcasters (such as the Steelers’ Tunch Ilkin or Craig Wolfley), sure … their opinions DO matter.
But, I’ve got a feeling that 90 percent of the 39 are NFL beat writers.
And that spells trouble (see: third helping of breakfast links).

This isn’t to say that these beat writers aren’t quality people who aren’t afraid to do the vacuuming on Saturdays or to pick up a tab at lunch or who aren’t shy about spooning with their significant others, be it male-on-female cuddling or male-on-male nuzzling.

But, as far as Hall of Fame voting goes, they simply don’t have any credibility.

Not one iota.

You’d be better off handing them a blank sheet of paper and asking them to name their Top 10 French impressionist painters of all-time.

Renoir would finish fifth.
Behind Beethoven and Shakespeare.

And Rockefeller.

Flimsy decision-making notwithstanding, we'll be at this point again next year … those media reps judging what they have no business judging, as demonstrated by what you (not me) might read in some of the NFL-related publications from Feb. thru training camp.

Pages upon pages of mind-numbing over-analysis which is due to the fact that they stood too close to Kiper’s Bouffant hairdo and, thus, picked up too much Kiper-speak.

“Possesses great instincts” …

“Not a disciplined route-runner” …

“Makes plays in space” …

“Work-ethic and focus are questionable” …

Again, no one is saying that any of these guys are neighbors of Matt Foley and living in their own van down by the river, but there are at least four NFL beat writers who I knew before they were playing judge n’ jury with NFL talent.

Instead of writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and petitioning for the induction of Dermontti Dawson (who, logic would suggest, is a no-brainer nominee to those “in the know”), I may have to send out e-mails to the NFL teams and provide thumbnail sketches which will serve as useful background checks.

It’ll all be on the up-n’-up, y'know.

Important bio intel will include:

“Lacks ability to differentiate between a dangling modifier and the improper use of the subjunctive” …

“He slouches and sometimes skips a day w/ the ol’ toothbrush (important to know for those ‘up-close-and-personal’ features)” …

“Poor at disguising his chemical dependency” …

“Good sense of humor, but a fashion disaster w/ iffy hygiene" ...

"Doesn’t know the difference between a stutter and a stammer, which really hurts his profesh-profesh-profesh professionalism when he’s ask-uh ask-uh asking a question” …

“Once you get past the typos, sometimes turns in a decent story” …

“Crappy pick-up hoops player ... a real gunner” …

In the end, guys who are better-equipped to give you a recipe for a scrumptuous Yankee Pot Roast than they are to give you meaningful, unbiased opinions about NFL players have spoken – and it’s gotta be a hoot when Peter King glares across the U-shaped table at Dr. Z, who looks away quickly and scribbles on his ballot, “Peter King slept with a player on our ballot. Pass it on …” before sliding the ballot along the U-shaped tabletop to the person seated next to him.

Seems as though Dermontti Dawson might end up like Dwight Stephenson, the only African-American center in the Hall of Fame.

Stephenson had to wait 6 years after the 5-year waiting period to get in because (let’s say it all together) “he somehow picked up his level of play” between his final season (‘87) and his HOF selection (Jan. ’98).

Funny thing is, Bob Klapisch recently wrote something about the (baseball) HOF voting wherein he recounted how, when he was a rookie at the New York Post, Dick Young told him, “
Choosing a Hall of Famer is like voting for president. You’ll just know who the right guy is.”
Of course, Klapisch then called Young’s logic “over-simplified.”
Then, he disparaged Young’s character by calling him “mean and inflexible” (not that Klapsich was wrong because Dick Young, apparently, was the epitome of his first name).

There's your answer as to what took place at the U-shaped table today:

Narrow-minded, inflexible people voting with the ideology of “you’ll just know” as their guide.

So, who pays?

Well, Art Monk, among others. The fact that anyone would question his Canton-worthiness is basically your Exhibit A for the previous 11 or 12 paragraphs.
Until the “board of selectors” gets beefed up with a more-pragmatic system, then common sense will always make a U-turn on Selection Saturday.

Good frickin’ luck to you, Dermontti Dawson.
You’ve earned enshrinement, but there’s probably 10 fat-asses out there who are gonna mess with you every year.

Like they did to Harry Carson.

Anyway, hut-hut-hike! to you, George Trafton, creator of the one-handed center-snap …


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