By Keith Cummings
Things appear to be slowly changing in the bastion of NFL traditionalism. The reason why the Pro Football Hall of Fame remains such a gilded establishment is its grounding in its traditional core beliefs. What makes it such an esteemed club is the sheer exclusivity of membership. Part and parcel of its intrigue is the eternally classic cause of bar-room arguments and debate over who deserved their coveted induction or simply got stiffed.
In the NFL’s 100th year the Hall of Fame appears to be embracing all of the fanfare by loosening up. A recent radio interview by H.O.F President, David Baker, revealed the intent of his board to vote on electing more than its standard eight new members for induction in 2020.
The vote on August 2nd will see the board extending the class of 2020 to potentially twenty new H.O.F members. Much more than just NFL PR, it shows a clear intent to use the leagues centenary year to right a list of wrongs or over-sights. Baker himself chose to point out that the sheer difficulty of passing the H.O.F process to make the elite eight has left many great players on the outside looking in.
Early indications have presented a feeling that the H.O.F board will rubber-stamp the proposal, therefore leading to a bumper crop of new stars being immortalized in Canton. Several all-decade players still remain excluded and any extension to the pool will likely benefit older players who have been pushed further down the pecking order by the passing of time and fading of memories. The beauty of embracing a bigger number in 2020 is that the changing face of the NFL will get to fully honour its founding visionaries and talents before it’s too late.
It is likely in this potential move we will see three contributors and two coaches also gain H.O.F entry. Glaring coaching absences like Don Coryell, who has been a finalist five times, can maybe finally be correctly addressed. Other anomalies in the coaching field such as former Oakland Raiders Head Coach Tom Flores, who won a total of four Super Bowl rings, similarly stands out as another over-due fix. By expanding the contributors eligible for induction and coming off the back of the passing of Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, more elite owners should also now gain recognition.
It seems like more than perfect timing to use the 100th year of the NFL to clear somewhat of a log-jam of worthy H.O.F candidates. Simply put, it will honour the men who have not only built 100 years of history but have been fundamental in its overall success. In essence this is what a more modern version of the Pro Football Hall of Fame should now look like in 2020. Critics will point to a watering down of the H.O.F’s product, but the sheer weight of talent stock-piling speaks more to injustice than over-indulgence.
The bigger argument potentially at play could find a movement to permanently extend the number of inductees who currently enter the Hall on an annual basis. This would certainly lead to much more intense arguments and media scrutiny than the current potential 2020 ceremonial celebration would. For now, most will be more than happy to see what fans of their own teams crave; the simple validation of their own heroes and personal favourites to make it to the ultimate of pro football honours.
While the H.O.F were opening up in a very public manner over its 20 for 2020 plans, it quietly righted a potential wrong. Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who recently passed away before his induction ceremony, will now get his jacket and ring delivered to his family. The frankly outdated and incorrect practice of deceased inductees’ families not receiving the material proof of their loved one’s achievements certainly seems wrong. With Bowlen being the only H.O.F member to pass away after induction but before election, the board were prompted to fully honour Bowlen in this unusual situation.
Raiders Owner Mark Davis voiced his feelings and opinions that all deceased Hall of Famers should now receive their ceremonial jackets and rings. It is a huge failing that the Hall of Fame continues to justify their policy by simply not changing the process. The difficulties of who gains access to such valuable items has to be understood and managed carefully within the family or estate. Perhaps presenting the items to the deceased members’ team he chose to represent upon induction might be the best solution for all moving forward.