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Greats excluded from Hall might be victims of politics

I watched most of the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies from Canton, Ohio, this past Saturday. If you were tuned to the NFL Network, that included a couple of hours of lead-in programming and the four-plus-hour program in which six new members were enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

As I watched I could not help but think of our own Ray Guy. We have often bemoaned the fact that Ray has not been voted into Canton, and it is a horse that we have beaten to death. A segment of the program detailing the careers of 10 players who have not been admitted at least offered me some perspective on the exclusion of Ray Guy.

The list of 10 was a group of household names from NFL lore that one might think should be in the hall. It did not include Guy. He was not even mentioned as an honorable mention. For each player mentioned, there were clips of former players and coaches, media types, and yes, Hall of Fame voters expounding their virtues and making a case for their future inclusion.

The most interesting discussion centered on former Buffalo Bills special teams ace Steve Tasker.

Tasker was a member of the Bills during their run of finishing last in four straight Super Bowls. During this time, Tasker was the very best in the NFL at covering kicks and made several pro bowls.

One of the voters said, "To vote Tasker into the Hall would be like spitting in Dick Butkus' face." That statement told me this must be the typical view taken by many of the voters. How can you give value to a player who excelled on special teams, regardless of how much he might have contributed to his team's success?

Remember, Guy was the best punter to ever play the game. Could it be, in their ignorance, the voters are lumping Tasker and Guy into some sort of "necessary evil" category, a category they feel can never earn the distinction of Hall of Fame worthiness? Jan Stenerud remains the only kicker in the Hall.

At the top of the list of 10 was former Green Bay Packer offensive guard Jerry Kramer. Several voters suggested that Kramer should be in, but asked how you could document the contributions of an offensive guard. They pointed out there are no statistics for guards. Strange concept -- especially since one of this year's class was Randall McDaniel, who played guard for the Minnesota Vikings.

If you think about it, if there are only 234 players in the Hall of Fame and Jerry Kramer is not one of them, we shouldn't be surprised at anything. Besides leading the way for some great runners on the Packer powerhouse of the 1960s, Kramer's goal-line block on Dallas' Jethro Pugh in the 1967 Ice Bowl that allowed Bart Starr to score the winning touchdown is the most famous block in pro football history.

One of the former players, I can't recall which one, summed it up best: He observed that when you have a bunch of voters who never played the game, you could expect a lot of stupidity in the voting. In essence, he was suggesting that good ol' boy backroom politics might play a bigger role in who goes into the Hall than we care to admit.

Imagine that.

Ray Guy, Jerry Kramer, Steve Tasker and others might simply be victims of stupidity or politics, or both. And some of us continue to hope that a sacred place such as Canton, Ohio, would remain pure, a place where stupidity and politics would never win out.

Web posted on Thursday, August 13, 2009

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