Terrell Owens, the latest example of a flawed Hall of Fame voting process


For the record and up front, I have never had an opinion on Terrell Owens’ Hall of Fame credentials, and I have none now. I was fine when he wasn’t in, and I am fine with the news that that he is now.
In other words, this is neither a triumph nor an outrage. It is, however, a curiosity that will always surround Hall of Fame selection committees – how did the same guy get so much better a year after being not nearly good enough?
Part of it, of course, is that every class of candidates is different, and some years those classes are better than others. Thus, Owens’ inclusion is not exactly an anomaly.
But what is an oddity is the solid opposition to him in 2017 that seemed to melt in much colder temperatures in 2018. Whatever the arguments against him (hard on coaches and teammates, disrupting his own teams more than his opposition, etc.), they stood up one year and faded the next.
Which is what makes the Pro Football Hall of Fame such a dichotomy between concept and execution – if it takes 12 votes to keep a guy out one year, the question of what caused a voter or voters to flip is worth asking.
And it would be knowable if the Hall of Fame selectors were asked to show their work, which they are not. In fact, they are expressly told not to do so, this rendering the entire enterprise just the slightest bit hinky.
Again, this isn’t about Owens. His inclusion damages the Hall no more than his exclusion elevated it, or vice versa. But it does remind us all that whim and persuasion weighs too heavily in the process. All Hall of Fame voting processes are hated by those who aren’t voters, but the one thing that makes baseball’s process best is that voters vote in their own homes or offices, and do not gather in one place to make themselves available for possible lobbying over pastries and coffee.
The best part for Owens, of course, is that once candidates become inductees, nobody sweats the process. He can enjoy the day with the same pleasure that he would have in 2017, or 2016, and the outrage train can move on to its next pet projects.
But it would be at least slightly more sensible for all involved if the process didn’t seem so . . . well, so very like it is every year. Terrell Owens, Hall of Famer, is merely the latest example.

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