The I-95 SportsBiz crew is at again. Always arguing about sports! Here’s the topic this week, and each of our takes. Join us in the comments 95ers, help us figure this one out!
Should professional sports Hall of Fame inductees be evaluated according to their on- AND off-field actions?
This is a topic that I am constantly flip flopping on. I can’t decide how I really feel about it. What I have somewhat decided on is that I think it should be decided on a case-by-case basis. I know that that isn’t the concrete answer that all of you readers out there are looking for, but it’s all I have. It’s not a cop out, it’s just a confusing subject. What it comes down to for me is what is the player’s brand, or in other words, what is the play known for. If a player has hall of fame on-field credentials, and his off-field actions do not interfere with that, then he’s in. If the player’s off-field actions do mar his reputation, then he probably shouldn’t get in. It’s the difference between “he was a great player, but he had some off-field issues” and “he was a headcase off the field, but he was a great player”. I know it seems small, but the player needs to be known for his playing career first. This is the reason why T.O. is going to face a very interesting vote come time. He has hall of fame statistics and was a dominant player in his prime. But does T.O. feel like a player destined for Canton? It’s tough. It depends on your view on the matter and what you like to see in your hall of famers. His clubhouse antics are why he was out of job when he was a reasonably productive player (or at least had the potential to be). Jerry Rice didn’t have that problem. Do you see what I’m saying here? It’s more than just statistics that get a player into the hall of fame. Off-field reputation has gotten some players into halls of fame with borderline statistics, so it’s only fair that it can keep them out too.
When evaluating this topic, the first name that I think of is Pete Rose. Gambling was a huge problem in baseball, and the sport needed to eliminate it to survive. When Rose was found to be gambling, baseball decided they had to take strict measures. These measures included keeping Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame. I think Pete Rose NEEDS to be in the Hall of Fame. What he accomplished as a player on the field should be the ONLY consideration whether or not a player is in the Hall of Fame. As fans, it may be frustrating to see “bad guys” or players with “off-field issues” get into the Hall of Fame but it needs to happen. The Hall of Fame in all sports is not a place for “good guys” or players who “played the game right.” The Hall of Fame is for the most talented players in a given sport. The problem with choosing on a case by case basis is the politics involved. The easiest and correct way of choosing Hall of Fame caliber players is to only evaluate what players did ON the field.
The easy way to answer this would be to say that these types of dilemmas need to be handled on a case-to-case basis. Obviously a cop-out answer, but nevertheless the correct one. Because each player has a different on-field and off-field resume, each case for the Hall of Fame would be different. The originating debate on this topic was surely brought up by the case of Pete Rose, who is the all-time MLB hit leader with 4,256 but is not in the Hall of Fame because of his association with betting on baseball. Lawrence Taylor is a Hall of Fame linebacker but was charged with statutory rape of a 16-year old who he paid for sex in 2010. Terrell Owens is fourth all-time in touchdowns (156), sixth in receptions (1,078) and second in receiving yards (15,934) but has been a thorn in the side of every team he has been with in his entire career, regarded as a selfish person and bad teammate. Overall, I think play on the field should get a player into the Hall of Fame. Positive actions off the field should be able to help a borderline player get in, but negative actions should not hinder that opportunity in most cases. The Hall of Fame is not a judge of character, it is a judge of on the field performance.