The best thing about the Pro Football Hall of Fame is it truly is an exclusive club. No more than seven legends are inducted on an annual basis, and there’s no wiggle room there. There are 287 total members, which blows away the overpopulated Hockey Hall of Fame (375) and edges out the Baseball Hall of Fame (306).
But because logjams have been created at multiple positions on the field, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for some of the game’s non-playing legends to make it through. All seven inductees this year were players, and it’s been four years since a “contributor” was elected.
The reality is the Hall of Fame should never have forced folks like NFL Films creator Ed Sabol to compete with actual players and coaches. The stats fly out the window, and voters would predictably be skittish about giving a player’s spot to a man who never stepped foot on an NFL field.
That’s why former commissioner Paul Tagliabue continues to wait, while 2014 semifinalists Eddie DeBartolo and Art Modell were considered longshots at best.
But the Hall of Fame last week introduced an amendment that would give contributors their own category, similar to the one senior players currently have. In other words, they would no longer need to compete with players or coaches and would have a chance to be elected in addition to the regular group of inductees by way of a simple yay or nay vote (with 80 percent being the magic number).
“Obviously, during the last 30 years there has more been growth in the game than ever before. There are a lot of people who are responsible for that, but unfortunately, what often happens is a contributor gets compared to a modern-day player (on the ballot) and it’s not really a fair comparison. It’s apples and oranges. It’s what happens on the field and what happens around the field that makes that game happen.”
And that’s the way it should be, because the league wouldn’t be where it is right now — and thus the history of this game wouldn’t be remotely the same — without the immense contributions that have come from some of its key supporters on the business, administration and/or media side.