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Hall voters: Share your reasoning; Others: Quit yer ... whining

by | CBSSports.com Columnist

I am seriously starting to hate the Hall of Fame.

What Hall of Fame, you ask. And in response, I say, "Which one you got?" They all stink, and they're getting worse. They've become one more excuse for an Internet bitch-fest, and the people running the various halls are too obstinate to understand that they're just as much to blame as the ones doing the bitching.

The latest example was the Hockey Hall of Fame's latest inductees, Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour and Mark Howe. Deserving members, all, and good on them. Hope the induction is a week-long metaphorical drunk for each one.

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But what was the response from the outside world? "Yeah, but why did Howe have to wait so long? And where's Pat Burns? And how could you forget Pavel Bure? And what's wrong with Fred Shero?" In other words, it became another condemnation of a process that took the wrong inductees, and the hyenas who took them.

It's a little tough to cater a party after that, when the message to the guests of honor is, "Great, you're here. Where the hell are your friends?"

Let's see if we can help the disaffected analysts a bit. Just because a guy didn't get in doesn't mean that the voters are wrong. Maybe they have a blind spot. Maybe (and this is far more likely) those without votes are acting like scorned little children because they and their massive brains weren't asked to vote. Maybe they're just flat-bottomed wrong. For sure, no crime has been committed here. It's an opinion like any other, no more or less valid, and the complainers stop acting otherwise.

The big babies.

We say that acknowledging that Burns probably should be in by now, and Shero should be accounted for. My own personal stalking horse, Pat Verbeek, wasn't even close, despite having the greatest single nickname in the history of not sports, but names: "The Little Ball Of Hate." There should be an entire wing of the building devoted to those five little words, and if you disagree, you should be struck repeatedly with blunt sticks.

Of course, the reason everyone can complain their favorites didn't get in stems from one of the central truths of the Internet -- for every action, there is an equal and opposite tantrum of a reaction. The idea that not everything is a crime, an act of willful malfeasance or a sign of laziness and stupidity never seems to occur to anyone. You didn't get your way, and someone must be blamed.

What we're trying to say here is, why don't you whiny little children shut up a bit? And to the answer to that is this: The people who run the Halls act like they're temple guardians rather than fans with a set of keys.

The Hockey Hall of Fame is a small committee of people who are accountable to nobody, don't share have to share their ballots or opinions or anything with anyone. It is a monument to elitist faux-guardianship that cannot endure in the modern age, or for an institution that is about the shared experience of a sport.

The baseball Hall of Fame has its flaws, but also has the benefit of large numbers -- the size of the electorate makes elaborate conspiracies nearly impossible, and whatever mistakes are made by one are made by enough that it becomes less a mistake than a philosophical way of thinking about a player or the game. The other Halls, pro football, college football, basketball and hockey, aren't nearly so inclusive or open, and that's inexcusable. Every member should have his or her name revealed, his or ballot published, and his or her arguments disseminated in his or her own words. Period. A Hall of Fame is not the National Security Council, state secrets are not discussed, and the electors stay hidden because they are categorically opposed to the notion of getting over themselves.

If a voter doesn't think Pat Burns is a Hall of Fame coach, part of the privilege should include the reasoning as to why he doesn't. The vote isn't wrong, the refusal to discuss it is. This is basic, this is simple. The opinion isn't the inexcusable part -- the arrogance is.

To encapsulate, the voters should be required -- required, damn their eyes -- to STW. Show Their Work. They got into the room because they're supposed to be so clever and wise and smart, so what's wrong with having to prove it? Nothing. And if that's too high a burden, they should resign their commissions and give it to someone who will.

In exchange, the people who think their guy got slighted should stop acting like the voters looted an orphanage. They didn't. They assessed the problem differently, and there is no need for a war crimes tribunal to straighten them out.

Today, four people and their families and friends are happy. Everyone else is grousing like the tax bill just showed up in the mailbox. Now that's a celebration for the good of the sport. Now that's the Hall of Fame.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.


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