Hall of Fames Are Bullshit

7 Jan

I love sports and I love music.  Two things that are different yet similar in many ways.  Okay, scratch that they are similar in one way and that’s the whole “Hall of Fame” argument.

I swear nothing is worse than the Baseball Hall of Fame and I pride myself as a baseball enthusiast who loves the history of the sport and equating the present to the past.  I love sabermetric stats even though my highest grade in Math was a C- which I had to work my ass off to get to.  It all intrigues me oh-so-much to know that Ryan Howard can’t hit a lefty slider and here’s a stat to prove it.  Its probably the same way people feel when a new Crossfit DVD comes out.

But there is nothing more haughty, sanctimonious, patronizing and eye-rolling as anyone who prides themselves as a Hall of Fame voter in any discipline.  Especially if that writer is a baseball one.

Jayson Stark of ESPN seems to be a pretty cool dude.  He’s a local guy (PHILLY :hocks loogie on effigy of J.D. Drew dressed as a Department Store Santa: :SportsCenter devotes 50 minute special on it:) and he’s probably one of the more famous Philly-born sportswriters around nowadays which will piss off any baby-boomer who swears that every small-town newspaper journalist exclusively wrote Pulitzer-Prize winning vignettes.  Honestly, I have no problem with Stark at all.

But check out his latest piece on voting for the Hall of Fame.

As I stared at my Hall of Fame ballot last week, just before I sealed the envelope and headed for the post office, I was struck — and saddened — by this thought:

The Hall of Fame is broken.

Broken.

This is where it begins.  The Hall of Fame isn’t “broken”.  Its a glorified South of the Border-esque tourist trap in rural New York that sportswriters turn into Mecca.  Grown men who have actually accomplished decent journalistic things all turn into imaginary apostles that believe they are determining the difference between heaven, hell or a lifetime in purgatory.  Only heaven is a shrine in a museum, hell is not being in it and purgatory is 1,000-word op-eds on why they should go to heaven or hell for the next fifteen years and beyond.

But beyond Maddux, there’s no reason to feel confident about the fate of any of those men. Just take one look at the list of luminaries who weren’t elected last year. That will tell you all you need to know about how confused voters seem to be these days about what a Hall of Famer is supposed to look like.

Its a tremendous honor when you are chosen as one of the best ever to play the game; I get that.  Its an awesome occasion and really a testament to someone’s talent, work ethic and good fortune.  But “confused voters”, stop with all that steroid innuendo.  Say the damn word “steroids” or “performance-enhancing” and make the decision if it really helped them.  Its not that tough.  If you are not sure that someone used or not; then how about you assume everyone else did and pick the ones who were the best.  Its a MUSEUM.  You can revoke things, place asterisks, do whatever you want.  Its a shrine to a bunch of dudes who played a game while womanizing, gambling, drinking excessively, cheating and yes; “playing the game”.

I’ve been a Hall of Fame voter for 25 years now. For most of those years, I looked at that as a privilege, as an exhilarating and enlightening experience, as an opportunity to plunge into an energizing debate about where the greatest players of modern times fit into the fabric of baseball history.

Anybody out there still remember that debate? Yeah, I thought so. Good times.

Yes, once, Hall of Fame time really did involve an actual baseball conversation. Then it became a PED conversation. And now, it’s just a flat-out train wreck.

Oh great, baby-boomer recollections of the time that was.  Oh yeah, BACK IN MY DAY; we talked about real things.  Now, its all this mamby-pamby steroid nonsense that tarnished a great game.  Yeah like baseball NEVER had any scandals before and that baseball was the virginal choir boy who suddenly discovered LSD and Phish.  “How do I feel about this?”.

I’m not going to further quote Stark’s piece (which continues to his ballot) because its inane.  These men think they hold the most powerful positions in the country.  The Hall of Fame is a fun exercise and its fun to debate the greatness of anything and anyone.

But it goes to my point that Hall of Fames are bullshit.  Especially given the girth of awards people have nowadays.  Every single sports team has some “Wall of Fame” or “Hall of Fame”, every sport does, I think every state has one, every college does, every high school does; really a Hall of Fame is just some tribute to the past.  That’s all it is.

Steroids are bad.  Just like cocaine, womanizing, racism, domestic abuse, murders, amphetamines, bootlegging or whatever character clause you want to point out.  I get it too, steroids COULD improve your performance and those other crimes are just crimes.  But we are stuck with what we have, steroids existed and continue to do so (and began long before the 90s so odds are some of your favorite old-timey players used them) so all we have to do is pick who was the best of that inflated era.

Who profits off the Hall of Fame?  Not the players, but its the journalists who get to write 5,000-word pieces on how late they stayed up like picking 10 guys every year is equivalent to enlisting in the military or taking the SATs.  Its not.  Something is either great or it’s not.  Deep Purple isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, neither is Yes, but other bands are.  What’s “great”?

Except for the voters and the individuals themselves, there’s no benefit to a Hall of Fame.  Buy little Jimmy a book and a Louisville Slugger instead of taking him out to a museum in which his ADD-inflicted mind cares way more about Fun Dip than a plaque of Bill Mazeroski.  Don’t hike the family up to Cooperstown, instead buy DVDs of great moments and have at it.

Your memories don’t need to be justified by a panel of writers.  Chase Utley probably won’t make the Hall of Fame but dammit, he’s my favorite athlete to watch.  Roy Halladay will probably be enshrined as a Blue Jay, but I’ll always remember the no-hitter and the perfect game.  I don’t need Jayson Stark agonizing over a ballot to tell me it was great or not.

Don’t fall for it.

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