Hall Call Not Always Fair

Today several NFL storybook careers will be rewarded with their final chapter -- induction into the Hall of Fame. But, for players like Jim Marshall and Mick Tingelhoff, no speeches will be needed -- and for all the wrong reasons.

Later today, the NFL will announce its current crop of inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This year's crop is an eclectic group that features more candidates than available spots. You have Dan Marino – his era's Fran Tarkenton, the best QB by the numbers that never won a Super Bowl. You have Steve Young, who brought the quarterback rating system into public consciousness by raising the bar. You have Michael Irvin, whose biggest hurdle to induction is showing up for numerous court appearances wearing furs. You have Derrick Thomas, whose legend has grown as an NFL martyr.

The Class of 2005 will be infamous. And why not? There are many suitable candidates. But, today's announcement of inductees will perpetuate a longstanding tradition in the NFL – rewarding success achieved through team success rather than individual accomplishment.

Marino never won a title. Some can argue that Thomas never had the chance. But, by and large, Hall of Fame rubber-stamping requires a diamond-encrusted ring. What do today's announcements have to do with the Vikings? Everything.

The fact that Jim Marshall and/or Mick Tingelhoff aren't in the Hall of Fame can be blamed solely on the Vikings never winning a Super Bowl. Alan Page didn't get in on his first year of eligibility. Fran Tarkenton got snubbed on his first year of eligibility despite holding every major passing record in the league – much less on a year that Joe Namath was inducted with little more than a ring to show in comparison to Tarkenton. Bud Grant, Paul Krause, Ron Yary and Carl Eller effectively were inducted on "lifetime achievement" status and concerted efforts to sway voters.

Marshall's 282-game consecutive-games streak remains the gold standard of the NFL. The only people that have made a serious run at it are kickers – which most players don't consider to be exactly brethren. Tingelhoff's 240-game streak is just as amazing – since both played positions that are susceptible to injury. Yet, without a ring both are now in the purview of the "old timer's committee." Why? They don't have a ring.

In the totality of his career, Lynn Swann never had a 1,000-yard season. He's in the Hall of Fame. Why? He had big games in the Super Bowl. The Vikings of Super Bowl vintage never did.

While players like Marino, Young, Irvin, Thomas and Harry Carson – who feels so rebuffed by the Hall of Fame voters that he actually asked for his name to be removed from consideration – are all deserving of induction, why not Marshall and Tingelfhoff? Their records may never be touched. All that's missing is some jewelry on their right ring fingers. The Hall of Fame shouldn't be that "bling"-oriented.

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