By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In his first two years of eligibility, Terrell Owens did not garner enough votes to earn entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That delay was entirely caused by stubbornness and buffoonery from the electorate. The man ranks second all time in receiving yards and third in touchdowns, for goodness’ sake. The guy was and is a Hall of Famer.
This year, the NFL writers tasked with voting for the Hall of Fame finally granted Owens the honor and privilege of joining their club. Even though it was likely a dream of Owens for a long time to be enshrined in Canton, the two-year waiting period likely left some sour taste in his mouth.
So Owens then somewhat proved those writers’ correct in their initial assumptions by announcing that he won’t be attending the induction ceremony. Instead, he’ll be holding his own, at his alma mater of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Petty? Sure. But you can bet that it ruffled the feathers of the men who held their nose and, against all of their personal feelings and beliefs, cast a Hall of Fame vote for a man who’s very obviously worthy of being in the Hall of Fame. Their boycott could last no longer, so they sucked it up and voted him in. He responded not with gratitude but with a proper level of defiance.
As you might expect, it’s not going over well with the voters. Clark Judge, who writes for Talk of Fame Network, shared an enlightening piece on Thursday that explained, quite simply, that the Hall of Fame induction ceremony will not make a single mention of Owens. Not a one.
“Owens will not be introduced for Friday night’s Gold Jacket ceremony, nor will he be announced the following night at Canton’s annual induction ceremony,” Judge wrote, gleefully citing direct comments from Hall of Fame executive director Joe Horrigan.
“But this just in: The Class of 2018 is not about Terrell Owens,” Judge snidely wrote. “It’s about all eight inductees, including former Green Bay star Jerry Kramer, who waited 45 years to reach Canton. And Owens cannot … and will not … spoil or overshadow their party. The Hall has made sure of that.”
More from Judge, who may have taken a little bit of delight in sharing these details: “His name that [Friday] evening won’t be mentioned with the others, just at it won’t be recognized 24 hours later when individuals are introduced at Saturday [sic] nationally-televised induction.”
Judge concluded with this: “So stay tuned. T.O. may not. But millions of others will.”
Of note: Owens’ gold jacket will be mailed to him on Saturday morning. That theoretically means that if Owens wanted to send a representative to Canton on Friday night to receive the jacket and bring it to Tennessee so that Owens can wear it during his own ceremony? It seems as though that can’t happen. Terrell will just have to wait 7-10 business days. (We can fairly assume that the Hall won’t be springing for overnight delivery. Not in this economy.)
It all makes for some compelling theater, but it all surely doesn’t make anyone look like an adult. Yet in a crazy, mixed-up world, it’s almost comforting to see The Petty Bowl play out like this. Given that T.O. was a bit of an attention hog during his playing days, and given that the football writers looked like insufferable dorks for creating cockamamie reasons to keep him out of the Hall, it’s not the worst thing to have this sideshow as a moderate form of entertainment this summer. Hopefully Owens throws a verbal jab at his own ceremony, and hopefully one of this year’s inductees in Canton has the decency to mention the name of one of the greatest receivers of all time. (Ray Lewis, we know you’ll be giving an 89-minute speech. You can fit in one line about Terrell, can’t you?)
But while some people will surely take sides and vehemently argue that one is right and one is wrong, remember this important fact: On the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, you can search the site to “Find Your Hero.” In that search bar, you can type in “Simpson,” and up pops the profile of one Orenthal James Simpson. Click on his name and you’ll be taken to a page that worships the man who rushed for more than 11,000 yards and maybe did some other things in his life too, though those may not appear on the Hall of Fame’s website. The page shares Simpson’s accomplishments, splashes a couple of his quotes around a number of pictures from his playing days and his induction ceremony, includes a 300-word (incomplete) biography, and ends with a link to purchase merchandise.
Yes, the Pro Football Hall of Fame sells a banner featuring Simpson on it. Boasting that the product is “exclusive to the Hall of Fame,” the Hall suggests the banner “is perfect for the home, office, or fan cave!” It can be yours for just $54.99, plus shipping.
The Hall will also be rolling out the red carpet for inductee Ray Lewis, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges in a murder trial during his playing days, which seems potentially worse than “being a bad teammate” and “being selfish” and whatever else the voters held against Owens.
It all creates a fascinating picture of what the Hall of Fame holds most dear, and that is, above all else, a hearty respect for the Hall of Fame. Most anything can be forgiven or overlooked, so long as the player takes a knee at the sight of the Hall of Fame.
Owens clearly isn’t going to do that. Let’s all hope, for the sake of entertainment, that he at least has a response or two up his sleeve. In the dead days of sports news, this may be all we have.