Tuesday May 17th, 2005

Sometimes a story gets legs and takes off. People accept it as fact and when someone disputes the premise, people look at the disputer like: "Are you nuts?''

Today's tale: There is an anti-Cowboys bias among Hall of Fame voters.

I aim to dispel it, but let's kick off the festivities with our first e-mailer.

ARE THE COWBOYS GETTING JOBBED? From Bruce E. Sellers of Mapleton, Minn.: "I would assume it is only a matter of time before you address the latest hubbub surrounding Drew Pearson's comments about a bias in the media being the reason he and a number of other Cowboys from those '70s teams (i.e. Pearson, Rayfield Wright, Cliff Harris) have been snubbed by the Hall of Fame. This conspiracy theory has been floating around for quite a few years now, and I never bought into it until recently. My change of heart really started when Michael Irvin didn't get in last year. I thought he was a sure first-ballot HOFer. I don't want to hear about his off-the-field exploits, because there are a lot of characters in the Hall with not-so-glowing resumes. Paul Zimmerman even wrote that Irvin didn't get in because some of the writers didn't like the way he appeared on ESPN in his role with Countdown. If this is true, then that is ridiculous because the voting should be about what happened on the field.''

This story gained some steam on Monday, when Dan Patrick devoted much of his afternoon radio show to the topic, and Pearson called in to rip the process that has excluded some Dallas stars from the Hall. It's the same thing I've been hearing for years as one of the 39 Hall voters: For some reason, we don't like the Cowboys, and so we're not electing a representative number of them to the Hall. Let me make three points:

1. I can't vouch for the other 38 voters. I can only tell you what I think, and I know I have no bias against any player or any team when it comes to Hall voting. "Bias'' is an interesting word. Just because I vote against Art Monk does not mean in any way that I'm biased against him. I just feel he belongs in the Hall of Very Good, not in Canton. Paul Zimmerman may have heard in the room that some voters are biased against Irvin for his off-the-field problems or for his bombastic role on ESPN, but that is something I didn't catch. We are told that only on-field exploits are open for judgment, not what happens to a guy at midnight during the week. Might some voters hold his wild off-field life against Irvin? Could be, but I never heard any of the 39 voters say his vote was going to be affected by it.

2. I don't believe the Cowboys, more than any other team, are under-represented in the Hall. I voted for Wright all the way last year, the same way I voted for Irvin all the way this year. But I've also voted for other guys who don't get in (Russ Grimm and Harry Carson being the most notable ones these days). The Cowboys made it to five Super Bowls during a nine-year period, and 10 people from those teams are in the Hall. Let's exclude the short-timers, such as Herb Adderley, and say that seven bedrock Cowboys from those teams have made the Hall. Compare that to the team from the next generation that was as good, and maybe better historically, than Dallas. San Francisco, over a 14-year period, made it to five Super Bowls and has four people from that era in the Hall. So why don't I hear the same rabble-rousing from the Charles Haley, Randy Cross and Roger Craig advocates that I do constantly from Dallas?

3. The only logical argument for more Cowboys is the epidemic of Steelers in the Hall. I can't defend some of the Pittsburgh choices, because quite frankly, I wasn't in favor of some of the Steelers choices, like Lynn Swann. Just a personal feeling. But the Hall historically has favored players from Super Bowl winners. Pittsburgh was 4-0 in a six-season span. Dallas was 2-3 during a nine-year run. San Francisco was 5-0 in their 14-year spell, which makes the lack of Niners ever more noticeable. And look at Washington, 3-1 in Super Bowls in a 10-year run but just two Hall members -- John Riggins and Joe Gibbs. I'd buy the argument that Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Matt Millen and Darrell Green all deserve their day before our committee.

So, the fact that "only'' seven Cowboys are in the Hall from that era doesn't get much violin music from me.

TEAMS SHOULD BE JUMPING ALL OVER JERRY RICE. From Jason Pane of Oxford, N.C.: "I'm in disbelief that all 32 teams aren't jumping at the chance to bring a real team player into their locker room. Jerry Rice would be a positive addition to any team. You can't say a bad thing about the guy. Can an NFL GM really say that a guy you know will work as hard or harder than anyone else couldn't help his team? This sick age of athletics where idiots like T.O. and Randy Moss can do as they please and get paid astronomical salaries and a true good guy like Rice can't even get a job, baffles me. It's actually embarrassing as a society."

Tell us what you really think, Jason. I would probably bring Rice in if I were a borderline playoff team with some work-ethic issues among my stars.

TY LAW TO THE JETS JUST MAKES THE MOST SENSE. From Doug of New City, N.Y.: "Why are you so sure about Ty Law playing this year for the Jets? It seems that he wants a two- or three-year deal. And those agents of his are nutty.''

Kevin and Carl Poston, you mean. Well, I'm not sure if nutty is the right word. But they believe in trying to get more money than most agents try for, which creates some headaches. Doug, I have very little inside info on this one, except for this: Law is still unable to run hard and cut with cornerback precision, and he may not be able to do both until very shortly before training camp. The Jets strike me as the perfect team for him. They have depth issues at cornerback. They can afford for to wait because there's not much out there right now. And they can offer Law what he wants even if he won't say it -- the chance for revenge against Bill Belichick and the Foxboroians who would not pay him what he thought he was worth.

FED UP WITH T.O.? JOIN TOD'S CLUB. From Tod D., of Wilmington, Del.: "I'm an Eagles fan and I am extremely disappointed with how the whole Terrell Owens fiasco is turning out. I think T.O. has really missed the point -- he could have easily turned his Super Bowl, team-player image into millions in endorsements. That said, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has to bear a share of the responsibility for this mess. Is there any precedent for teams refusing to deal with a certain agent? Do you think teams should begin to adopt that kind of stance?''

They won't admit it, but in my mind there's no question that some teams grade a prospect lower if, for instance, he has the Postons for agents. Teams think of Poston clients as almost automatic holdouts, like baseball teams who fear agent Scott Boras. I'm not saying some teams wouldn't take a Poston client, but it would be a definite factor in their decision whether to draft one of their men. And it should be. If you know a rookie probably isn't going to be in camp on time, you have to ask yourself if the player is so much better than another player who you can be fairly sure will be there when he's supposed to.

CLUELESS ABOUT CLEMENS. From Brif of Dudley, Mass.: "Rumors are flying all over the place about the Red Sox courting Roger Clemens. How would you feel if he were to put on a Boston uniform again? Personally, I might throw up.''

Good question. I can't say I'd be too happy about it, because Boston would clearly have to give up a prime prospect to rent Clemens at an exorbitant fee for two or three months. I'm sure he'd rather go to New York, too. The one thing about the Theo Epstein regime I like is that he knows the GM can't outspend the Yankees, so he's concentrating on building up the farm system to develop some home-grown players who will be Bostonians for at least five years once they hit the bigs. So the thought of parting with, say, Hanley Ramirez, the jewel of the Red Sox system, for two months of pitching dominance is categorically absurd. And I'm sure Epstein feels the same way. The Yankees are more likely to pull off a deal for Clemens, and as far as I'm concerned, they can have at him if it'll cost a Robinson Cano. That's a net gain for the rest of the American League.

A SMART E-MAIL FROM, OF ALL PLACES, PRINCETON. From Robert Glasgow of Princeton, N.J.: "Jason Giambi was recently hit with beer from the stands. Gary Sheffield was also recently doused. There's the Ron Artest incident. Then there was that situation (I believe it was three years ago) where fans in Chicago pelted the field with beer/bottles after an unpopular call. Isn't this an indication that maybe we should stop selling beer at professional athletic events?''

It was a Browns-Jags game in Cleveland you're referring to, Robert. You might be right. But all I know is this: Ninety-nine percent of the people who go to pro sports events are having no more than two or three beers and maybe yelling a few crummy things and enjoying the game. Last Friday night, I had three Buds and a bag of salted peanuts at Mets-Cards, and I have to tell you that subtracting the beer would be a real negative for me. I've been enjoying a couple of beers at baseball games for 25 years. It's part of the experience. Could I do without it? Of course. But I would rather see penalties and fines for beer louts made much more severe than to have beer eliminated altogether from the stands.

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