I covered 15 Super Bowls for The Washington Times. When they foolishly closed their sports section at the end of 2009, I scrambled and convinced the NFL Players Association to let me cover Super Bowl XLIV for them. Last year, I was in Dallas for AOL FanHouse.
No such luck this year. Not that missing a week in Indianapolis in February is as gut-wrenching as a week in New Orleans, San Diego or Tampa would be, but the Super Bowl is like an annual convention for NFL media.
The Pro Football Writers of America, on whose board I served for 12 years, the final two as its President, has its annual meeting this morning. And in a league where each team only faces a maximum 17 of the other 31 (including preseason), Super Bowl week is the one time that we get to see everybody in our business.
But what makes not being in Indy even tougher for me is that, for the first time since I was chosen to serve on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee in 2005, I won’t be in the room tomorrow.
The room is a hotel conference room where the selectors gather early tomorrow morning and begin debating whether the 15 finalists and the two senior nominees deserve to be part of the Hall’s Class of 2012. The process usually takes six to seven hours, including a lunch break. I’ve been in the room when we’ve discussed a single candidate for up to 45 minutes.
It’s in the room where minds are changed. My first year on the committee I planned to vote for Ray Guy, whom I had always considered the best punter ever, but I was convinced otherwise that day. The opposite happened two years ago when I wound up voting for Rickey Jackson whom I hadn’t planned to support.
That’s a vastly different system from baseball, in which the 400-plus voters cast their ballots from home, and from basketball and hockey, in whose selection processes the media isn’t even involved.
Being one of just 44 people who decide whether someone will be enshrined in Canton is a responsibility that I, and my fellow selectors, take very seriously.
It’s an honor to serve on the committee and I’m very proud that during the past four years, I helped elect Darrell Green, Russ Grimm, Chris Hanburger and Art Monk, ending a 15-year drought of Redskins players.
I’m especially proud of the elections of Monk, whose cause I pushed so hard over the years that I finally swayed some of the negative voters, and Grimm, for whom I solicited the testimony of opponents to convince my fellow selectors that a guard who only had seven healthy years a starter was Hall of Fame-worthy.
As it turns out, this year is the first in more than a decade that there’s no former Redskin whom I saw play and/or covered on the ballot. Seniors Committee nominee Dick Stanfel was a Pro Bowl guard for Washington from 1956-58, but he played longer for Detroit and retired before I was born.
The only major new candidate for election is former coach Bill Parcells — one of the men whose praise of Grimm to me helped put the ex-Hog over the top.
Otherwise, it what’s we selectors call a clean-up year, one in which such stars as Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown and Cris Carter have a clear shot at election without gimmes such as Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith (2010) and Marshall Faulk and Deion Sanders (2011) claiming two of the three to five spots reserved for modern day nominees.
While I have discussed Martin, Bettis, Brown and Carter before, I’ll still very much miss being in the room tomorrow. I hope that it’s just a one-year absence from serving as the Washington selector and that I and a Redskin whom I saw play and/or covered will be in the room next year in New Orleans.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March.