Consolation for former Colts fans

February 04, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

MIAMI -- Well, at least Paul Tagliabue didn't get into the Hall of Fame.

That would have been the ultimate compound insult. The Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl. The Museum Man in Canton. The official reaction from Baltimore would have been a collective dry heave.

Tagliabue didn't get past the first vote, which has to be some consolation for all the disenfranchised Baltimore Colts fans who hold him responsible for the expansion snub of 1993. Who knows how responsible he really was, but his cavalier statement that the city would be better off using its expansion money to build another museum still rankles after all these years.

I'm guessing he won't get the Art Modell treatment. Tags will probably get in at some point, since he did preside over the emergence of the NFL as the dominant economic force in American professional sports. It's just good that he didn't get in now, what with us still trying to come to grips with the Colts getting to tonight's Super Bowl instead of the Ravens.

The Class of 2007, announced here yesterday, includes Michael Irvin, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Matthews, Charlie Sanders, Roger Wehrli and Gene Hickerson, which is a representative group of players from the past half-century.

It would have been more representative if it had included Ray Guy, the greatest punter who ever lived, but - as I pointed out several times earlier - we're so happy that Tagliabue didn't get in that we're willing to overlook the fact that the NFL's emphasis on diversity doesn't extend to punters.

I'm going to be scratching my head for a while over Irvin, whose well-publicized run-ins with the law probably explain why he was passed over a couple times before getting the nod this year. My objection is not so much because of his past, but because of the double standard that clearly exists in the way football players and baseball players are judged by society.

Mark McGwire didn't come anywhere close to the number of votes he needed to be inducted along with Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, though he has never been arrested and he has never tested positive for a banned substance - recreational or performance-enhancing.

Irvin gets into Canton after two drug-related arrests and one conviction. McGwire gets shut out of Cooperstown because he looked squirrelly during a congressional steroid hearing.

I'm not naive. It was pretty obvious that McGwire was hiding something, but we ought to require a little thing called proof before we take somebody's life's work and toss it into the ashcan of history.

When you look at the two sports, that whole concept gets turned on its head. Shawne Merriman tests positive for steroids and makes the Pro Bowl anyway. If he continues over the next 10 years or so to be the kind of dominant player he has been during his first two NFL seasons, he'll almost certainly make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It was McGwire's misfortune to make his mark in a sport that long ago scored a historic marketing coup by successfully aligning itself with mom and apple pie as a symbol of wholesome Americanism. Pro football, perhaps because of its gritty roots and violent nature, has never been expected to live up to the same standard.

The proof is in the greater steroid controversy. The nation was shocked when Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for stanozolol. The major issue when Merriman tested positive was how the four-game suspension would affect the San Diego Chargers' chances of reaching the postseason.

Baseball players are our heroes. Football players are our warriors, so they get more slack. Simple as that.

That's not right, but Irvin was elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday and I'm not going to rain on his parade.

It could have been worse.

It could have been Tagliabue.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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