Ballot ballet

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on April 13, 2011 – 4:10 pm

My top 10 ballot for the Hall of Fame comes out looking like this (in order):

Ken Riley, Lemar Parrish, Corey Dillon, James Brooks, Rodney Holman, David Fulcher, Sam Wyche, Tim Krumrie, Jim Breech, Bill Bergey.

Which is a little bit different than Tuesday’s first returns:

Krumrie, Brooks, Collinsworth, Riley, Wyche, Fulcher, Parrish, Dillon, Max Montoya, Breech.

(And the vote to cut to the 10 finalists keeps going through April 20.)

We’re all tussling over the thing. After the charter class of Paul Brown, Anthony Muñoz, Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason, and Isaac Curtis, it’s a tough call.

Here’s what went through my mind:

Riley should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the only Bengal that has gone to more than Parrish’s six Pro Bowls is Anthony Muñoz. They are the last two guys in my mind that absolutely have to be in there. And Dillon is close because he’s the club’s all-time rusher and broke two of the NFL’s biggest single-game records as a Bengal.

But I understand the arguments against him. A lot of times he was prickly and difficult and tried to engineer trades back when Carson Palmer was trading baseball cards. And blew up a few locker rooms along the way. Long-time Bengals public relations director Jack Brennan, who also covered the club for a decade, puts the vote in context best.

“While Corey is arguably the best running back in Bengals history, he was a more difficult case in his relationship with the fans and Krumrie and Collinsworth were engaging and accessible characters,” Brennan said.

Which is fine. It is the fans’ Hall of Fame. They’re making the call and every fan/writer/broadcaster/player/coach has different values, which ought to be celebrated and not strait-jacketed into someone else’s belief.

Me? I’m just uncomfortable with the whole judgment thing. It’s hard enough to judge these guys as players without getting into a moral and philosophical morass of pontification that would make your head hurt.

All I know is that Corey Dillon ran like hell for a long time without a lot of help and he passes my Hall of Fame test. How many times did he make you save a ticket stub?

(But I’ve got no room for Manny Ramirez in my Hall. He cheated after drug testing. The other guys in the pre-testing Steroids Era, let them in. It was like stealing signs and scuffing the ball. Getting an edge, except it is feared to cause cancer instead of RBIs. Blame the commissioner and the union for entering into an unspoken and unholy alliance. Please, no votes for Donald Fehr and Bud Selig for Cooperstown. It was their arrogance/ignorance/greed that gave rise to the juice.)

And, of course, you can say it is never personal but we know it always is.

If I used the same criteria for Carl Pickens that I am for Dillon, maybe he should be on there. But while Pickens had some big games and one big year (17 TDs in ’95), he didn’t excel at his position for as long as Riley, Parrish, Dillon, Brooks Holman, Fulcher and Breech did. Bergey was only here five years, but people rave about those five years.

And, truth be told, Pickens made my life miserable as a reporter like no one before or since and I always got along fine with Dillon. Plus, Dillon never did what Pickens did, which is hold out of training camp, pocket $8 million, and 14 weeks later rip the head coach so badly that they had to cut him. But, that’s a judgment, isn’t it?

What was worse? Dillon saying he’d rather flip burgers than play for the Bengals or Pickens walking off the field and into free agency singing “This is it” after Tampa Bay hammered them, 35-0? Who knows? Ask one of these millionaire moralists that decides who’s worthy and who’s not.

But my head already hurts, so I’ll just stand on the premise that Pickens flashed, but not long enough to go in before these guys.

Holman is the most underrated player in Bengals history. Boomer Esiason still talks about him reverently. A terrific two-way tight end, his versatility was a big reason Sam Wyche’s no-huddle worked so well. He blocked for a running game that was in the NFL’s top five for five straight seasons while averaging 13.6 yards per career catch. His 34 TD catches are just two fewer than what Collinsworth had at wide receiver.

Brooks was simply a beast running and catching. He was the concept of Marshall Faulk before Marshall Faulk and you wonder what he would have done if he began his career with Wyche and the Bengals. And Wyche has to be on this list because he was so far ahead of his time with his Xs and Os in how he used those two guys and all the rest in the no-huddle.

Bengaldom’s most underrated stat may be Fulcher’s 31 career interceptions, third in team history. That from a strong safety ferocious against the run that helped defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau change the game. Krumrie is there equally for courage and talent. Breech will always have nine lives: Nine-for-nine in OT.

That’s my ballot. Thanks for sharing yours. Keep it going until the 20th.

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