Jerry Rice's Honor, and the Foibles of Canton.
Congratulations to the greatest wide receiver of all time, Jerry Rice, for making it into the NFL Hall of Fame. He was joined by Dallas RB Emmitt Smith, Redskins OL Russ Grimm, Saints LB Rickey Jackson, Vikings DL John Randle, Broncos RB Floyd Little and CB Dick LeBeau.
Smith and Rice were locks, of course. (Rice, apparently, refused to believe this, openly weeping upon hearing the news - a very touching moment if hard to believe.)
Steve Young was there, and told a story I hadn't heard before - and it's really, really impressive. A week or so after the 49ers won their fifth Super Bowl in early 1995, Young went to the 49ers facility to pick up some personal belongings, etc. He walked past the practice field, and there was Rice, by himself ... running wind sprints. It's that kind of dedication, when no one else is looking, combined with his immense talent, that made Rice so special. This week, Ronnie Lott - who knows something about greatness - said that Rice wasn't just the best receiver of all-time, he's the best football player in history. I'll leave that to others to decide, but it means something coming from #42.
Also, for what it's worth, former owner Eddie DeBartolo is going to introduce Rice into the Hall of Fame. Non 49ers fans think of him as slimy, and someone who bent the rules (and had new rules made to counter his actions), but players know he was the single best owner in sports for years, and the 49ers success is clearly his to share. A classy move by the classiest player ever. Congrats, Flash 80.
While the others are certainly worthy - and Jackson becomes the very first Saint to ever make Canton - it's also worth noting who did NOT make the cut.
Specfically, Cris Carter and Shannon Sharpe were left off, as well as Andre Reed and Tim Brown. The latter two I can accept, though they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame quite soon. But Carter has been eligible for a few years now, and it's INSANE that he's not there yet. And Sharpe? Maybe you just think of him as that guy who talks with marbles in his mouth on the pregame shows - but he redefined the Tight End position. Guys like Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez owe their livelihood to Sharpe, for until he came around, the tight end was an outlet option for quarterbacks, a safety net - not the dominant passing threat. I know the HoF is reluctant to admit tight ends - only two (Mike Ditka and John Mackey) are there. But this is just preposterous, and needs to be corrected next year.
Again, congrats to all, especially Rice and Smith (and yes, I'm congratulating a Cowboy) who truly were some of the best to ever play the game.