Saturday, August 2, 2008

Art Monk Highlights 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Today the Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed the Class of 2008: Andre Tippett, Fred Dean, Emmitt Thomas, Gary Zimmerman, Darrell Green and Art Monk. Green, who amazingly played cornerback in the NFL for 20 years, was the only first ballot selection in that group. Tippett helped New England make it to the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history but the Patriots fell 46-10 to the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX. Dean was a Pro Bowler with the San Diego Chargers but he really made his mark after the San Francisco 49ers acquired him in the middle of the 1981 season; he proved to be the final piece to their Super Bowl puzzle and helped the team to victory in Super Bowl XVI after that season and again in Super Bowl XIX. Similarly, Zimmerman was a standout offensive lineman for Minnesota but did not win a Super Bowl until he went to Denver, where he was John Elway's blindside protector for several years, including 1997 when the Broncos won their first Super Bowl title. Emmitt Thomas helped the Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl IV and he ranks ninth on the NFL's career interceptions list with 58. He has enjoyed a distinguished 26 year career as an assistant coach, winning two more Super Bowl titles along the way, and this season he will be Atlanta's head coach.

Although those five players each enjoyed great careers, the headliner of this year's class is without question Art Monk, as indicated by the fact that he gave the last speech of the night--and could not begin for four minutes due to a rousing standing ovation from the fans AND the assembled Hall of Famers. ESPN's Tom Jackson noted several times that the current Hall of Famers have been waiting for years for Monk--a finalist on seven previous occasions--to join them. Frankly, it is baffling that Monk had to wait that long. Apparently, this had something to do with him not being considered accommodating to the media during his career but if that is true than every writer who voted against him should be ashamed; this is not supposed to be a popularity contest but rather a recognition of football greatness. Monk set a record for single season receptions (106 in 1984) that stood for eight years and for almost three years he held the career reception mark, retiring with 940 catches, a total that currently ranks seventh on the all-time list. He also set a record by catching at least one pass in 183 straight games, a streak that is still the third longest ever. Monk is the first receiver to catch at least one touchdown in 15 straight seasons and he was a productive member of three Super Bowl championship teams. He is one of those players who everyone understood was a Hall of Famer during his career--during one of his highlight clips the announcer even called him a future Hall of Famer--but somehow slipped through the cracks once the official voting process began.

Before the induction ceremony, Jackson and Trey Wingo talked about Monk's protracted wait to receive this honor but they cut short that segment--and said little about the other five inductees--in order to give viewers yet another breathless update about Brett Favre, whose selfishness has now not only hurt the Green Bay Packers but also shamelessly intruded on the night during which six classy players received the highest possible football honor. I am disgusted that ESPN could not wait three hours to talk about how many millions of dollars Favre can extort from the Packers in exchange for doing what he said he planned to do all along: retire. Jackson took Favre's side and said that Favre should call the Packers' bluff, show up in camp and dare the team to end his NFL record streak of consecutive starts. Jackson added that Favre should not accept money to not play because in his heart Favre wants to play. Here's a news flash for Jackson and ESPN: if Favre really wanted to play then all he had to do was not retire in the first place.

I wondered what all of this was about until the story surfaced a couple days ago that the Packers are working on a deal to pay Favre $20 million or more as part of a "personal services contract." Basically, it's all about the Benjamins: Favre is extorting the Packers to pay him not to play. Then Chris Mortensen had the nerve to say that Favre loves the Packers too much to want to hurt the team or be a distraction--while in the same breath saying that if the Packers won't take Favre back then Favre wants to go to a team in their division so he can kick their butts twice a year; nothing shows your love for the Packers quite like beating them twice a year after ruining their whole offseason.

I've largely avoided writing about this whole Favre saga because I find his conduct so disgusting but when he interferes with the Hall of Fame ceremony that is going too far. I realize that he did not directly interfere with the ceremony but by making a public spectacle of himself he has encouraged this saturation coverage of his every text message and phone call. Football fans tuning in to the Hall of Fame ceremony deserved to hear about this year's honorees, not more Favre nonsense. Perhaps when Favre is eventually inducted the commentators can spend the minutes before that ceremony talking about Tippett, Dean, Thomas, Zimmerman, Green and Monk. That would be poetic justice.

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