(Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Bills)
Talk of Fame Network
There’s at least one wide receiver out there who, unlike Terrell Owens, doesn’t think the Hall-of-Fame selection process is flawed and tough to fathom. Meet James Lofton, one of two Hall of Famers who earlier this month sat in as observers during the annual selection meeting.
Lofton and former quarterback Dan Fouts, both of whom are broadcasters, monitored the nine-hour process that yielded eight Hall of Famers for the Class of 2016 and disappointed Owens, who wasn’t chosen in his first year of eligibility.
Afterward, Owens criticized voters, as did many of his supporters, saying he felt “disrespected.” But Lofton had a different perspective when we sat down with him on this week’s Talk of Fame Network broadcast — calling the procedure he witnessed “extremely fair and thorough.”
“I had a lawyer friend,” he said, “(and) he said that the Supreme Court ruled that fair was what two people could agree upon. So now we’re in a room with 46 selectors, and we’re trying to get an 80 percent approval on four or five guys. So when I looked at the process, I thought (it) was very thorough, very fair. Because when those 46 people walked out of the room, yes, there might have been guys six, seven and eight who were really close. But they walked out of the room with 80 percent approval on five people.”
Asked if he was surprised what he discovered, Lofton shook his head.
“I won’t say I’m surprised,” he said, “because there have been occasions during the course of the year when I’m covering games for Westwood Radio when somebody who’s a selector might come up to me and pick my brain on a player or two. So I witnessed that. But I was really impressed with the 15 players … and coaches … on the ballot, when guys got up to make their cases …
“There were a lot of professionals. There were some good moments. I was ready to hand out a couple of Emmys because the presentation was so good and so thorough that they didn’t leave any holes … I just thought it was a great process, and I look at maybe the opportunity of doing it in the future, and I look at how well prepared you’d have to be to stand up in front of this crowd and be ready to go toe to toe with somebody who has an opposing viewpoint.”
Lofton was elected to the Hall in 2003 on his third try as a finalist. So while he doesn’t know great disappointment, he certainly knows what it’s like to wait. Owens, on the other hand, does not. He was critical of the Hall’s voters after missing on his first try, compelling us to ask Lofton if he had advice for T.O.
“Our culture has changed,” he said. “And our TV culture has changed. When I was growing up, I watched “Happy Days” and some other soapy sitcoms and different things like that. And now kids watch reality TV. So they think that their response to everything is super important.
“And then, obviously, we want to cover this Hall-of-Fame selection, and we want to salute the players that get in. But it’s always the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. So somebody rushes to T.O. and asks him about getting in. And, just like Cam Newton after the Super Bowl, maybe his response wasn’t as humble as what some people would’ve liked.
“I’m pretty sure he was disappointed. But he didn’t want to say he was disappointed. So what he has to say is that the process is flawed, so that no one can think that his feelings would be hurt. And as (for) me, I was disappointed. I would’ve like to have gotten in on the first time. I know a lot of great players have had to wait. But sometimes people don’t respond and give us what’s a little bit juicier but not what we want.”