Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gratitude for Hall of Fame Admission...Where Is It?

In the past six months, there has been a lot of press surrounding Hall of Fame inductions in various sports. Most of what has been said can be divided into two categories: who gets admitted (and why) and how they are admitted. The former is more important, but the latter is surprisingly newsworthy these days. Some would find it strange that the admission to an exclusive institution is less talked about than how the admitted person is represented, but more and more me-first people seem to pop up every day. It’s difficult to tell whether or not Andre Dawson is one of them, but his actions in the last month have been somewhat selfish.

If you didn't know, Dawson was recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after a 21-year career for the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox. Dawson wanted to be inducted as a Cub (the bronze busts in the HOF are made with each player wearing the cap of the team he represents), but Major League Baseball dictated that he would be ushered in as an Expo. Some would say the MLB's reasons are purely political (the Expos have only one other player enshrined in the Hall), but Dawson did play eleven seasons in Montreal while winning 1977 Rookie of the Year and finishing as runner-up for the Most Valuable Player award in 1981 and 1983 (he won the award with Chicago in '87).

Frankly, the fact that players even get the chance to pick a cap at all is, for lack of a better term, dumb. The idea that players can shape how people remember them by choosing one logo over another is ludicrous. Players' legacies are made during the game, not after it during a press conference or in the offseason. Fans will nitpick over off-the-field incidents, but that won't stop most from agreeing on whether or not someone is a fantastic player. It's the MLB's fault that the cap issue even exists, so in some respects, Dawson is a victim of a flawed system. But the fact that Dawson is even worried about what cap he wears is just silly. Most players would be overjoyed to have even made it into the Hall of Fame, regardless of what team they represented. The least Dawson can do is be grateful for being there and not worry whether his cap says "C" or "M". As one Chicago Sun-Times writer suggested, he could just choose to have no logo on his cap and hope that fans remember his days with the Cubs as his best. Wake up, Mr. Dawson - you're being recognized as a great player and you choose to focus on some smaller detail? Why? 

Most Halls of Fame have clauses in their induction criteria (written or unwritten) stipulating that any player who "has damaged the integrity of the game," as the Basketball HOF puts it, can be barred from admission. Some have violated this clause (Pete Rose betting on baseball, Mark McGwire taking steroids, Ron Artest fighting with fans, Todd Bertuzzi punching out Steve Moore), and they may never make their respective Halls of Fame because of their transgressions. Dawson has not violated the integrity of the game, but he's tarnished his reputation for not showing the gratitude he should. Cal Ripken Jr. once said that "to be remembered at all is pretty special." Dawson would do well to keep that in mind, regardless of what hat he’s wearing.

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