Archive for the ‘Sport History’ Category

Pro Football Hall of Fame Election

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

(February 8, 2012) The recently announced new members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (what a wonderful platform they have for the announcement – the Super Bowl) made me think about their process:

  1. Get every voter in a room together,
  2. Hash it out,
  3. Get ‘er done!

It’s a little like making cookies, but the question for me are they commercially baked, store-bought cookies or are they homemade cookies?

For 16 years I served as chair of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Hall of Fame Committee. The committee had two processes for election: one was an independent vote by mail for currently eligible members in which each member of the committee was to exercise independent judgment, and a second process for veteran coaches that involved a committee meeting and group discussion of the candidates, a process similar to that which the Pro Football Hall of Fame uses.

I found having a discussion about candidates to be helpful, but I also thought at times it became like the commercial cookie, subject to group think with each committee member seemingly reinforcing the next.  Independent judgment may be blunted in these circumstances. On reflection I must admit to thinking we got hooked in on one or two candidates early and may have missed some better candidates because one or two committee members moved the group as a whole.

I thought about this when four of the six members of the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class were primarily linemen. Did the discussion become more focused on these positions for some reason? Was the discussion skewed by a few of the participants and their strong presence? As the results of successive voting moved forward, did someone note this was happening? In my experience, probably not until sometime after the process had run its course and reflection set in.

How to combat circumstances that might lead to group think and potentially unintended consequences? One of the ways is by having timeouts in the process. Give the committee members time to be reflective and process the discussion before moving toward a vote or toward a consensus agreement. Another is to take a macro-look at the process as it proceeds. Ask questions like:

  • Have we over-emphasized some aspect of the discussion?
  • Are only a few of the committee members really participating?
  • Has comment from every committee member been encouraged before we start moving toward a vote or conclusion?
  • How does the impending decision the group is moving toward compare with what I personally thought before it began? Why?

These are some of the ways to keep a group discussion of candidates from becoming a group think and having the induction class look more like the store-bought cookies than the home made ones, which we all believe are tastier and healthier!

Jack Huckel, Founder & Principal of J.R. Huckel & Associates, offers election and induction consulting services to Halls of Fame. Jack served the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum as Director of Museum and Archives for 9-1/2 years after more than 10 years as a volunteer. More information is available at the firm’s web site. He can be reached at jack@jrhuckel.com or 518/852-3033.

Jack is a member of the International Sports Heritage Association and is a member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Board of Directors’ Executive Committee. He will become president of the NSCAA in January of 2013.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

(May 17, 2011) So I attribute this week’s column to “The Common Man and Bill” at ESPN.com MLB. It says so much about why a regular analysis of voting results just makes sense it deserves to be repeated and sent to a wider audience.

Title: The Hall of Fame Should Lower Voting Threshold

A few weeks back, Bill caught some attention when he revisited Bill James’ 25-year Hall of Fame projections from James’ excellent book, “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?” to see how the sensei did with his predictions. The results were interesting and, in Ruben Sierra‘s case, deeply funny. In the wake of Bill’s project, at the suggestion of a commenter, we decided to undertake the challenge ourselves. Our first installment is already up, and we’ll continue picking five years at a time for the rest of the week.

The truth is that the exercise is darn close to impossible due to the number of variables involved. We don’t know how the electorate will change, or how attitudes about PED use (or suspected PED use) are going to change in the coming years. We don’t know if voters will become more rational or not. But with so many deserving candidates on the ballot, it’s clear that some players are going to slip through the cracks, especially at the rate that the BBWAA elects candidates (exactly 1.5 per year from 1966-2011). This is unacceptable.

Jayson Stark wrote about this problem in January, saying:

For two decades, that instructional line on the ballot informing me not to vote for more than 10 candidates has never been a     problem. But it is now.

For the first time ever, 10 slots weren’t enough for me to vote for all the players who fit my definition of a Hall of Famer. For the first time ever, I had to leave off the names of players I’ve voted for in the past — not because I’d changed my mind, but because that 10-player limit got in the way.
And Jayson’s not alone in pointing this out, either. Think about it: We’re asking a disparate group of voters to reach not just a super-majority, but a super-super majority. So, to combat the problem, we propose a simple solution: The [National Baseball]Hall of Fame should lower the voting threshold needed to elect a candidate from three-fourths of BBWAA voters to two-thirds.

But wait, some of you are going to say, the Hall of Fame is for the best players ever and lowering the voting threshold would allow unworthy players a way in. Not true! Since 1980, only three players (Orlando Cepeda, Jim Bunning and Nellie Fox) have garnered more than two-thirds of the vote and still fallen short of election by the BBWAA, and no player has had more than two-thirds of the vote and not eventually been elected since 1994. However, you probably aren’t shocked to know that all three were elected by the Veterans Committee shortly thereafter. All have plaques resting comfortably in Cooperstown.

Rather than throwing the doors wide, then, what this proposal will do is speed up the process by which worthy players are voted in. It will allow the voting to more closely reflect the era in which they are voting, when suddenly a few writers and editors who are rabidly and proudly irrational and unfair about their choices, or have given up following the game closely are given less sway in the overall process. And if the players in question are going to get in eventually anyway, what’s the problem?

With just one year left before the mega-cohort of Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling and Kenny Lofton all hit the ballot at once, it is imperative that the Hall of Fame act on this now. Do not wait. Do not form a committee (good lord, does baseball not need another committee!). The backlog Stark identifies is only going to get worse.

The Hall of Fame may be a private institution, but it exists because baseball fans pay a great deal of money to go there and honor the game’s history and their favorite players. And for every worthy player that is excluded, the Hall will grow less and less legitimate as the keeper of the game’s past, and lose more and more of its appeal to the people who support it.

 

How Many in a Hall of Fame Class?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

(March 16, 2011) My blog of a few weeks ago entitled The Hall of Fame Conundrum: Represent the Sport or Only its Professional Manifestation began a Facebook discussion about the size of a Hall of Fame class. One of the participants in the discussion said that only three (3) of anything (player, veteran player, administrator, owner or whatever is chosen for a title of honoree) should be inducted in any one year. That more than that is simply too many.

Is that feasible? Could your Hall of Fame exist within that limit? I do work with one Hall of Fame who restricts its induction class to two each year. The reasons are simple – budgetary! To afford the expense of transporting, housing, and feeding the new inductee and family for the ceremony, they set a hard limit of two per year.  That is certainly one viable reason to create limitations, but if the Hall of Fame chooses to honor players, veteran players, and non- players who have contributed to the game, then three per year is a true challenge to preserve, perhaps.

So, something to discuss: Should your Hall of Fame limit class size? If so, why? Is it budgetary or is it that you worry about running out of worthy honorees? Or is exclusivity important and the smaller the class the more it looks exclusive? My correspondent opined that having a small number of inductees emphasizes the high standard of the class. He felt that restricting the class to three really made it a very special occurrence. Do you think that way?

Any of these or more are valid reasons to set a class limit and certainly are among the reasons to discuss whether a limit to class size is appropriate to your Hall of Fame.

Jack Huckel, Founder & Principal of J.R. Huckel & Associates, offers election and induction consulting services to Halls of Fame. More information is available at the firm’s web site. Jack can be reached at jack@jrhuckel.com or 518/852-3033.

The Hall of Fame Conundrum: Represent the Sport or Only Its Professional Manifestation

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

(February 22, 2010) That’s the conundrum facing the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. Or, at least that’s what a blizzard of columnists and commentators think they should be evaluating. They believe that the failure to include Indiana Pacer guard Reggie Miller among the finalists on the 2011 Hall of Fame Ballot indicate there is a need for the NBA to form its own Hall of Fame.

Here’s a sampling of stories:

Reggie Miller: Not a Hall of Fame Finalist
Dear Hall of Fame Voters: Here’s What You Can Do With Your First Ballot Exclusion
THE HALL OF FAME PRIMER
The Basketball Hall of Fame turns its back on Reggie Miller

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame recognizes teams, players, coaches, administrators, and owners from all strata of the game; international, women’s, college, and more in addition to the NBA. Does that distract from honoring the greats of the professional game? Last year’s induction class included four NBA stars, a high school coach, an NBA owner, a women’s pro player, and others. Is the effort for inclusivity bad? Or good?

That’s something each Hall of Fame must decide. Think about the mission you have set forth for the organization. Does it invite a smaller or larger pool from the population? Is that a plus or a minus? For the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the inclusion of NBA stars is, perhaps, critical to the business proposition. Should an NBA Hall of Fame be formed, it would undoubtedly take away income and memorabilia resources from the Springfield shrine.  For the Halls of Fame that maintain a museum and associated facilities, such as research libraries and photo archives, business is an important element of survival. Maintaining the historical museum requires significant staffing and resources, both contributed and business income, including the gift shop operation. An NBA Hall of Fame, with its own museum, would cut into virtually every form of resources available.

So the follow-on questions arise: Should the Naismith change how it elects? Should your organization make changes when faced with similar issues? Worth a discussion at the least!

Financial Reporting – Taking the Bull by the Horns!

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

(January 25, 2011) The recent travails of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, reported by several sources including Fox Sports on the web, have been troubling to many.  What was projected to be a profit of more than $800,000 in the first year of operation has morphed into a projected deficit of almost $1.3 Million, and that’s after a reported 25% cut in expenses and assuming the Museum attracts 250,000 fans! These are daunting numbers for the Charlotte, NC community to absorb and, it seems, many worthy projects will need to be put on hold as the deficit is filled.

This news may have struck your community and made them wonder about your and their economic prospects. Is your Hall of Fame and Museum an economic driver or a drag on the local economy? There is no time like the present to put the facts out. Maybe it’s a press release or a story suggestion to your local newspaper, or an op-ed piece, an interview on local radio or television, or a mailing to your membership and donors. Whatever the medium, the message needs to assure the community of your economic health; indeed, it could provide your supporters with more reasons to donate time and money to the cause.

My suggestion: Strongly state your vision for the future, the mission of the organization, and, most of all, how you are being responsible in these economic hard times. How have you met the challenge? What difficult choices have you made? Identifying the programs, exhibits, or events foregone could motivate a new donor.

Be pro-active, transparent, and honest! Have your annual statement handy! These steps will build your equity in the community.

Jack Huckel, Founder & Principal of J.R. Huckel & Associates, offers election and induction consulting services to Halls of Fame. More information is available at the firm’s web site. Jack can be reached at jack@jrhuckel.com or 518/852-3033.