Friday, August 5, 2011

making it: is the hall of fame good or bad for a player's post-career legend?

There is no living writer I read, study, or emulate more than Chuck Klosterman. His contrarian-type thoughts and clever writing style make him the crown jewel of Bill Simmons' new Grantland project. (And, seriously, if you don't have that site bookmarked by now, what are you doing with your life.) Klosterman is the best kind of sports writer because he's not really a sports writer. He's a guy with an interesting perspective on just about every topic who happens to enjoy sports and has opinions on their importance to our culture as a whole. (Plus, he uses footnotes incredibly well.) In his latest piece for Grantland, he discusses the importance of Halls of Fame and what making or not making it means for the post-career relevance of an athlete's accomplishments. It's very much worth reading in its entirety. I've only excerpted the set-up of the discussion below.

(Un)Reality and the Football Hall of Fame
Cris Carter, Shannon Sharpe, and the true meaning of a "snub"
By Chuck Klosterman

Here's the most important thing to realize about the Pro Football Hall of Fame: It does not exist.

The pro Basketball Hall of Fame doesn't exist, either. The Baseball Hall of Fame is equally unreal, in the same way that all Halls of Fame are unreal. There are certainly buildings that house these fabricated facilities in Ohio and Massachusetts and New York, and you can drive to them and buy a ticket and walk inside, and the various rooms are filled with statues and arcane uniforms and officially licensed shot glasses available for purchase in the various gift shops. You can see these things and you can tap your fingers on the glass display cases and you can buy a cup of coffee that will taste and smell and burn like coffee, but this experience is no different than living in The Matrix: It's a construction of the mind. It's multiple layers of symbols and simulation that are meaningless unless we decide a meaning must exist. But because this is what we do (and because we all do it, without even wondering why), the Pro Football Hall of Fame represents the pinnacle achievement within a life in football. Players and coaches love to insist that the most important goal in their professional lives is the winning of championships, but they are all lying when they say that. Either they are lying consciously or they're so socialized by the omnipresence of that childish falsehood that they've actually convinced themselves Jeff Hostetler's career was more fulfilling than Dan Marino's, simply because Scott Norwood missed a field goal in 1991. The Hall of Fame does not exist, so it's unaffected by reality; it matters more than reality, because ideas are more important than actions. ...

And that's what's so weird about the whole Hall of Fame process: The public sees it as an argument, but — within the mind of the elite athlete — it must be one of the most confusing, painfully personal scenarios they'll ever experience. Being inducted into a Hall of Fame is both the greatest thing that can happen to an athlete and the effective end to his or her cultural import; being rejected by a Hall of Fame is a major blow to one's self-image and the single-best thing that can happen to a retired player's legacy. The process is a lose-lose: It's either good (and then bad) or bad (and then good).

Click here for the full article...

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