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Fame is slavery. The very definition of the word espouses the subjective concepts of widespread reputation and renown, particularly that of a “favorable character.” Subjectivity is the long pole in the tent in regards to evaluating repute and renown; regardless of the background and credentials of those who hold the esteemed keys of said evaluation, and regardless of the criteria that has been established to lend pretense to any objectivity of the process, those who are left behind in the evaluation are those who are truly left standing on a primordial hill, alone and unified in their subjective disregard.
Fame is a component of opinion. Fame is seldom established by metrics, but often by a single action that determines one’s repute, and more often than not supported by random acts of objective glory. Andy Warhol reduced this dogma to a simple, pedestrian statement in 1968: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Ultimately, Warhol was innocently expanding on a theoretical relationship between the media and the masses (or, specifically, the massage) that was popularized by Marshall McLuhan. Therefore, fame is a practical application of media theory; regardless of the advances in media promoted by the advent of the internets, media controls the idea of fame as another extension of our human senses.
The Baseball Hall of Fame was established in 1936 with the purpose to “preserve history, honor excellence, and connect generations.” Baseball, as a sport, is subject to the controls of the media…it was true then, during a time where the only real-time enjoyment of the sport was possible by attending a game, and it’s true now, where if you aren’t at a game, you can still digest the game through your relationship with the media.
Similarly, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was established in 1983 with the purpose of archiving the history of some of the artist, producers, engineers, and others who have influences the music industry through the genre of rock music. Music, like Baseball, utilizes media to popularize and engage its audience through a relationship that is also changing as the media is changing.
The criticism of either Hall of Fame revolves around either the nomination process or the selection process, both of which are established by a set of standard criteria and executed by a specific group of members of the media…a subset of individuals who seem to operate like sectarians of a secret society, and who have the singular collective identity of those who are not musicians or athletes.
Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record; athletes with 10 years of major league experience become eligible for induction 5 years following their active retirement. That’s basically the extent of the valid criteria, after that subjectivity takes over and controversy is born. In the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, additional criteria includes the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll. In the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are no additional established criteria for induction other than Rule 5, which states that “voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Both of these leave the field for voting in eligible candidates so utterly wide open, that for years baseball fans and music fans alike have laboriously lamented the inclusion of some and the exclusion of others. The thinking fan has had every opportunity to analyze, evaluate, dissect, disseminate, discuss, dismantle, and disenfranchise the subjectivity of both Halls over the years. It’s true that the history of Baseball and its Hall far extends beyond the history of Rock music and its Hall, but the challenges remain the same.
Why is Jim Rice in, and Jack Morris is out? Why is Donovan in, and Def Leppard is out? How can it take 6 years for Duke Snider to get elected? How can it take 13 years for Rush to get elected? How can the voters justify the inclusion of Tier 2 talent when Tier 1 talent is clearly being left behind as a function of not considering objective criteria that with a simple paradigm shift might revise the perception of a Tier 2 talent as a Tier 1 talent? Is it so hard for the media to understand concise descriptors such as influence, significance, development, perpetuation, ability, sportsmanship, integrity…and character??
Hall of Fame voter bias runs rampant, some inductees are championed heavily, some are smeared with conjecture and otherwise errant speculation that tarnishes any of those descriptors. Many baseball fans and music fans alike choose a path that is aligned upon the gilded paths of media bias, the kinds of fans who claim the voters “got it right” when they snubbed Jeff Bagwell or the Smiths, the kinds of fans who applaud the eventual election of Bert Blyleven or Genesis while shrugging their shoulders at the omission of Deep Purple and Kenny Lofton. There are others who know better, but can’t let go of the idea that, despite their better judgment, the Hall of Fame is an innocuous ledger of results of year-to-year popular voting. These kinds of baseball fans have their own Hall of Very Good or even Hall of Nearly Great as devices to celebrate the shunned, music fans have their own record collections and mp3 playlists as well to serve the snobbery.
However, there comes a point when some of us no longer care that Tim Raines and Cheap Trick may never find themselves enshrined in a media spectacular with open, affectionate arms; the Hall of Fame becomes merely a Hall of Futility for those who certainly have personal, individual merit. The Hall of Futility calls Connie Francis, Dick Dale, Henry Nilsson, and Jim Croce as worthy in a starting lineup as U2, Metallica, John Mellencamp, and Randy Newman…probably more worthy, depending upon your personal experience. This is a place where one could really care less about how memories of Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Bernie Williams, or Ryan Klesko are in any way influenced by the lack of special plaques they have hanging in a museum.
The fact of the matter is, the Baseball Hall of Fame is built upon the premise of a lie…the lie that is Cooperstown, where everybody knows that baseball wasn’t invented. In Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Hall is there to honor the diligence of Allan Freed, but why isn’t it located in Memphis, where it can be effectively argued that the early Rock and Roll roots of Southern America enjoyed its original ethnic rise to prominence? So why do so many still subscribe to the importance of an institution that proclaims its preservation of history while plagiarizing the same?
If you acknowledge that media doesn’t define your musical tastes, you would also admit that media can never change your perception of any athlete. In doing so, the Hall of Futility is a mechanism of liberation, a way to turn away from the group-think that dominates perception of greatness. Dale Murphy can never be unworthy of the praise he deserves, and Jethro Tull will always be Tier 1 talent, we don’t need the media telling us otherwise.
Otherwise known as “The Baseball Enthusiast,” Stevo-sama is a scorekeeping addict who scores every game he watches and/or attends, and typically posts these scoresheets on his blog with a game story of one sort or another. Stevo is a featured columnist for Big Leagues Magazine, and proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. You can follow him on Twitter: @yoshiki89
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