For a guy who doesn’t think he’s a Hall of Famer, Curt Schilling sure seems mad.
Unless it’s about all the votes he did get. And in that case it’s an odd method of expressing one’s humility. A wave would’ve sufficed.
Schilling’s penned rant, mostly aimed at baseball writers he says judge him unfairly and don’t know baseball anyway (the 285 who voted for him presumably notwithstanding), proved a fitting conclusion to another Hall of Fame news cycle.
Nobody gets in. Guy rakes group that very nearly voted him in. Same guy announces he will no longer participate, which no one knew was an option. Hall chairperson says she’ll think about that. World skitters a little closer to that corner of the carpet where the dog took a dump. You dabbed for hours but now he’s always over there sniffing, so you know something’s not quite right and therefore walk around it when possible.
And you ask yourself, how are journalists still tangled up in it all?
Not just because of Schilling, either. Because of the “we” element that comes with a vote, the process everyone talks about that includes, awkwardly, “us.” The sorting through drugs and character and sportsmanship and motives and politics before the real work begins on a page of statistics, that leads to a blue-suited man on television revealing the names of those worthy, that leads to a stage in upstate New York and thank yous to, among other people, the baseball writers. It’s all the elements pushed together and stuffed inside an envelope and sent away, and then on a Tuesday evening in January it’s the writers who stiffed Bonds and Clemens again, it’s the writers who hate Schilling, it’s the writers who are so damned high and mighty, it’s the writers to blame or who get it or wouldn’t know if a baseball is stuffed or blown up.
We’re too close to it. We’re on the parade float. We’re not supposed to be on the float. We’re supposed to stand nearby in case the float breaks down.
It’s the way men have entered the Hall of Fame for coming up on a century. Writers vote. Players celebrate or slink away. Cooperstown inns fill up in July. Pete Rose rents a folding table. How it works.
But that’s not our building. It’s not our game. Except we’ve put ourselves in a position to answer for them both, and we’re supposed to be the ones asking the questions around here.
It was a quaint system, perhaps, a few decades ago. Maybe it seemed harmless enough. Hell, I went along for a while. Times change. Values change. Our vision clears. Now when they choose up sides, we’re on one of them, which isn’t how it’s supposed to work. We can pick a side, if we want. We should not be assigned a side, which is what comes when granted, gifted, ordered to abandon journalistic impartiality by an empty box waiting to be checked or ignored. If Curt Schilling gets to finger-painting a manifesto about being left off the float, should it be up to the rest of the parade to decide if he has a fair — if somewhat ungrammatical — argument?
Instead, the answer, more than seven times out of 10, is, “Well, I voted for him.”
That’s not an answer. It’s a cover.
Given the distance from the subjects, willingness for transparency and ardor for the job, there is no available body more suited to distinguish the Hall of Famer from the very good than the writers. And that’s probably the problem. That and the fact it’s kind of fun to vote. The solution is to have some other body do the naming or voting, and then it might not be as reliable, thorough and open.
But, then, that’s the Hall’s business. The Hall’s building. The game’s business. Not mine. Not ours.
So many years ago, when my parents split up, my mom seemed to have nowhere to turn and her own heart to heal and yet had two skinny little boys to tend to. Low on ideas, she put us in the car and drove us to Cooperstown. For me, then, the Hall isn’t merely a museum, a place where legends go, a stage where grown men may briefly confuse mortality with immortality, but a theater that soothes all sorts of souls. It’s safe there and I love it for that.
Everybody has a story kind of like it, probably. It’s a good place for storytellers. We should stick to that.
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