Can you keep a secret?
I can. For the past month or so, I’ve known Anthony Calvillo, Geroy Simon, Kelvin Anderson, Mike O’Shea and, as builders, Brian Towriss and Stan Schwartz were being inducted this year into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Calvillo and Simon are in their first year of eligibility and the others, well, it’s a bit of a slam dunk, isn’t it?
Not so fast. This isn’t an easy process. Those guys have hall-worthy credentials, but there are certainly others who can be in the shrine. And we’re not perfect. Far from it.
We’re the group that made Damon Allen wait a year for enshrinement, hit pause on Pinball Clemons’ induction because he was still coaching and got criticized for admitting Rocco Romano a little too early.
In Saskatchewan, I’m constantly reminded that Kent Austin, Al Ford, Wayne Shaw and Glen Suitor should be in the Hall of Fame. TSN’s Gary Lawless and Farhan Lalji showed me a list of omitted players who, they argued, should be honoured. It includes Hank Ilesic, Fred Childress, Mervyn Fernandez, Lloyd Fairbanks, Brent Johnson, Terry Greer and Chris Schultz. They’re not criticizing the Class of 2017, but there are always others worthy of consideration.
It’s not easy. Nor should it be.
Our 14-member selection committee operates a little differently from some other halls — we don’t make the vote totals public and we don’t immediately announce the inductees. We’re also not allowed to reveal what happens in our meetings. I can’t declare how I voted or who I supported. Specific discussions can’t be disclosed, so I’m pushing the envelope here.
We usually get together following the Hall of Fame Game for in-person meetings, but the CFL has assumed management of the hall and there are budgetary restrictions to consider in terms of meetings and induction costs. The hall’s commemorative busts cost thousands and thousands of dollars.
We met this year via conference call and, although our discussions weren’t as detailed or as animated as they are in person, we ultimately made six solid selections. I truly admire everyone involved with our committee and, whether we agree or not, those debates are an annual highlight as we try to put a person’s career into perspective.
The commissioner was tasked with quickly calling the inductees; secrecy was mandated from everyone else heading into Wednesday’s official announcement during CFL Week at Regina’s new Mosaic Stadium.
Russ Jackson, the Hall of Fame quarterback who used to serve on the selection committee, regularly reminded us the hall wasn’t for players or builders who had good careers; they had to be superlative careers. There are lots of those players and lots of those builders. It’s what makes Canadian football so spectacular and the task of choosing inductees so spectacularly difficult.