Truther of the Week.
Weirdest moment of the night: A 9/11 “truther,” Matthew Mills, 30, of Brooklyn, walked up to the side of the podium where Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith had just begun to live his moment in the sun. On live TV, here’s how it rolled:
Smith: “I always imagined myself making great plays, but you never think about being MVP.”
Mills, hustling past Miami PR czar Harvey Greene and abruptly grabbing the microphone, as Smith’s beseeching eyes looked for help: “Investigate 9/11 … 9/11 was perpetrated by people within our own government.”
Mills dropped the mic like a player would spike a football and exited stage left. The mic got uprighted. Smith paused, looked around and said: “All right.” He looked around again. “Is everybody all right?”
Mills’ stunt happened so fast it fit on a six-second Vine video, as you can see. Truthers are people who believe a massive cover-up is at play and hides what really happened in Lower Manhattan that caused nearly 3,000 people to die in the collapse of the World Trade Center.
* * *
Ten things you need to know about the Hall of Fame vote.
The Class of 2014 was elected Saturday: senior committee candidates Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey, and modern-era picks Derrick Brooks, Michael Strahan, Aeneas Williams, Andre Reed and Walter Jones. My thoughts:
1. Finally, I supported Ray Guy. Big upset. It even surprised me a little bit. I just think as a voter (and a person), it’s important to be open-minded. I do go into these meetings open-minded, and I heard a few different reasons this year, some of them quantifying things like hang-time and inside-the-20 punts more clearly than they had in the past, and his peers, on and off the record, were so unwavering in their support that I thought, “Maybe I’m wrong.” I still have some grave questions—Shane Lechler’s inside-the-20 average, for instance, is far better—but I do understand you compare guys to players in their era. So good for Ray Guy. I’m happy he finally achieves the dream.
2. I did not support Andre Reed. I covered a lot of Buffalo games in the Bills’ prime, and I believe he was a very good receiver but not one of the all-time greats. I like Tim Brown better, and Marvin Harrison significantly better. As I’ve felt since the day I got on the committee more than two decades ago, the 46-member panel is a democracy, and if 80 percent of the group thinks one of the five finalists is a Hall of Famer, then he’s a Hall of Famer, and good for him. But I want to be honest with you, because so many of you care so deeply about the Hall.
3. I like Brooks, Strahan and Jones. Easy picks, all.
4. So, so happy for Aeneas Williams. I always loved the way Mike Martz—who is all offense, all the time—just worshiped the guy and thought he was a huge difference maker on defense for the great Rams teams early this century. Watching Williams, he wasn’t the shutdown corner Deion Sanders was. But he was close—I believe the closest thing to Deion in the game at the time—and he was a very physical player too. Jimmy Johnson thought Williams was a tremendous player, and I thought he was so important in so many big games. Williams beat the post-Jimmy Cowboys in the first playoff game of his life with Arizona, and he intercepted Troy Aikman twice that day. He intercepted Brett Favre twice in the 2001 playoffs, taking both in for touchdowns. I love the fact the committee found an excellent player who played mostly for a losing Arizona team, and rewarded him.
5. I think Jerome Bettis, 3.9 yards per carry and all, belongs. I believe he’s the best big back of the last 25 years. I saw him outrun Bucs defensive backs once on a long run in Tampa; I saw him steamroll an in-his-prime Brian Urlacher—and I mean steamroll—in a snow bowl must-win game for the Steelers late in the Bus’ career, when he gained 100 yards in the second half against the league’s number two rush defense. He made the final 10 this year, and I hope he goes farther next year.
6. Now for the case of Charles Haley. I strongly believe in him, because I think he’s the most violent pass-rusher I have covered. By that I mean he had some of the Deacon Jones viciousness to him, a fearsome combination of moves, and he has the five Super Bowl rings, which is significant, of course. I cannot speak for the group and wouldn’t intend to, but I have always felt what hurts his candidacy is as good a rusher as he was, he only averaged 8.4 sacks per regular-season. I believe he tilted the field when he played, and sometimes it didn’t result in sacks for him; it resulted in sacks for others, like Jim Jeffcoat when Haley was in Dallas.
7. My sense of the logical 2015 order for candidates who didn’t make it this year, at least at the head of the list: Marvin Harrison, Will Shields, Charles Haley, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Tony Dungy.
8. My sense of the best new candidates for 2015: Junior Seau, Orlando Pace, Kurt Warner. Warner’s candidacy will be very interesting because he was a Super Bowl quarterback for two franchises—and very nearly a Super Bowl winner for two franchises.
9. We met for 8 hours, 59 minutes. That’s an hour or so longer than usual. Longest debates were on Dungy (47 minutes), Guy (44), Humphrey (40), Williams (32) and Strahan (30). I liked the debate. Spirited and passionate. I don’t think the limited time the cameras were in the room limited or bothered anyone.
10. The Hall of Fame is always a hot topic, and very strongly opinionated. Just remember: We come in with a list of 15 modern-era candidates, have a long discussion, and then winnow that list to 10 in a secret ballot. Then we winnow the list of 10 down to five. Then we get the five final candidates, and we vote secretly, yes or no, on them. Re: the seniors: We vote yes or no on them independent of the modern candidates. The two senior candidates each year are picked by a voters’ subcommittee that meets in Canton every summer for a couple of days with two respected legends in the room to give their off-the-record advice.
* * *
Question of the Week
NBC Sports Network’s Erik Kuselias, on Pro Football Talk Live, to New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma, the most severely punished player in the Saints’ bounty scandal: “If you saw Roger Goodell, and you were face to face, what would you say to him?”
Vilma: “First, hi. Let’s get the pleasantries out of the way. And then, we’ll talk about whatever really he wants to talk about because he was on the outside looking in. I know what happened back then. He didn’t know, he had not a lot of information. Misinformation. I believe he made a mountain out of a mole[hill], but it is what it is. I understand there were bigger things he was trying to instill. Player safety, he was trying to really instill that, but it shouldn’t have come at the [cost] of myself, Scott Fujita, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove—you know, guys that really didn’t have bad intentions. We were good guys. We didn’t have a bounty going. We had guys that would want to talk crazy in the locker room, which is part of football. It’s what we do.’’
Didn’t have a bounty going. Well, define “bounty.”
* * *
Death of a legend
It’s the day after the Super Bowl and all, and I understand everyone’s in a football frame of mind. But the death of 46-year-old Philip Seymour Hoffman deserves your attention. He was found in his Manhattan apartment Sunday morning, expired from a suspected drug overdose.
I think he was the greatest American actor we had today. The range of his characters was just incredible. I mean, who can play A’s manager Art Howe (Moneyball) and Truman Capote (Capote) with equal skill? Well, I’m partial to his Capote portrayal. Stunning. Absolutely stunning. I’ll miss the man for his acting. His three kids will miss their father. Just a sin what drug abuse is doing to so many people in this country.
My five favorite Hoffman films follow. Keep in mind I haven’t seen all of his movies (Along Came Polly is one I must see):
1. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Andy Hanson, an addict, takes down an entire good family in a haunting, disturbing role. The title comes from an Irish saying, “May you be in heaven a full half-hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” Hoffman (Andy) is such a bad person that he needs that head start.
2. Capote. Hoffman won the 2006 Best Actor Oscar for playing author Truman Capote. His voice and affectations I will never forget.
3. Doubt. What a great faceoff between Hoffman (a priest accused of child molestation) and Meryl Streep (a nun and principal, and his accuser). I love the fact you never really know whether he did it. You think he did, but you don’t know.
4. The Savages. He and Laura Linney are brother and sister caring for a dying dad. When the real world intrudes on people no longer close with a parent and exposes all kinds of old feelings never healed—that’s something so understandable in so many lives today.
5. Moneyball. Art Howe hated the portrayal of the bumbling manager of the A’s when the new baseball way crept into the game. I loved it. Hoffman as a stubborn manager, as so many classic old baseball guys are when asked to change.
Hoffman was great as a nerdy personal assistant in The Big Lebowski, and as veteran rock journalist Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, but his roles were relatively minor ones. That’s why those aren’t included here.
Losing James Gandolfini and Hoffman within eight months … what a bummer if you love great acting.