Overlooked and Underappreciated
By George Solomon
Sunday, February 1, 2004; Page E02
Offensive lineman Bob Brown waited 26 years before being chosen Saturday by the 39 selectors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Carl Eller, the wait was 20 years. For Art Monk, one of the greatest Redskins receivers of all time, it’s four years and counting.
Monk, one of 15 finalists, did not even make the initial cut. Running back Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions and quarterback John Elway of the Denver Broncos, both out of the game for the required five years, joined Brown and Eller in this year’s class.
“It’s like waiting on a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” Brown said by telephone in a news conference.
Eller’s words might be more soothing to Monk: “This has been made better because of the wait. I wanted and prayed for this.”
Hall of Fame candidates need 80 percent of the votes to get into the shrine, and the players waiting with Monk outside the Canton, Ohio, complex are no slouches: Harry Carson, Cliff Harris, Bob Hayes, Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Marshall, Rayfield Wright, the late executive George Young and Gary Zimmerman may have their day in the future.
But Monk’s 940 receptions over 16 years, 14 with the Redskins, were worthy of selection now. His detractors point to his not being a deep threat, that opposing teams worried more about Gary Clark than Monk, that Monk didn’t catch enough key passes in big games. Monk’s longtime coach, Joe Gibbs, doesn’t buy that for one moment and neither do I.
“Art sacrificed for the team and had the inside role . . . and you don’t get the big, spectacular catches,” Gibbs told The Post. “He worked the middle of the field and did the grunt work and never complained.”
When Monk retired he held the NFL record for consecutive games with pass receptions (183), was second in career receptions and second in seasons with 50 or more receptions (nine). He also holds countless Redskins records. So what more could he have done? Monk has always been above the fray, kept his distance from the media (which probably doesn’t help him now with some voters) and had his priorities straight. He always carried himself with dignity, which many of today’s wide receivers cannot say, and for that he deserves more than what happened Saturday.
The voters — who include Post colleagues Michael Wilbon and Leonard Shapiro, both Monk supporters — come with good intentions.
In this instance, they’ve dropped the ball for someone who rarely did.
Look, I don’t expect Tony Bennett, but the entertainment lineup for Super Bowl XXXVIII is so far beyond me I may buy a Neil Diamond CD in the morning and listen to his classic “Beautiful Noise” while the likes of Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Nelly and Aerosmith do their thing. Does the NFL really expect anyone over 40 to watch this bunch? There’s supposed to be a surprise guest as well, and I presume it won’t be Bette Midler doing Rosemary Clooney. I guess the NFL whiz kids aren’t interested in the ratings coming out of Boca, although the appearance of the Mambo Kings at a nearby field two hours before kickoff has appeal.
Houston is very paranoid about what visitors think of the city. From my view, it’s a fine city, with schools, roads, hotels, some trees and traffic like ours but lacking in good Chinese restaurants. It lost its NFL team for a while, but with help from Washington power brokers taking time from getting us a baseball team, they acquired an expansion team, headed by old friend Charley Casserly, that began play two years ago.
It does have a baseball team (the Astros), which is more than I can say about our burg, joining the National League about the time the expansion Senators were born more than four decades ago. They originally were called the Colt .45s, but that was before malt liquor and astronauts. Northern Virginia’s Bill Collins had an agreement to buy the team 10 years ago and move it to the Washington area, but local buyers here stepped in and the threat of moving anything to Washington resulted in the city and state building the Astros a fabulous ballpark. The design reminds me of the one proposed for downtown Washington, which consumes Mayor Anthony A. Williams and D.C. baseball baron Fred Malek 24 hours a day.
Between Wilbon and his friends at ESPN, as well as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, Comedy Central, George and Sonny, you might think you have had enough analysis. Not so. I’ve been here for several days, have gone to the news conferences, have heard what the players and coaches had to say, and have come to the conclusion neither team is capable of losing.
The two coaches — Bill Belichick of New England and John Fox of Carolina — seem very smart, good motivators, clever sideline coaches and worthy of all the praise they’ve received. Of course, they’re boring, which makes me long for Mike Ditka and Dexter Manley, when Super Bowl coaches and players had some pizzazz and remember the time Doug Williams had to have a root canal (I think Gibbs did the dental work) the night before the Redskins clobbered Denver in Super Bowl XXII. Williams recovered in time to out-Elway Elway.
Anyway, New England has the better quarterback with Tom Brady, although I like Jake Delhomme. Both teams play good defense, run down on special teams and kick the ball through the goal posts most of the time. New England has won 14 straight since losing at the pit known as FedEx Field. That’s second in consecutive games won in NFL history, behind Miami’s 17-0 season of 1972. I say they’ll make it 15 straight, by, say, 17-14.
What was Caps owner Ted Leonsis thinking when he got to pushing and shoving with a fan after last Sunday’s game at MCI Center? Some people believe the one-week suspension and $100,000 fine are too light. I disagree. Leonsis suffered a million dollars worth of embarrassment. . . .
Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow told me she can’t stop the obscenities or crude T-shirts that hinder the Maryland basketball experience because the boys and girls have a “right to free speech under the First Amendment.” Oh.