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Sports Fodder: Best NFL Hall of Fame class ever?

by Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

This year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted Saturday in Canton, Ohio, just might be the best Hall of Fame class for any sport in any year. You have the greatest wide receiver, arguably the greatest player ever in the sport, in Jerry Rice. You have the greatest running back (according to the record book) in history in Emmitt Smith. Rice and Smith are joined by Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, John Randle, Floyd Little and Dick LeBeau, five guys who enjoyed more impressive careers than the baseball Hall of Fame’s top inductee in many years. That’s seven players, six positions, countless All-Pro seasons, numerous NFL championships. All of them great. All of them worthy of a bust in Canton. The Pro Football Hall of Fame always gets it right.

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Is Rice the greatest player ever? Well, he is certainly the best wide receiver ever. In case you forgot, he owns the NFL record for receptions (1,549) and receiving yards (22,895). And those numbers don’t even count the 151 catches for 2,245 yards and 22 touchdowns he had in the postseason. Rice also owns the record for consecutive games with at least one catch at 274 (that’s over 17 years, by the way). He also scored 208 touchdowns, the most in NFL history for any player at any position. Yeah, he’s the best ever.

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Pat Hill recently agreed to a pay cut to remain the Fresno State head football coach through the 2013 season. Hill’s pay cut will save Fresno State about $300,000 a year. But don’t go and hold a telethon for the 58-year-old Bulldogs’ coach. Hill, who is 100-66 in 13 years at Fresno State, will make $1.1 million this year in the final year of his current deal and he’ll likely earn just under $800,000 a year over the following three years if the Bulldogs reach a few incentives. That is still a pretty nice paycheck for a guy who hasn’t beaten Nevada in three years and Boise State in five.

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ESPN spent a week or so obsessing over Alex Rodriguez’s quest for 600 career homers, showing us every at-bat along the way. And, then, when he finally hit it, they obsessed about telling us how it didn’t really mean that much because he took steroids. The all-knowing, all-hype network then went crazy on Tuesday all day telling us that Brett Favre supposedly was going to retire. And then, the next day, they spent all day telling us it wasn’t true. The P in ESPN clearly does not stand for perspective.

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When should we believe that Brett Favre is retired? When he misses a regular season game. If Favre is sitting on his couch, wearing his Wrangler jeans and t-shirt, with his trusty hunting dog and favorite beverage by his side, watching his Minnesota Vikings on telelvision open up the 2010 season at the New Orleans Superdome against the Saints on Sept. 9, then I will believe he is retired. And not a moment before that.

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The Boston Celtics looked a bunch of aging, racewalkers in need of a golf cart as they gave the 2010 NBA Finals away to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 last June. So what do they do? They go out this summer and get older. Do the Celtics really believe that a 38-year-old Shaquille O’Neal can make them better? The Celtics are going to have two teams this season — the one on the floor and the one in the trainer’s room. Guess which one will have more future Hall of Famers.

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The Nevada Wolf Pack football program, in recent years, has not been known for scheduling non-conference foes at the right time. Notre Dame last year, Texas Tech and Missouri in 2008, Nebraska in 2007, Arizona State in 2006, Washington State in 2005, for example. But this year might be different. California and BYU are both rebuilding. This could very well be the right year to play both of those big-name schools. College football has always been about timing, playing the right team at the right place at the right time. The Pack, it seems, has always played the wrong team at the wrong place at the wrong time in recent years.

Joe Santoro is a freelance writer for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.