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Jerome Bettis and the hypocrisy of statistics

Maybe Bettis could have demanded a trade or a release instead of a short-yardage role toward the end of his career. Maybe that would have pushed his career yards per carry higher than 3.9. Maybe that would put him in the Hall of Fame by now. Should he have done that, though?

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Jerome Bettis didn't make the Hall of Fame cut for a fourth straight year. By all indications, the main sticking points included Bettis' 3.9 yards per carry average during his legendary career. And therein lies the hypocrisy. The media and fans love to complain about an athlete who acts in a selfish manner and who is stats-conscious, but if that athlete doesn't reach certain milestones during his career, it's used against him for things such as Hall of Fame enshrinement.

We love to complain about selfish, self-centered athletes, don't we?

Admit it, you know you do. Anytime news breaks that a player threw a tantrum because he didn't get "the damn ball" enough or wasn't being used properly, you probably lose your mind and go straight to the nearest comments section or sports talk show to voice your displeasure with the "diva" and demand that he get traded, released, or at the very least, chewed out by his coach or a teammate.

"We don't need a selfish, arrogant football player on the Steelers who is only concerned about his stats. Get ride of him!"

The media loves to complain about that too, as literally thousands upon thousands of words are dedicated to the "selfish and stats conscious athlete" in articles, social media and, of course, those sports talk shows each and every year--how would sports talk radio survive without the selfish athlete to discuss?

However, if I'm a really good football player, and I know I'll at least be a borderline Hall of Fame candidate when I'm eligible five years after my career, you better believe I'm going to be stats conscious and demand "the damn ball."


Because, you, the fans and the media will use my career statistics to determine whether or not I deserve to be in enshrined in Canton.

I know this because Jerome Bettis, the Steelers legendary running back who retired with over 13,000 yards and a highlight reel that would make for a great resume if he was ever a candidate for "Greatest Big Back of All Time," didn't make the Hall of Fame cut on Saturday for a fourth straight year. The main sticking points, according to what most of the media and "experts" are saying is his 3.9 yards per carry that he averaged for his career (by the way, 3.9 x three carries is a first down--just sayin') and that he never led the NFL in rushing in any season.

And therein lies the hypocrisy.

Like just about every professional athlete who ever played any sport, I'm sure Bettis was a bit egocentric when he was with the Steelers. But by all indications, he was mostly a "team first" guy and a locker room leader, who, at the end of his career, took a bit of a backseat to the likes of Amos Zereoue, Duce Staley and Willie Parker.

But maybe instead of initially accepting a back-up role to Zereoue in 2003 and again in 2004 when the Steelers signed Staley, Bettis should have objected and demanded a trade.

Instead of taking less money to stay in Pittsburgh as a back-up, short-yardage specialist and mentor to the young Parker in 2005, maybe Bettis should have sought out the highest bidder with the best chance for him to start and pad his stats on the way out the door.

Would there have been sports columns and radio shows that branded Bettis a villain and a selfish athlete who only cared about himself?


But maybe he would have nudged his per carry average up over that magical 4.0 mark, and he would have made the Hall of Fame before the age of 40.

I'm sure I wrote similar things a year ago when Bettis didn't make the cut, but it's worth repeating, because if ever a player passed the Hall of Fame eye test, it was Jerome Bettis.

Speaking of players who certainly passed the eye test, Hines Ward will no doubt have a hard time getting elected to the Hall of Fame when he's eligible in a few years. Thankfully, he at least finished with 1000 catches, because had he not, I'm sure that would have been used against him by the selection committee.

In the future, when a running back pouts because he's not getting enough carries or a receiver gets into a heated discussion with his offensive coordinator about not being used properly, you'll have to forgive me if I don't agree with your assessment that he's a selfish football player.

If you're going to use a player's desire for statistics against him during his career, you shouldn't use his lack of statistics against him after his career.