September 19, 2017

Missed Opportunity

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

Ben Coates was never a favorite at this address, but even I won’t dispute that the tight end fully earned a place in the Patriots Hall of Fame, as the team announced today.

It just shouldn’t have come at the expense of Jim Nance.

“I guess it was just my time,” said Coates in a statement released by the Pats. Was it?

I’m all for the fan balloting idea here, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about the results anyway. It’s easy enough to see where this one was decided. The majority that ruled were fans that first arrived on Route 1 in the wake of the Parcells-Bledsoe-Kraft harmonic covergence. 

Make no mistake about it, I completely appreciate the fans that have come to Foxboro over the last fifteen years; by investing in the Patriots the way they did, at the time they did, they helped save the team for everyone. That should not be forgotten. Especially by those of us whose dollars never seemed to make the difference before.

I just don’t think many of them have any respect for Patriots football played before 1993. Too often we hear too many sum up the team’s ancient history in one word: “laughingstock.”

That’s not true. There were teams and players that we could be proud of all along. Like the team’s all-time leading touchdown scorer (still) and the only Patriot to be named league MVP twice (consecutively).

People are entitled to their own version of events as they see them, just as I am. But it would be wrong to callously overlook the contributions of the guys that laid the bedrock here, and diminish their still-great accomplishments as a joke, just because we weren’t personally there to see it.

That history should be important to us. That history of the team, warts and all, should be the touchstone to which we return on occasion, if only to ensure we never completely take for granted the bountiful feast that lies before us now. We might also choose, while there, to honor the men that helped make the Patriots a part of all of our lives.

I think it came down to this for the average voter: I saw Coates, myself, when the Patriots were ‘legitimate’, and I never saw Nance, who played when they ‘weren’t’.

That’s cold, man. There’s no question Coates should be in the Pats Hall, but right now, this minute? And what of the players who came before, like Nance, and others, who are no less qualified? Will a big part of Patriots history fall victim to fading memories?

That’s what would have been so great about a Nance induction. It would have been validation of a sort, for that period of the team’s history. It would have not only been a knowing nod to Nance, who performed above and beyond, but to his teammates as well. It would have been a full embrace from the team to which they gave their careers, and which now stands as one of the preeminent franchises in sports. It would have been an acknowledgement of their too-often forgotten part in making it so.

It’s a missed opportunity that Nance will not be posthumously honored as the first Hall member to be inducted at the new Hall at Patriot Place when it opens this fall.


  1. Uneven playing field: the Coates kids vote put him over the top.

    Kidding aside, Coates deserves it. But you’re right: Nance deserved it first.

  2. I never saw Nance play so it didn’t happen.

    I think they should change the voting so that the fan vote counts for a portion and then some combination of team officials/media members count for a portion. I don’t see how else the older guys are going to get their due.

  3. Looky Lou says:

    ….could not agree more, Scott. Nance should have been the choice. Never saw him play myself, my memories of the Pats start around 1970. However from looking at his stats and reading articles about him I thought he should have been the CLEAR CUT choice…….I AM NOT for “Fan balloting” when it comes to ANYTHING….Too many times it just comes down to a popularity contest or the last memories the masses have……there’s got to be a better way.

  4. Jackson says:

    Well-said. I did see Nance play, and he is at least as deserving as Coates.

  5. Considering the point when a lot of fans believe the Patriots New Testament began, maybe the Pats should induct two a year: one BD; one AD.

  6. You know what’s funny about this? I shot over to patsfans on the day the announcement was made just to get a feel for why Nance may have missed out, and aside from a few, practically the whole thread was people saying they voted for Nance, for the reasons listed here. Shit, who voted for Coates then?

    I think you guys are right. The Pats have to make some adjustments to this process. When I hear people talking about putting Drew Bledsoe in the Pats Hall of Fame, its practical confirmation that we’re skipping over the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s as I had feared, and going straight to the 90’s.

    I’m thinking the nominating committee should get some heat for throwing a Coates on the ballot with guys who don’t have a prayer of being remembered by most of the team’s current fans. What the hell is that? Put Nance, Ray Clayborn and Dave Frigging Meggett on the ballot and who do you think gets in?

  7. Timbuk4 says:

    I guess this is just the scourge of online voting and waiting until now to get Nance on the ticket. How long (years) have they even publicized the Pats HOF or had one for that matter?

    How did they vote in the 80’s, snail mail? I guess they have to start somewhere. Now doubt, any voting and election will always be followed by comments about better choices that should have won.

    I remember when Coates was let go and joined the Ravens and you could get his #87 Pats game jersey for $25! I seriously considered it but didn’t because he was bad mouthing the team at the time. Time heals I guess. I learned my lesson though and now I pick up game jerseys at low point market prices when I can and use #87 as the justification.

    Seriously though, I still watch old bledsoe-coates games on VHS from the treadmill, you can’t do that with Nance, they didn’t even have beta back then. Is it the Fans fault that there is so little footage available to make a judgment or should the fans rely purely on statistics instead of their lieing eyes and fading memories?

    You have to start somewhere and where ever that is some fans are going to be irked.

  8. I’m not sure how they picked the players before now (how did Bruce Armstrong get in there?) but I do know the online fan voting has gone on for the last two years. Last year the fans selected Stanley Morgan, and nobody complained.

    I think ideally, the majority of fans would have thought it was more important to make sure a player like Nance didn’t get left behind. They didn’t need to see him or see highlight tapes in order to vote for him. The player, who hasn’t played for the team in over 35 years, is still the team’s leading touchdown scorer, and the only player in team history to be league MVP twice. I don’t know why we need to see tape of him to say, “hey, we’re being given the opportunity to decide this, and these guys deserve the acknowledgement for their contribution to the organization, so let’s make sure we don’t leave the all time touchdown leader and two-time MVP behind. He should be in already.”

    I guess I was also hoping that the fans would also say “Coates is going to be in here too, if not this year, it will be next year or the year after that” and decide this year that it was more important to acknowledge the WHOLE history of the team instead of just the last fifteen years.

    It’s not simply bitching because my guy didn’t get in. It’s about not letting an important part of the team’s history get away, especially now that they’ve got a place to keep it.

  9. They should at the very least lay out the distinctions – whatever they may be – between the rules for entry into the Patriots HoF vs. those for entry into the league’s HoF.

    One thing with the league Hall is that often, a guy may only get one legitimate shot, and if he doesn’t get in that year, he’s never getting in. I could see fans mistakenly thinking the same is true of the Pats HoF.

    They need to better spell out the criteria, so fans know what they’re voting for.

  10. this is just a guess, but I wonder if it’s related to a lack of appreciation of football history in general. In comparison to a sport like baseball, I don’t think the average football fan has near the knowledge of the history of the sport. that may be related to the way the sports are covered more than anything else.

  11. They need to clean up this process. The old timers (like me) feel that the guys we cheered for growing up don’t have a prayer, and thats a damned shame. One suggestion that I think everybody would agree to: if a Patriot player is in the AFL hall of fame (yes, there is one) then he should by default be in the Patriots HOF too. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I voted for Nance too, and I did see him play. Dad took me to a game at either Fenway or BC, I was only 6 at the time but even a toehead like me could see what a load this guy was. Another suggestion.. perhaps they could take a queue from the real HOF and add a selection from some sort of veterans/staff committee, so you can have the fan balloting to select the more recent player ala Coates (whom deserves it as well, I agree) and a more informed selection as well.

  12. Richard Testa says:

    Being a fan who went to games at Fenway park and Harvard Stadium, I can only shake my head.

    Mr Coates you deserved to be in the Hall and I mean no disrespect to you or your contributions to this organization. I still remember a catch you made with no time on the clock to beat Buffalo when everyone in the stadium knew the ball was going to you. I am glad you where a Patriot.

    Jim Nance carried this organization and his team on his back for several years in the mid to late 60’s. He was the face of an organization that had no real home. He died young and was never really appreciated for what he did. To have seen him inducted this fall and his family accepting the honor would have made me proud of the city and the team.

    Maybe another time.

  13. I agree that Jim Nance deserved(s) Patriot Hall of Fame inclusion.I feel that Jon Morris also should have been included.I saw both of them play in college and with the Pats and feel their recognition is reduced by their AFL affiliation.
    I also had contact with both of them after their careers were over and found them to be outstanding individuals.
    The fan voting is flawed as many of the original Patriot fans are not computer literate and don’t participate as a result.

  14. Looky Lou says:

    ….good point, Bucko….You are correct, alot of the older fans probably don’t “surf the web’…and as I stated earlier, I just don’t like “Fan balloting” wheather it’s the Patriots Hall of Fame, the Pro Bowl or the Baseball All Star game….I don’t know what the answer is. I certaintly DON’T trust Sportswriters to do it. …..Maybe some kind of “Blue Ribbon” Panel of retired NFL personal men??..LOL…….I’m dumbfounded, I just think it’s a shame Jim Nance missed out…..does anyone know if he gets a second chance to make it?

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