We start with the NFL conference championships. Josh Allen inarguably had a bad day, but there have been a lot of arguments about the Buffalo Bills repeatedly settling for 3 points during their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Of course, the even louder takes were about the Green Bay Packers kicking a field goal when they were down 8 against Tampa Bay with 2:09 left to play. Though fans expect teams to be aggressive at the end of games, the math on that particular decision wasn’t so clear-cut. The Hot Takedown team is mixed on whether coach Matt LaFleur made the right call — 2-point conversions are getting trickier and trickier in the NFL, and Tom Brady was not exactly playing like a man about to take his 10th trip to the Super Bowl; it wasn’t unreasonable for the Packers to think they could get the ball back quickly and have time to go for the winning touchdown. But the crew agrees that kicking the field goal wasn’t the worst decision in the game: The real mistakes were Rodgers not running on the previous two plays in the series (and the breakdown of communication between Rodgers and LaFleur) along with the team not defending to end the first half. How the game ended probably won’t push Rodgers into retirement, but it does nothing to lessen his discontent with Green Bay.
Next, we turn to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America released the results of its voting today, but no players reached the threshold to be inducted into the Hall — and not for lack of players with a Hall of Fame-caliber resume, either. Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens are all nearing the end of their eligibility but have been avoided because of doping scandals in their past (Bonds and Clemens) or their present political views (Schilling). The amount of inconsistency and even hypocrisy present in Hall of Fame choices rises more and more as we come to know more about who players are off the field. David Ortiz, for example, will likely get into the Hall despite his use of PEDs. We think that’s because he’s just better liked than Bonds and Clemens. Evaluating player legacies is hard, but trying to do that from the hagiographic point of view that members of the Baseball Hall of Fame aren’t just great players but also great people? That’s nearly impossible. The solution might be to get rid of the Hall entirely and tell the story of baseball not in terms of its heroes (and villains), but more holistically.
Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil looks back at the Hall of Fame baseball players we lost over the course of this last year — most recently, and most notably, Hank Aaron. Neil wrote about how, even more than breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record, Aaron’s incredible consistency across his career is an almost singular feat. He hit more than 20 home runs a season for 20 seasons. Beyond his achievements on the field, the grace with which Aaron conducted himself (he chased Ruth’s record while getting nearly 3,000 letters of hate mail a day) elevates him even among baseball’s great players. He’s absolutely one of the greatest.
What we’re looking at this week: