Why did ‘Playmaker’ cut in line? 

Forget about the drugs, forget about the arrests and forget about the endless stream of controversy for a moment. (It will be harder to forget about the full-length fur coats and the wardrobe bright enough to make Stevie Wonder shield his eyes, but we’ll give him a pass on that, too, OK?) You see, it’s only when we turn our attention away from the circus sideshows that accompanied the career of one of the NFL’s great wide receivers of the 1990s that we can stomach the thought of Michael Irvin’s bronze bust throwing coke-and-hooker parties at the Hall of Fame in Canton after the night janitor leaves.

(Oops — I was supposed to forget about the drugs. Sorry.)

Let’s face it — Irvin was easily the most polarizing figure on "America’s Team" during the Cowboys’ decade of dominance. He was one of the famed "Triplets," combining with Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman and Canton-bound running back Emmitt Smith to form one of the most lethal offensive machines in recent memory. And that made him a legend with Dallas fans. They adored his brash style, his soft hands and his boundless enthusiasm.

But for everyone who saw the Cowboys as "America’s Most Hated Team" instead, he was the posterboy for everything that was wrong in the NFL. He was the anti-Jerry Rice. His cockiness, his swagger and his post-play histrionics were too much for the rest of us to bear. (Ever see a guy act like he just won the Powerball lottery after catching a 4-yard out on third-and-3?)

He was so despised that Eagles fans cheered when he suffered a serious neck injury in Philadelphia in 1999. True, it’s not a big leap for fans from the same city who booed Santa Claus, but there’s no record of anyone else getting the one-finger salute as they were wheeled off the field on a backboard. Ever.

Nonetheless, his numbers were tremendous and it was only a matter of time before the Hall voters

busted up Irvin’s celly with an invitation to the party. But if numbers are the thing, then why was "The Playmaker" allowed to cut in line?

Irvin’s amazing career included 750 catches, which is tremendous. But 951 is better.

He gained 11,904 yards. Super. But 13,198 is better.

And 65 times we were treated to No. 88’s end-zone celebrations. But 87 touchdowns is better. So how can the baggage-laden Irvin go into the Hall before the statistically superior Andre Reed?

The former Buffalo superstar was also a finalist on the ballot Saturday, but despite striking similarities between the two, Reed remains on the outside looking in. Andre was also a "Triplet," teaming with Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and 2007 inductee Thurman Thomas in Buffalo to form one of the most formidable offenses of his generation. And, like Irvin, Reed was a champion who went to multiple Super Bowls.

Ahhh, but there’s the difference, Cowboys fans will argue: Irvin won three titles, while Reed lost four Super Bowls. It’s about the rings, baby!

Really? Tell that to Art Monk, who caught 940 balls for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns — all better than Irvin — and also wears three rings.

Look, no one is saying "The Playmaker" should be denied his place in Canton. But it would only be fair to ask him to wait his turn behind better players who are continually being denied theirs.

Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at bfrantz@examiner.com.

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