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Alexander: In what world is Antonio Gates not a Hall of Famer?

Apparently this one, and the secrecy of the process prevents an explanation of why the former Chargers tight end is not part of the 2024 class that will be inducted in Canton, Ohio, this summer

Former Chargers tight end Antonio Gates poses as he is inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame during halftime in an NFL football game between the Chargers and the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)
Former Chargers tight end Antonio Gates poses as he is inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame during halftime in an NFL football game between the Chargers and the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)
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The world according to Jim:

• There is this, at least: Those of us who vote for baseball’s Hall of Fame are encouraged to publish our ballots and explain (and defend, in many cases) our work. It’s not mandatory – though it should be – but that openness is an important part of the process and part of why there is so much discussion and attention and caring when the vote is announced every January.

In the case of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, conversely, the process is so opaque to be confounding. Thus, Thursday night’s announcement of Canton’s Class of 2024 – and the omission of former Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, a first-time candidate and finalist – leaves questions that can’t possibly be answered adequately, lest someone break the veil of secrecy. …

• Gates, a former Kent State basketball player (and whose techniques can still be seen from current Chargers wideout Keenan Allen, among others), will assuredly get other chances. His numbers – 955 career receptions, 11,841 yards and tight end records for touchdown catches (116), multi-touchdown games (21), third-down touchdown catches (39) and seasons of eight or more TD receptions (eight), make the case. And he passed the eye test long ago for those of us who watched the San Diego Chargers over those years and witnessed firsthand the contributions of Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers to an explosive offense.

Yes, this is a head-scratcher.

It would be nice to know exactly why he was cast aside this time, while Dwight Freeney, Devin Hester, Andre Johnson, Julius Peppers, Patrick Willis and senior candidates Steve McMichael and Randy Gradishar got in. But, again, secrecy. …

• This is the process: There are 50 selection committee members, almost all current or former media members who cover or have covered the league. One comes from each league city (and two each from the two-team markets, L.A. and New York), one represents the Pro Football Writers’ Association, and 17 are at-large voters. After winnowing the field to semifinalists and finalists, they meet in person to discuss each finalist. A player needs 80 percent of the vote, or 40 of the 50, to get in. And no one, not even the voters themselves, knows how anyone else voted. …

• Part of the process involves a selector – generally one who covered a player – introducing his candidacy and making the case for it. As Gates’ best years came in San Diego and there is no one representing that market on the panel.

However, Eric Williams of Sports Illustrated – who covered the San Diego Chargers for ESPN when that organization had beat writers for each NFL team – represents L.A. on the panel. Former San Diego Union-Tribune beat writers Clark Judge and Jim Trotter (the latter currently with The Athletic) are at-large selectors. I have to imagine they spoke up for Gates.

In fact, that the discussion over Gates’ candidacy lasted 35 minutes, 47 seconds of a nearly 8½-hour meeting. (Presumably, they served lunch.) …

• When the new class is inducted in July in Canton, there will be 323 players enshrined. To date, there are nine tight ends – Tony Gonzalez, Shannon Sharpe, Charlie Sanders, Dave Casper, Ozzie ɫ̳ome, Kellen Winslow, Jackie Smith, John Mackey and Mike Ditka.

Someone really needs to explain why Gates shouldn’t be going in this year as the 10th. …

• The Chargers will have one (sort of) representative this summer. Freeney anchored the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive line for 11 of his 16 seasons, but he was a Charger in 2013 (when the team made the playoffs and won a first-round game in Cincinnati) and 2014 (when they were eliminated with a loss in Kansas City on the last day of the regular season) …

• Meanwhile, on the subject of future Hall of Famers, we said the night of that it was hard to imagine that would be his last act as a Dodger. . …

• Forget that abysmal start. Remember how effectively he pitched down the stretch with a bum shoulder. Assuming he’ll be back to full health when it’s time to rejoin the team, Kershaw will be a better addition than anyone Andrew Friedman and Brandon Gomes could pick up at the trade deadline. …

• Item: to become Ohio State’s offensive coordinator. Comment: The good news is that Martin Jarmond now has a chance to hire someone who has a visible commitment to the school and the growth of its football program.

The bad news? Who’s left to poach? By waiting, Chip did one last disservice to UCLA. …

• Now that a National Labor Relations Board official has ruled that Dartmouth basketball players should have the opportunity to unionize, and with another ruling likely to determine the same for USC players, a suggestion: Let’s retire the NCAA-favored term “student-athletes.”

Call them what they are: “Student-employees.” …

• Sunday’s prediction: The Swifties will help CBS draw a record TV Super Bowl viewership, breaking last year’s 114.2 million viewers for Chiefs-Eagles.

As for the final score between Kansas City and San Francisco? Sorry. Not helping you there.

jalexander@scng.com

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