Pat Bowlen’s passing came as a surprise. Around the league, sympathies and support poured in, many taking care to mention Mr. B’s accomplishments, record as an owner, and everyone affirmed Pat’s worthiness as a 2019 hall of fame enshrinee. Considering the level of respect literally everyone in the league had for Mr. B, it begs the question: Why did Pat’s induction have to be posthumous?
In 2014, Bowlen stepped away from his duties as Denver Broncos owner to focus on his health. For the last five years, the league has known that Bowlen’s clock was running out and yet the mechanism they created to celebrate the greatest of the great in the game, couldn’t get it’s collective act together to do the right thing.
As Broncos fans heard repeatedly this week, in addition to his remarkable accomplishments owning the Broncos, he also fathered the NFL Network and Sunday Night Football (among other impressive things). So why did his acknowledgement lag behind Bobby Beathard and Jerry Jones? Did Jerry have 30 years of unparalleled success with Dallas? Did Beathard father multiple billion-dollar NFL institutions? Compare their resumes to Pat Bowlen and tell me how they deserved their moment more than a dying man who did so much more for the league then they ever did.
Pat won’t get to enjoy enshrinement because he couldn’t last long enough to get his rightful due despite ample five-year notice that the end was near. However, that’s not where the insult to the Bowlen family rests. As though waiting until it was too late wasn’t enough, now there’s a distinct possibility that the Bowlen family will be denied Pat’s gold jacket and hall of fame ring because he had the audacity to succumb to Alzheimer's a month before enshrinement. While an exception could be made to the policy, do you think the Bowlen family wants to worry about jackets and rings right now? Way to insert yourself into their grieving process, Canton.
Their inexcusable delay took the moment away from Mr. B and now, as currently written, they’re going to take his ring and jacket too. Really, if there was an attempt to disrespect the man, his family, and everything he did for the NFL, you’d be hard pressed to come up with anything more substantial than what they’ve already done and may do. I can’t help but worry that as other NFL greats age and wait for their call, Randy Gradishar in particular, that they too may miss the crowning moment of their life and work on the field. No player, owner, worthy contributor, or their families should have to go through that.
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