Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Many Halls Of Fame, Only One 'Bullet Bob' Hayes

Bob Hayes Jr. poses with the bust of his late father. i i

Bob Hayes Jr. poses with the bust of his late father during "Bullet Bob" Hayes' induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio. Joe Robbins/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Bob Hayes Jr. poses with the bust of his late father.

Bob Hayes Jr. poses with the bust of his late father during "Bullet Bob" Hayes' induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I had forgotten that my old friend Bob Hayes was going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this Saturday past.

Of course, that's easy to forget. Baseball's is the only hall of fame that stays in the news. Good grief, people are arguing about who should get into Cooperstown 10, 15 years from now. The Baseball Hall of Fame is used as a punitive device: If you don't eat your vegetables, you won't get into the Hall of Fame.

Sometimes I get the feeling that nobody really cares that much about what steroids have done to real, live baseball today, but only how they will affect an inanimate red-brick building in Cooperstown, N.Y., in the distant future.

Anyway, baseball's Hall of Fame became so famous it spawned multitudes more. Halls of fame are about the only places in this republic where a person can be enshrined. I was so happy Bob Hayes got enshrined in Canton, Ohio — even if he had to wait until he was dead.

But everybody gets enshrined now. There is even a hall of fame for team mascots. There are six halls of fame for professional wrestling alone. (Are the enshrinements fixed?)

It certainly is better to be enshrined in death, rather than not at all, but it's too bad Hayes didn't live long enough to be enshrined in life. "Bullet Bob" was a sweet guy who unfortunately got mixed up in drugs. Not steroids — he didn't need anything artificial to make him the World's Fastest Human. He got involved with what we call "recreational" drugs, and spent time in jail for it, and that diminished so much of what he'd done when he was young and fleet. The Olympic people pretty much disowned him.

In this Dec. 3, 1967, file photo, Bob Hayes catches a touchdown pass. i i

In this Dec. 3, 1967, file photo, Dallas Cowboy Hayes catches a touchdown pass from Don Meredith as the Baltimore Colts' Rick Volk futilely pursues. AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP
In this Dec. 3, 1967, file photo, Bob Hayes catches a touchdown pass.

In this Dec. 3, 1967, file photo, Dallas Cowboy Hayes catches a touchdown pass from Don Meredith as the Baltimore Colts' Rick Volk futilely pursues.

AP

He'd won the gold medal in 1964 almost as a sideline, for he concentrated on football in college. He ran all wrong — "like he was pounding grapes into the ground," one coach said. Lord knows how fast he could have run if he'd been able to work at it, but he was so speedy on the football field that he sort of inadvertently invented the zone defense, because no other human being could cover the World's Fastest Human one-on-one.

So very few athletes reach the top of the tree in two sports. It may never happen again, because there is such specialization now. Hayes, for example, would never even have played pro football if track had been a professional sport then. "Why should I get beat up?" he asked me.

He also told me something else about being the World's Fastest Human. "After that," he said, "you can only go down." And, yes, his life after he wasn't so fast anymore was mostly sad. But he got himself clean and content, and he so deserves, at last, to be enshrined. Hail, Bullet Bob.

Commentator Frank Deford weighs in from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Conn.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford