by Scott Benson

Ben Coates was never a favorite at this address, but even I won’t dispute that the tight end fully earned a place in the Patriots Hall of Fame, as the team announced today.

It just shouldn’t have come at the expense of Jim Nance.

“I guess it was just my time,” said Coates in a statement released by the Pats. Was it?

I’m all for the fan balloting idea here, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about the results anyway. It’s easy enough to see where this one was decided. The majority that ruled were fans that first arrived on Route 1 in the wake of the Parcells-Bledsoe-Kraft harmonic covergence. 

Make no mistake about it, I completely appreciate the fans that have come to Foxboro over the last fifteen years; by investing in the Patriots the way they did, at the time they did, they helped save the team for everyone. That should not be forgotten. Especially by those of us whose dollars never seemed to make the difference before.

I just don’t think many of them have any respect for Patriots football played before 1993. Too often we hear too many sum up the team’s ancient history in one word: “laughingstock.”

That’s not true. There were teams and players that we could be proud of all along. Like the team’s all-time leading touchdown scorer (still) and the only Patriot to be named league MVP twice (consecutively).

People are entitled to their own version of events as they see them, just as I am. But it would be wrong to callously overlook the contributions of the guys that laid the bedrock here, and diminish their still-great accomplishments as a joke, just because we weren’t personally there to see it.

That history should be important to us. That history of the team, warts and all, should be the touchstone to which we return on occasion, if only to ensure we never completely take for granted the bountiful feast that lies before us now. We might also choose, while there, to honor the men that helped make the Patriots a part of all of our lives.

I think it came down to this for the average voter: I saw Coates, myself, when the Patriots were ‘legitimate’, and I never saw Nance, who played when they ‘weren’t’.

That’s cold, man. There’s no question Coates should be in the Pats Hall, but right now, this minute? And what of the players who came before, like Nance, and others, who are no less qualified? Will a big part of Patriots history fall victim to fading memories?

That’s what would have been so great about a Nance induction. It would have been validation of a sort, for that period of the team’s history. It would have not only been a knowing nod to Nance, who performed above and beyond, but to his teammates as well. It would have been a full embrace from the team to which they gave their careers, and which now stands as one of the preeminent franchises in sports. It would have been an acknowledgement of their too-often forgotten part in making it so.

It’s a missed opportunity that Nance will not be posthumously honored as the first Hall member to be inducted at the new Hall at Patriot Place when it opens this fall.