DiMauro's attacks on Fitch Hall selections 'crossed the line'

We did not respond to the first attack last year by sports columnist Mike DiMauro on the Robert E. Fitch Athletic Hall of Fame Committee. We thought he had said his piece and that would be that. Unfortunately, his attacks continue and DiMauro’s Aug. 31 column, “Fitch Hall of Fame can’t seem to get this one right,” which called our Hall “The Big Lie,” crossed the line.

This is a committee of volunteers. Members are teachers, coaches (current or retired) and alumni. Our purpose is to recognize athletes who excelled in their sports at Fitch High School. The committee developed its bylaws after much research and meets monthly.

This group of good, well-meaning people want to bring pride to our school. We are not controversial and do not seek confrontation. To attack such a committee is wrong and fulfills the old adage: “No good deed goes unpunished.”

First, we are not exclusively a football hall of fame. One of the oldest high schools in the area, Fitch opened in 1929. Now president of the Hall Committee, I started the Hall so Fitch athletes from all sports could be recognized for their individual athletic accomplishments.

Our bylaws stipulate that the committee will soon recognize successful teams, such as the great football squads DiMauro references, but right now our main thrust is on individuals. We are a young organization that will induct its fourth class this November.

The committee thought the best way to function was to accept nominations from the community, but discovered early on that there would be no flood of suggestions. Also, because of the age of Fitch, the committee recognized it had to do something to give due credit to the great pre-1970 athletes, thus an "Old Timers Committee” was formed to ensure that those classes were represented.

Along the way, the committee also realized that some decades received more nominations than others did. This is a learning curve for the committee, which is more than willing to correct problems as they occur.

To recognize athletes, the committee launched a formal, annual banquet for our inductees, which has become a wonderful event. Part of making it a good event is restricting its length. In that spirit, the committee decided for the first few years to honor two athletes, one male and one female, from each decade. We are playing catch-up, however, since we have so many deserving athletes.

None of us on the committee understands DiMauro's need to criticize us over the situation of George Hall, a 2001 graduate who went on to become a star linebacker at Purdue and signed with the Minnesota Vikings. George was a great athlete during his time at Fitch, but he has yet to gain the votes necessary for his induction into the Fitch Athletic Hall of Fame.

It is unfair to him, as it is to us, to make him a pawn in a debate over how we do business. George Hall is our Fitch athlete, not DiMauro's. What purpose does it serve DiMauro to use George as the point of his criticism? Is it the desire of the columnist to have George refuse induction when his time comes? Is there something else in his yearly tirade that we are missing?

What a disservice DiMauro does to the family of George Hall with his obsession concerning this issue.

Perhaps DiMauro is confused about the difference between the Fitch Athletic Hall of Fame and the Fitch Wall of Fame. Yes, the late Raheem Carter, the quarterback of the 1999 team, is part of the "Wall of Fame" because of what he did after high school.

However, Raheem is in the Athletic Hall of Fame because of his athletic achievements while in high school. To diminish Raheem's induction into the Athletic Hall of Fame, as DiMauro did, by contending it was based more on his post-career courage as a New London police officer and his battle with cancer, and not because of his athletic success, is an absolute sin.

We’ve invited DiMauro to see what we do. So far, he has chosen not to do so. The committee also invites him to come to the induction banquet and see how we honor our athletes and their school.

It's a great day, with athletes of the past and the present coming together to share their common experiences. Inductees are happy, proud and honored to join their school's Athletic Hall of Fame.

That’s our mission: Honoring great athletes who attended Fitch.

Bernie Nasser is the President of Fitch Athletic Hall of Fame and submitted this commentary on behalf of the selection committee.






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