October 15, 2009
Rush Snared by NFL Paradox...AgainBy C. Edmund Wright
In one of life's great paradoxes, the ultra-competitive NFL and the almost equally competitive business of NFL media coverage is dominated by people who have a world view that is very often anti-competitive. Liberalism.
At some level, this intellectually inconsistent foundation seems to always get in the way of Rush Limbaugh every time he attempts to formally get involved with the NFL. Rush has built his career on intellectual consistency and honesty. Whether you agree with him or not, it is undeniable that he has been remarkably consistent intellectually over 21 years and some 15 thousand hours of nationwide broadcasting.
Some of the dynamics that Rush admires most about America are the principles that have propelled both the NFL and ESPN to incredible heights. The NFL is the ultimate competition where physical well-being as well as scoreboard success depends on some 65 men (players and coaches) working together at all times to force their will on the opposition. The combination of the mental and the physical meshes as perhaps it does in no other activity short of combat. This fascinates and captivates millions of Americans, Limbaugh included.
In fact, few fans share the passion for the NFL that Rush has. Most that do care that much about it are perpetual adolescents who don backwards baseball caps, jerseys of some kind and blue jeans as their 24/7/365 dress code well into their 40's. These are folks who need to "get a life" of their own. Rush has done that just fine, thank you, yet has always had the love of the NFL.
When ESPN started, it was a risky outside the box experiment in broadcasting that broke the mold. They did what could not be done according to "conventional wisdom" in the industry and now they have created a whole new genre. Sound familiar? Those very words could have been written about Rush himself.
Virtually every American 35 and under has no concept of a country without 24 hour sports programming and universal access to conservative talk radio. All of which leads to the natural conclusion that Rush has long admired both the NFL and ESPN for how both organizations exude excellence. In addition to publicly being an NFL fan in general and Pittsburgh Steeler fan in particular, Rush also has commented publicly on how good the former ESPN Sports Center anchor team of Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were.
Yes, that Keith Olbermann.
The passion for the NFL and the admiration of ESPN led Rush to accept an opportunity to be part of ESPN's pre-game show in 2003. He shared that panel with Steve Young, Tom Jackson and the best post game highlight show commentator of all time, Chris Berman.
Several weeks into this experiment, Rush made what was considered an innocuous comment about Donovan McNabb being over rated by some in the media because of their wish for more successful black quarterbacks and head coaches. Actually, Rush did not say the wish for such was bad. He just said it existed. He did not say McNabb was not a good quarterback. He just said that some over rated him. (As an aside, McNabb's performance at the time was not at the level it is today.)
Nobody on the panel really objected. There was some discussion of the point but more or less the show just proceeded to other topics. It was just a handful of guys talking football. Jackson, Berman and Young were not outraged. That is, until the thought police had dissected the comment out of context for a couple of days.
The well-known firestorm ensued and much of it was driven by an intentional lack of context or flat out misrepresentations of what Rush had actually said. Within a few days,
Rush was off the panel. Kind of like what happened this week.
Rush is opinionated. He is conservative. He will say what he believes and support his position passionately. Moreover, he will say what a lot of folks are thinking but are afraid to say out loud. And when you are conservative and do that, you get in trouble not only with ESPN or the NFL, but with much of corporate America.
Corporate America -- by definition -- needs to appeal to as much of America as they can. Thus, there is a huge temptation for all big companies to go with the politically correct flow. Go green. Flaunt your community outreach and compassion. Accept the global warming template. Support the black guy regardless. Don't say or do anything the media will find controversial. Support the "no score" little leagues.
Go along to get along. At all costs, do not offend. Kind of like the RNC, but that's another article.
Thus, Rush's totally different efforts to become part of the NFL / ESPN ran aground early in two different attempts separated by six years. And yet, it was the very same dynamic fuelled by the very same people and very same biases on both occasions.
For all of its competitive nature, the NFL and those who cover it are paradoxically governed by political correctness. As we know, political correctness and liberalism demands that we not keep score in little league. It demands that CEO's not use corporate jets and that a pay czar limits their pay.
Contemporary American Liberalism demands that everyone be in a union where they are paid based on a collective bargaining agreement instead of individual achievement. It demands that government bureaucrats dictate what you drive, where you live, what you do in your spare time and how you get your health care.
Liberalism is the very antithesis of what we love about the NFL, yet it rules the thought process of the league and those who cover it. Thus, someone like Rush Limbaugh, who is the very antithesis of liberalism or political correctness, has been stymied in both attempts to be involved with the league.
Rush has said several times this week that he has "great admiration" for NFL players and coaches as people who "are the very best at what they do." He has mentioned that being part of a Super Bowl Champion team is extremely difficult to do mentioning that only 53 players get to say that every year.
All of that is true, but certainly Limbaugh can take comfort in the fact that there is only 1 super bowl winner in his genre, and Rush is it. Oh by the way, Rush invented his genre 21 years ago and has dominated it ever since. He is the very best at what he does and has been for 21 years.
Even the Pittsburgh dynasty of the 70's and 80's cannot say that.