Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rush Limbaugh - Sports Commentator

Rush Limbaugh has had an unquestionably successful career as a Conservative radio show host and political commentator, managing to garner a fair measure of fame and fortune in the process. His efforts to make former President Bill Clinton squirm were quite effective, although they fell short of getting Clinton to resign or getting him impeached. The messages he ranted to the masses on his radio program were delivered so persuasively that they earned him a seemingly unrelated gig as a sports commentator. He was hired to give a fan’s perspective of football on an ESPN television program, much like Dennis Miller did for ABC on Monday Night Football for a couple seasons. The Dennis Miller experiment was ultimately judged a flop, though by no means a major catastrophe. Mr. Miller did nothing to embarrass himself, nothing that would cause people to picket outside of his office building. He simply proved to be far better in the role of stand-up comedian with a large vocabulary and somewhat foul mouth who comments on various societal issues, than he was at describing the happenings on a football field. No crime in that. Dennis Miller went back to doing what he does best, and the world according to Monday Night Football viewers was made a better place for it.

One of the people that Dennis Miller beat out for the MNF job was Rush Limbaugh. When it was decided that the Miller experiment was a failure, ABC wisely went after and secured John Madden, a seasoned football commentator whose job previous to broadcasting was as an NFL coach. His name is also associated with an immensely popular video game that allows couch potatoes to simulate the gridiron experience in their own homes. Madden was a natural fit for the gig. You’d think that ESPN would have learned from the MNF experience and gone after someone similar to the exuberant Madden. But instead, they were no doubt impressed by the success of The Best Damn Sports Show Period, which employs Tom Arnold to hang out with a variety of jocks and discuss sports in between making jokes at the expense of his ex-wife, Roseanne. And so, ESPN looked for an unconventional choice to team up with Chris "Boomer" Berman, Tom Jackson, Michael Irvin (fresh from his stint on The Best Damn Sports Show Period, now sporting a more toned down wardrobe), and Steve Young. These four guys, who all certainly know a thing or two about professional football, sit together behind one desk. A much smaller desk for one was brought onto the set and placed off in the corner, and the man hired to sit at it was Rush Limbaugh.

The gimmicky format of the show was allowing Limbaugh a certain number of challenges to make per show, imitating the challenges that NFL coaches make about questionable calls on the field. One of the challenges that Rush chose to make a few weeks into the gig was on the subject of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb. His take on the subject was that McNabb is overrated. McNabb has certainly been off to a slow start this season, justifying any criticism of his abilities that one may choose to make. To call him overrated after a few poor early season performances, discounting all of the success he has enjoyed throughout his career up to now, may be somewhat of an overreaction. But sports writers and commentators overreact to streaks and to slumps all the time. It was not surprising or upsetting that Rush Limbaugh jumped on the McNabb-must-go bandwagon. He was saying nothing that countless Philadelphia fans have not expressed at one point or another in a much harsher manner than Rush would ever dare use on national television.

Then Mr. Limbaugh gave his explanation for exactly why he believed Donovan McNabb had been overrated to begin with. Basically, he felt that the media covering professional football conspired to praise McNabb and position him on a pedestal he had not earned. The reason for this conspiracy was that they wanted a black quarterback to succeed in the NFL, never mind that there already were several successful black quarterbacks. According to Limbaugh, the Eagles success (making it to two consecutive NFC championship games and counting) was due exclusively to the prowess of their defense. Their quarterback was simply along for the ride, yet the sports media was determined to make sure he received most of the credit.

I will not bother to counter the stupidity of this opinion, because an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary is already contained in statistics kept by the NFL, and plenty of others have already ripped into Rush, causing him to resign from his job at ESPN before the network would be forced to fire him. I will not resort to name calling, for Al Franken has already entitled a book: "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot". I doubt I could put it any more eloquently or accurately than that. The person who made the best point on this unsettling matter was the recipient of the insult, and I don’t mean the entire African-American race, but specifically Donovan McNabb. He questioned why none of the other members of ESPN’s broadcast team had bothered to contradict Limbaugh. In the uncomfortable moments following Limbaugh's proclamation, I found myself wondering the same exact thing. Tom Jackson and Michael Irvin are both black, neither Chris Berman nor Steve Young are known members of the KKK, yet not a single one of them chose to voice a difference of opinion. Did none of them disagree with Limbaugh? Was I the only one staring incredulously at my television set, wondering if I had heard right? As it would turn out, I was not alone in my dismay.

Apparently, the lessons on political correctness inadvertently taught by Jimmy the Greek and Al Campanis did not make their way to Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps ESPN does not offer a racial sensitivity course to its new hires. This left Rush on his own to express whatever opinions came to mind, a recipe for disaster that ESPN probably should have taken into greater consideration before bringing him aboard.

At the beginning of this article, I remarked that Rush Limbaugh has been quite successful at his non-sports related body of work. I have a theory as to how this came about. It was a conspiracy on the part of the United Stated of America that a portly, insensitive, full of himself, opinionated Caucasian who is deeply in love with the sound of his own voice be made the champion of all political issues to the far right of reason, compassion and common sense. We don’t have to like him, but we do have to accept his existence and the microphone constantly placed in front of it, because the rise of Rush Limbaugh was inevitable, engineered behind the scenes by those at the very top of the American power structure. As for his downfall, Rush probably won’t need any assistance with that. He, seated at his very own desk, is capable of taking care of it all by himself.

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