I can't believe I'm defending Rush Limbaugh...
For the 2003-4 NFL season, ESPN wanted to do something special to add some spice and interest into their NFL pre-game show, NFL Sunday Countdown. The decision was made and, of all people, Rush Limbaugh was brought in to be a part of the show. While Rush, unlike Chris Berman, Steve Young, Michael Irvin and Tom Jackson, is not known for his sports IQ, they decided he might make a good addition in a limited role. Playing off the recent change in the NFL rulebook of the coach's challenge, Rush was given two flags, which he could throw, that would allow him to enter the discussion for a brief period of time. Say what you want to about the man, but he didn't do a bad job in this limited role.
That is, until this past Sunday. Mr. Limbaugh has come under fire for comments he made on the show during one of these challenges. On the show, he claimed that the media over-rated Philidelphia Eagles' quaterback, Donovan McNabb, because they wanted a black quarterback to succed, "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well"1. Many people, upon hearing this statement became fussy, thinking that Limbaugh somehow equated McNabb as over-rated because of his skin color, where Limbaugh was talking about the media and their hype. Limbaugh continued the statement, adding similar feelings for black coaches as well.
I think Rush has a valid point. The NFL, save for maybe Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham, hasn't had any big name black quarterbacks in their recent past. Sure, Kordell Stewart, McNabb, Duante Culpepper, Steve McNair and Michael Vick have all come up since then and defined the role of the modern black QB, but where are the Dan Marinos? The John Elways? The Joe Montanas and Steve Youngs? The guys that would consistantly go out and win for their teams. That took their teams to greatness. Look back to the 70's and 80's. Where were the black QBs then? And where are the black coaches now? The NFL had to go so far as to install affirmative action in the hiring process for new coaches because there are not many black coaches. Another question, where are the white runningbacks? Why isn't this a big deal that so many skilled backs are black, but it is in the QB situation?
I don't think Limbaugh should have been fired. Sure, his comments dealt with race, but I don't think they were racist at all. However, some other people disagree. Wesley Clark, a general currently running to gain a Democratic bid for the presidancy claimed "There can be no excuse for such statements. Mr. Limbaugh has the right to say whatever he wants, but ABC and ESPN have no obligation to sponsor such hateful and ignorant speech. Mr. Limbaugh should be fired immediately."2 Damn! This guy wants to run the country? Did he even watch the show? Or just the snippet of the quote involving the color black? Did he even hear that? Another canidate, Howard Dean supplied, "To imply that the success of African-American is an undeserved gift from a biased media is absurd and offensive."3 No one can deny McNabb's success as a player in the NFL. He's made it to the NFC championship game for the past two seasons, however he did not take the team that far himself. He's not Michael Jordan nor Barry Bonds. American football is not a game of individuals, it's a team sport. Your all-star running back won't gain yards if the offensive line doesn't make a hole for him to run through. Your quarterback is worthless if the receivers can't catch.
Everyone from the ever-present Al Sharpton to NAACP president and CEO Kweisi Mfume have commented on what Rush has said. They almost all express their desire to see Rush fined or fired. Rush, himself, resigned from the show earlier yesterday morning. However, I don't think that's the big story here. Why are all these black people so jumpy about racism? I understand slavery, that sucked but it's gone. I also understand that after that, they've been shat upon with segregation, Jim Crow laws and other atrocities. About how they didn't have equal rights until late in the 60's and some would even argue now. How are we going to get along equally if everyone, white and black, don't make steps to be cool? If Rush Limbaugh had said that "Donovan McNabb is a terrible quarterback because he's black" that would be obvious racism. Saying he's overrated because the media portrayed him as better than Rush thinks he is, is not racism to my mind. It's a shot at the media. With so many special interest groups and whatnot in America today, can race/skin color/religious preference be talked about anymore? Why is there no controversy about Jewish quarterbacks? It was all the rage when Al Gore was running with Joe-I hate television-Lieberman, where'd that fire go?
I think, as Americans and as humans in general, we all need to relax when it comes to our obvious, and not so obvious, differences. He's black, let it go. He said something about homosexuals, let it go. Do something important with your time instead of bitching about this crap. No one needs to boycott ESPN. If you're organizing a boycott, make sure you know why, before you do. Stop jumping to conclusions and relax. If it's injustice, then call it so, if it's stupid words out of a big-mouthed idiot, something most of us can agree on, let it slide. Didn't you learn anything from Bill & Ted? Be excellent to each other.