October 14, 2003

McNabb’s Rush Attack

Many intellectuals are fond of trashing sports, arguing that they distract people from the real world. I don’t understand this at all, because sports and politics are so similar. Both are about protecting your allies and fighting for justice.

I am fierce about loyalty when it comes to my teams. I liked Jake Delhomme as a Cajun and a Saint, but not as a Panther. I despise the Carolina Panthers—unless they’re playing the Atlanta Falcons, in which case Jake is my favorite player ever.

This also works in politics; right now, I am firmly behind Wesley Clark for the Democratic nomination. But if Howard Dean or John Kerry were eventually nominated, I’d vote for them in a heartbeat against Bush.

Such is the case with Donovan McNabb. Though he has the coolest name in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback has always seemed to me like just another opponent. That was before Rush Limbaugh went after him, calling McNabb the creation of a media desperate for a black quarterback to succeed. Rush should know; he uses the same tactic every time he overrates George W. Bush out of desperation for a Republican president to succeed.

For the record, this is exactly what Rush said on his segment of ESPN’s pregame show: “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. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve.”

The world of sports criticism isn’t exactly the most civilized front. Any sports radio show will net at least a few yahoos whose comments make Limbaugh’s look downright polite. Still, national sports commentary is a very touchy field. It devoured its best ever, Howard Cosell, for calling a black wide receiver a “monkey” in 1983. Cosell, definitely not a racist, was known to use the word “monkey” as an affectionate term for his grandson. Regardless, he was shunned from the airwaves forever. This was also the case with Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, whose comment that blacks had better athletic genes from their days in the jungle got him fired from CBS in 1988.

Rush should have known better to broach the race topic. But ESPN knew exactly what to expect from its controversial new analyst. In fact, critics of ESPN’s decision to hire him cited this as their number-one concern. Over the years, the broadcaster of disaster has talked endlessly about race on his radio show. And we’re not talking about the playoff race. To wit:

“Have you ever noticed how all newspaper composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?

“Blacks are 12 percent of America. Who the hell cares what they think?”

McNabb, too, is well aware of Limbaugh’s resonance with too many people. “I'm sure he's not the only one that feels that way,” he said. “But it's somewhat shocking to actually hear that on national TV. An apology would do no good because he obviously thought about it before he said it.” Dead on, Donovan.

Rush has refused to apologize, saying that his comment has caused furor only because everyone knows he is right. By logical extension, Limbaugh must want us to think he resigned from ESPN on principle. But it’s more likely that he resigned to cover his butt and to spend more quality time with his OxyContin.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Aaron Brooks is basking in all of the adulation he is getting from the media for being a black quarterback.

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