Viewed from the sidelines, the constant struggle of one-upmanship between conservatives and those of progressive/liberal bent often runs the gamut from incredibly juvenile to the late Al Capp’s (Li’l Abner) descriptive, “confoozin but amoozin.” On occasion, however, the dialogue reaches new heights in hilarity or the depths of ignorance—take your pick.
This time, it is the abject silliness over the intent of conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh in joining as an investor to purchase the St. Louis Rams National Football League franchise. Making a fool of oneself in public is not a monopoly of either major political faction but, this time, the booby prize goes left.
Anyone who is familiar with my columns knows that I am not a particular fan of Limbaugh. While ideologically I agree with him on many issues, to me he is a political entertainer whose particular shtick is being a constant burr under the saddle of those of the more liberal persuasion. His success in this endeavor is well documented–the rage he evokes from the left guarantees him a ranking anywhere from 1 to 4 among George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove in perceived evil done to America by conservatives.
Unfortunately, while he is uncommonly good at what he does, his derisive and abrasive mien do not always serve the best interests of his cause as he often angers those on his side of the aisle. Anyone whose constant public exposure is coupled with an intentionally annoying and opinionated delivery is destined to provoke enmity and favor as well.
Additionally, as one whose stock in trade is undoubtedly his mouth, as a mortal being, Mr. Limbaugh is not alone in the occasional opening that oral edifice before engaging his brain. There is no lack of these inane lapses be it Republican or Democrat—I offer Vice President Joe Biden as a “fair and balanced” example.
This overreaction to his becoming a minority partner owning a NFL franchise is downright hysterical, bordering on comic opera. As expected, two of the first to step forward in protest were the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, each intimating that Limbaugh's overt racism was detrimental to the well-being of the National Football League. I would hope that most will see the irony in this utter hypocrisy–neither Sharpton nor Jackson pass the tolerance test as both are unapologetic, professional race hustlers.
Equally silly are the sports writer/commentator “harbinger’s of doom," e.g. the Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell, among those who deplore the loss of integrity to the game of football should this man be permitted the reins of ownership. The last time I looked, there were a number of convicted felons in the league as well as one in the Hall of Fame (Bob Hayes), one in the penitentiary (Plaxico Burress), a coach (Bill Belichick) caught cheating and several doing penance for drug offenses.
Not surprisingly, the head of the players union (DeMaurice Smith) and at least one owner (Robt Irsay, Colts) have come out opposing Mr. Talk Radio. League President, Roger Goodell’s official statement was not complimentary but neither could it be interpreted as a flat opposition. Polling of the players themselves revealed inconsistent results–several were unfamiliar with Limbaugh while others expressed a refusal to play for any team associated with him in any way.
It is too bad that St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts saw a need to bow to the pressure of the "nattering nabobs of negativity" as Spiro Agnew so aptly described and drop Limbaugh from his team of prospective buyers. While clarifying that Rush's interest in the team was but a minority one and that he would not be involved in management; nevertheless, he was perceived as a divisive distraction and, as such, a barrier to League approval.
Yes, he is controversial and is not afraid to say what he thinks, often tongue-in-cheek. Anyone involved in politics understands it is very much a no holds barred brawl, both sides guilty of spreading rumor, innuendo and lies along with an occasional truth. But, in a land founded on freedom of speech and expression, I am confident that a majority of the public finds this rejection unwarranted, a much ado about nothing.
As for the prospects of Rams footballers refusing to play, even the most die-hard anti-Rushites should recognize the folly in that. The entry level NFL pay scale is infinitely more lucrative than driving a truck, toiling in “shovel ready” projects or drawing unemployment benefits. And, if they do opt not to play, the 0-6 Rams can as easily lose with replacement players.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.