I like my coffee black and my NFL football straight, to paraphrase “Broadway Joe” Namath. In a recent blog critical of the International Olympic Committee (“Jazzman Fails to Sanctify“), I wrote “my worst nightmare is the NFL getting involved in partisan politics like the IOC.â€ Sports are supposed to be what Jay Nordlinger calls a â€œsafe zoneâ€ from politics.
I have been a sports fan since I have been conscious. Sports provide me an emotional release. I have all the DirecTV sports packages. This time of year is fun as we are in the middle of the NFL and college football seasons and the playoffs for Major League Baseball. Two New York teams I am fans of, the Yankees and the New York “Football” Giants, are having great seasons. Plus, I was raised a Dodger fan (my Mother rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers) and they are in the playoffs … and I’m also a lifelong Notre Dame fan (my Father was a Notre Dame fan) who play USC at home this week. This is a great weekend to be a sports junkie.
This does not make me unaware of politics in sports. I just prefer to root for players in the context of their roles as players, not as “spokesmen” or “role models”. I appreciate team play and devotion to winning in an athlete. I don’t care what their politics are and don’t want to know. Ownership is also part of major league sports. Bad or good ownership, in a sports sense, really does matter. Owners are part of the game. Dan Rooney, inherited owner of the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Pittsburgh Steelers, thanked President Barack Obama during the Lombardi trophy presentation last year. (I had repressed that memory until the Limbaugh-NFL controversy emerged.) Fans are used to star players thanking God, or their parents, etc., after a big victory. But it was a bizarre sight to see an NFL owner thank a president for winning the Super Bowl.
If you believe Rush Limbaugh was rejected in his role as a minority bidder for the St. Louis Rams because of his 2003 comments about Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, you are being naive. True to my “safe-zone” roots, I thought Limbaugh was off base when he implied fans and sports writers overrated McNabb because they wanted a “black QB to succeed.” My view is that real NFL fans don’t think that way. Nor do they have “to try” and not think that way. They just don’t. If Eagle fans root for, or hate, Donovan McNabb, it is not because he is black or white. It is because they think he is either a winner or a loser, period. Fans could care less, one way or the other, if “a black QB succeeds.” They just want their team’s QB to succeed. Limbaugh was making dumb football commentary, even if it is the case some sports writers may have “secretly” thought that way, as Allen Barra of the Wall Street Journal contended at the time.
This is about payback for Rush Limbaugh, not “racially insensitive” comments about McNabb, himself no stranger to “racially insensitive” comments (McNabb rips T.O. for wanting white QB).
The Left decided to go after him. So they dragged out the usual hypocritical race huckstering suspects, like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, to create enough controversy to make the NFL reject any bid involving Limbaugh. The last thing sports leagues want is to be politically controversial. So they strung Limbaugh out to dry. Of course, this is the same league which just reinstated the “Lord High Dog Executioner,” Michael Vick, as the back-up QB, ironically, for the Eagles’ McNabb. The NFL chooses selectively as to when “sensitivity” matters.
One more thing. Don’t think Steelers owner Dan Rooney, now also Ambassador to Ireland, was not in the middle of this. Can the White House be far behind? What do you think?