View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Saturday, October 04, 2003


The Left's reaction to Rush Limbaugh's football/social commentary has been revealing. Not because they stopped listening at the word "black," and all those pro-dissent liberals started calling for Limbaugh's job. But because their writing has, to a large extent, exposed the sloppiness of their thinking. By and large, with a few exceptions, the Left has shown itself to be completely incapable of the basic element of critical thought - making distinctions. I've given up hoping they'll ever understand the distinction between "conspiracy" and "groupthink." but this is even more basic than that.

The nature of the criticism has been shallow, self-righteous, and defensive, combined with that smarmy self-certainty that only a true believer can have. Tony Kornheiser's ill-disguised glee on his Thursday ESPN radio show is just the start of it. "What, liberalism is sportswriting? Whatever can he mean?" Tony, ask yourself that the next time you, Boswell, and Wilbon are sitting around a table at the Washington Post cafeteria. You, dear reader, ask yourself that the next time you see Bill Rhoden, Mike Lupica, and Mitch Albom stting around discussing some sports/social issue on the Sports Reporters.

Look, I don't know if Rush is right about McNabb being overrated. He may be. Certainly Allan Berra of the Wall Street Journal thinks he is. He may not be. Legions of Eagles fans line up behing McNabb. He's still young, so we'll have time to find out. But a comment like that isn't between the 40-yard-lines of sports commentary, it's smack on the 50-yard-line.

But for Mitch Albom to write this:

"The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well"? Excuse me. But football is not an affirmative action application at college. We don't give extra points. If McNabb throws one touchdown pass, it doesn't count as two because he's black.

Sports is one of the world's great equalizers, the rare place where skin color can truly mean nothing once the game starts. If the media were so desirous to boost black quarterbacks, how come Andre Ware is out of the league, how come Charlie Batch doesn't have a starting job, how come Kordell Stewart has been bounced around, how come Akili Smith has been put on the shelf?

Limbaugh, trying to fend off anger, has pulled in his wagons, saying he was criticizing the media. Sure. Attacking the media is a rogue's safe haven. The media are big. The media are a monster. Who would side against you if you blamed the media?

he must not only have skipped logic in school, he must have spent a lifetime avoiding it.

Rush never said football discriminated in favor of McNabb because of race. He said that our perceptions, specifically the media's perceptions, of McNabb may have been inflated, and that we may have given him the benefit of too many doubts because he's black, and because we wanted him to succeed. The reason, Mitch, that the quarterbacks you name aren't playing is that you reporters don't make these decisions, NFL teams who have one goal - winning - do. And yes, Mitch, the context and the comment clearly were aimed at you, not McNabb. From the beginning. If you can't draw basic distinctions like those between perceptions and performance, or between success and hope of success, you shouldn't be writing. Because that kind of sloppy thinking leads to the above kind of sloppy writing.

I don't particularly think Rush is right about the media and McNabb. There was a time, maybe 15 years ago, when the Black Quarterback was a Big Topic. I remember Sam Huff hoping that Doug Williams's Super Bowl performance "laid to rest the myth of the black quarterback." If you don't believe me, NFL Films used that excerpt in their Official Super Bowl film for that game. But I think that time is more or less gone. I have heard some broadcasters make that point, in that way, but not many. Many more just knee-jerked their way into joint-replacement surgery. And they need to grow up, and learn to take criticism seriously and responsibly. Lord knows, they can dish it out, Tony.

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