Writing critically about Rush Limbaugh in Salon is a little like preaching to the choir, I suppose. If so, the choir's in full voice, as my in box can attest. Limbaugh's new gig as a football commentator on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" has readers vowing to never again darken the cable net's door, hoping for a quick end to this latest experiment in oddball football broadcasting and generally lamenting the lot of the serious sports fan.
I can guarantee you that I will not watch any ESPN football shows as long as there is the slightest chance The Big Fat Idiot may, even for a second, pollute my screen. There are other, better idiots out there who do not offend my sensibilities, and who actually know something about football.
-- Ayah Setel
If I wanted to hear anything Rush Limbaugh has to say I would tune into his self-righteous radio show. I do not care if he does not make one political statement during the pregame show. His presence alone is a political statement. As much as I enjoy ESPN, I will be making my own statement this fall by not watching "Sunday NFL Countdown" again until Rush is out. My mental well-being is worth more to me.
-- Will Chester
I have been a longtime ESPN devotee because I think they spend more time actually talking about football and I enjoy the interaction between Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Chris Mortenson and Sterling Sharpe. Even Bill Parcells appeared to be an actual human when he was with them. Now they have added a criminal and a huckster to the lineup. Blech. Fox is a complete circus and CBS, with Jerry Glanville leading the way, has been on the wrong end of too many fights for a fumble. I guess I'll be choosing between God and the golf course. Hmm, I wonder which will win.
-- Charlton Vogt
Vogt is referring to Michael Irvin when he says ESPN has added a "criminal." Irvin, who has replaced Sharpe and will join Berman, Jackson and Steve Young as the main commentators on "Countdown," was convicted on drug charges late in his career with the Cowboys.
One reader takes umbrage at Limbaugh's line that he'll be bringing the perspective of the common fan, the guy on the couch at home, to the broadcast.
"The perspective of the guy watching"? Hey, I've already GOT that! Where's my broadcast contract?
-- Derek LeLash
Well, Derek, hang in there. Some readers think Limbaugh's grid gig will be short-lived.
The silver lining to Mr. Limbaugh's new dais is it will only be a matter of time before he makes some "Jimmy the Greek"-like statement, gets booted from ESPN and is on his way back to Dittoville. Well, I can always hope.
-- Steve Jablonski
Look on the bright side. With any luck, this'll do for Limbaugh's career what the "Monday Night Football" gig did for Dennis Miller's. Although Dennis does makes a better Sammy Davis Jr.
-- Isaac Segal
Maybe so, but somehow I doubt it. I think Limbaugh has more talent to fall back on, frankly. He's also a better fit than Miller for the football-watching demographic, which I think tends not to be fond of verbose quasi-intellectuals making obscure and precious cultural references. Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.
One reader thinks I went out of bounds when I characterized Limbaugh as "important for the huge audience he speaks to, but he's basically a clown."
King (from Salon and sponsored by the ACLU) on Rush is like Rush on the NFL. As Jackie Mason says, "not his field." Rush gets a buck a year for delivering each of 20 million listeners. Some clown.
-- Art Neilans
Hey, I said he delivers audience. That doesn't make him not a clown. Carrot Top delivers audience too.
Kaufman says that all real football fans will hate Rush Limbaugh on ESPN. That would only be true if the typical sports viewer was a gay animal rights activist who hasn't left the house since the Rosenbergs got the chair.
-- John Saleeby
It's true that Limbaugh's audience and the NFL audience overlap, probably a lot. But a lot of football fans actively dislike Limbaugh. He's a turn-off, as noted above.
ESPN is a network whose slogan for Jim Rome's show is "Love him, hate him: You've gotta watch." That's pretty clearly the course it's following here too. But Rome's just a guy you either like or you don't. Limbaugh's a polarizing figure. You either love him or hate him with a burning passion, to the point where you've either gotta watch him or you've gotta not watch him.
I doubt Limbaugh's going to have much of an effect on ratings beyond an initial curiosity boost, but even if he does bump the numbers a bit, I think ESPN's going to find he's not worth the trouble and he'll be a one-year experiment.
Having said that, I should warn you that I thought "Survivor" would flop.
Finally, a couple of readers addressed my central thesis, that the sports industry takes its best customers, the die-hard fans, for granted and never caters to them because it knows they'll always be there. Maybe not, though, if these letters are an indication.
Those of us who love the sport and spend a large portion of our disposable income on procuring everything from choice seats to memorabilia will get our dose of football acumen somewhere else. Let's see how the TV execs like losing the hardcore fans' dollars so Miss Clara Horbush of Dingleville, Md., can say, "I just love seeing my man Rush do football." I doubt she'll be going to games or purchasing ESPN and NFL merchandise.
-- Kevin Townsend
Take me: I was a football fan, a baseball fan, a basketball fan, and became a hockey fan. I was rabid, I was hardcore. I loved the Redskins, even though I left town. I followed the Giants avidly. I lived through many painstaking Warriors seasons. I lived and breathed Sharks hockey. I watched ESPN every night. I had season tickets for hockey, and went to no fewer than 10 baseball games a year.
Now I watch the occasional hockey game on TV. That's it.
First, I bailed on football. The commentators pissed me off. The Redskins sucked for too long. The games all started to seem the same. Then it was basketball. The Warriors have been awful for a long, long time. Don Nelson dealing Chris Webber was the final straw for me. Bye. Then it was baseball. The strike of '94. They proved that they didn't care about me, and I proved it right back.
Now, there's only hockey. And frankly, given what I'm hearing about a full season or more being missed because of the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, I wouldn't be at all surprised if I bailed on hockey, too.
The powers that be may think that they hold the fans captive, but in a down economy, with a lot of people struggling to put together money for the electric bill, let alone a vacation with the kids, they better watch their backs. Because frankly, there's plenty more out there like me. You can only disgust even the "hardcore fan" so much.
-- Doug Moran
- - - - - - - - - - - -