I missed Rush Limbaugh's ESPN performance Sunday, during which he said Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has been overrated by a media that wants to see a black quarterback do well. But I really didn't have to see it. I knew it was coming.
"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," the Associated Press reported Limbaugh saying. "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 defense carried this team."
After he made his absurd statement this summer that "football's a lot like life," I wrote, "There are surely more Limbaugh observations where that one came from."
So here you go.
I also wrote, in a column reviewing his Week 1 performance, that I don't think Limbaugh's a racist. Many readers took issue with that, providing evidence of his racially biased statements over the years. He's being pasted this week for racism over his McNabb comments, but again, I think what he says isn't motivated by racism, but by his political agenda, which is driven by hatred and fear not of black people but of what he perceives to be "the liberal media."
This monolithic, unthinking monster has its own agenda, Limbaugh believes, and would stop at nothing to advance it. (Note to chief operatives of the liberal media: I'm not getting the memos about the meetings!) The fact that there's no evidence that the mainstream media is biased toward blacks, and plenty of evidence to the contrary -- quick, name the last five black people you saw on TV who weren't athletes, entertainers or accused criminals -- means nothing to Limbaugh. He's got his story and he's sticking to it.
There's no shortage of talented black quarterbacks -- Mike Vick, anyone? Steve McNair? -- but apparently the monolithic blob of liberal mediadom has decided that Comrade McNabb must be exalted at any price.
So is McNabb overrated? In the sense that he's gotten some credit for winning games that should go to the Eagles defense, yes. And so is every other quarterback who ever played for a team with a good defense. And every quarterback who ever played for a team with a bad defense has been underrated by that metric. But there are other ways of measuring how good McNabb has been.
Sabermetrics, the application of the scientific method to analyzing sports statistics, hasn't made the advances in football that it has in baseball, but there are folks out there trying. The people at the Football Project publish an annual book called "Football Prospectus" that attempts to measure the effectiveness of players using statistical methods that account for all of the variables that complicate football analysis. The idea is to give a clearer picture of how good a player is than simple stats like yards gained, touchdowns scored or the NFL's bizarre "passer rating" formula do.
The book's best stat is "adjusted yards," which is aimed at rewarding a player for yards gained per attempt and touchdowns scored while penalizing him for yards lost and turnovers. It isn't perfect, since no statistic is, but it is colorblind. Without getting too deeply into what the actual number means, "Football Prospectus" credits McNabb with 1,253.5 adjusted yards in 2002. What's important to note is that that was good for 10th best in the league, just behind Drew Bledsoe and ahead of Tom Brady. The league leader was Rich Gannon with 1,916.5.
But hang on a second. McNabb missed six games with a broken ankle last year. (And famously played one game on it.) Prorated to a full season, his adjusted yards total would have been 1,976.8, best in the NFL, and more than 200 yards better than anyone not named Rich Gannon, the league MVP. Here's what the book's authors, Sean Lahman and Todd Greanier, card-carrying liberals, no doubt, had to say about McNabb:
"When McNabb was originally drafted Philly fans booed him, but they have sure had a change of heart. We figured McNabb for a big season last year and have no reason to think otherwise this season. Some say McNabb was having an MVP-caliber season before the ankle injury. We will never know what might have been, but he is our early pick for the MVP in 2003."
That hasn't played out. McNabb has gotten off to a bad start in 2003, and observers agree that his mechanics are off. He's never been the most accurate passer around, but the passing ability he does have combined with his mobility and leadership make him one of the top quarterbacks in the game when he's right. Fans in Philadelphia, who are not part of the liberal media, and who are famous for booing Santa Claus, know that.
But you didn't need me to tell you that McNabb can play. You could have guessed it as soon as Rush Limbaugh said he was a creation of the liberal media.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
More on those Fox announcers [PERMALINK]
Several readers wrote in Wednesday to comment on the awfulness of the Fox announcing team of Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons. Many pointed out a Lyons inanity from Game 1 of the Cubs-Braves series that I neglected to mention, his praise of Kerry Wood's base running after the Chicago pitcher scored from second on a bloop double to center.
"Lyons raved about his base-running instincts, how he didn't hesitate, etc.," wrote Jim Patton in a representative letter. "Hey, there were TWO OUTS!!!!!! Every Little Leaguer knows you take off on any ball that's hit with two outs."
"How did he know it was going to fall in?!" wrote Jeff Alexander. "What an amazing sense of the field! Wood is unbelievable! (Which he is, but not for base running.) 'Look at the scoreboard, jackasses,' I wanted to shout at the screen."
In his playing days Lyons once pulled down his pants, right there on the infield, to dust himself off after a slide, having forgotten that about 15,000 people were watching him from the stands. It's nice to know that kind of sharp thinking doesn't end at retirement.
- - - - - - - - - - - -