Limbaugh's words are embarrassing

October 04, 2003|By GREGORY KANE

THIS HAS been a bad week for me, maybe the worst since David Ruffin left the Temptations.

First I learned that director Jonathan Demme plans to film a remake of The Manchurian Candidate. Denzel Washington will be the star. I have nothing against either Demme or Denzel, but I will if they do this remake. The first version, with Frank Sinatra, should stand on its own fine merits.

Then, of course, there's my old pal Rush Limbaugh.

"I'm used to being embarrassed," I find myself telling people at times, "I'm a black conservative."

Who causes such embarrassment? Let me count the culprits.

Let's see, there was Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas three years ago, sitting on the bench during the hearings about Florida's voting recount in the presidential election. The most significant Supreme Court case to come along in decades, and Thomas pulled a Harpo Marx act. He uttered not one word. His explanation of why he didn't - that his Southern dialect made him shy - made things worse, not better.

Then there's my good buddy Trent Lott, the senator from Mississippi who expressed remorse that the segregationist campaign of presidential candidate Strom Thurmond didn't prevail in 1948. Enough said.

Now along comes Mr. Limbaugh, conservative talk radio show host par excellence who, this past Sunday, sought to demonstrate his professional football expertise. He started off by mentioning that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated. Fair enough. There are lots of overrated - and underrated - players in the National Football League. The editors at Sports Illustrated do a feature on such players every season, but they manage to keep race out of the mix.

Not Limbaugh.

After giving his views on McNabb's abilities, Limbaugh proceeded to say "the media" (he meant "liberal media") were deliberately overrating McNabb because they want to see a black quarterback succeed.

Earth to Rush: Black quarterbacks have already succeeded. Ever hear of Doug Williams in Super Bowl XXII? Or Steve McNair leading the Tennessee Titans into Super Bowl XXXIV, where they came within inches of winning?

Limbaugh may not have noticed (or maybe he has), but there are a number of black quarterbacks in the NFL now. The Minnesota Vikings have Dante Culpepper. The Titans still have McNair and a 3-1 record this season, Mr. Limbaugh, thank you very much. The Atlanta Falcons made the playoffs with Michael Vick at quarterback last year and, so far this year, seem rudderless without him - he's out with a broken leg.

To get perhaps an alternate view of Limbaugh as sportscaster, I ventured Thursday night to the downtown venue named for the cable network that had the stupidity to hire him: the ESPN Zone. There I found James Wynn nursing a beer as he watched the New York Yankees/Minnesota Twins playoff game on one of several television sets over the bar.

"I really hope the Yankees lose," Wynn said.

I asked him about Limbaugh - who on Wednesday resigned from his job as analyst for ESPN's Sunday night pre-game show - and his remarks about McNabb.

"He added nothing to the show," Wynn said. "He said nothing about scores or statistics. If you're on a sports show, you're supposed to know your stuff. Limbaugh should have told McNabb to his face what he thought of him, not from behind a microphone."

Wynn must have the prescience of a Cassandra. He seemed to anticipate the defense of Limbaugh's dittohead radio listeners - "Hey, other people do it, too" - and quickly answered the question before it was even asked.

"I really believe they need to stop it on both ends," Wynn said. "I've seen black announcers do the same thing."

Wynn referred to basketball star-turned-commentator Charles Barkley, who has occasionally gratuitously referred to a player's race.

And remember Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker's descanting on why blacks and Hispanics make better baseball players than whites? According to Baker, blacks and Hispanics work better in the heat. His remark was just as offensive as Limbaugh's, and just as stupid.

Dusty, stick to managing baseball and leave any scientific matters about racial or ethnic differences to scientists. Rush, stick to bashing the Clintons and liberals on talk radio. That's what you do best. Your comments about McNabb and the great liberal media conspiracy to overrate black quarterbacks - who include McNair, Culpepper and Vick - are not supported by facts.

Several fans have already observed that McNabb was the third-leading NFC passer last year and the seventh-rated quarterback overall. The only question Limbaugh has raised is the one about himself:

Is he uncomfortable with the growing number of black quarterbacks in the NFL?

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