Limbaugh Victim of His Own Entertainment
Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, reportedly, will be removed from a group of potential investors seeking to purchase the NFL’s St. Louis Rams according to ESPN.
Naturally, when it concerns a personality archetype the caliber of Rush Limbaugh, you have a starkly divided community on the issue. Even more predictably is the type of response from each side. Evidence lies in the fact that Rush Limbaugh made the trending topic list on Twitter when the story broke.
On the con Limbaugh side, you have the “racist” accusation, and in the pro Limbaugh camp, you have the “thief, thief” tactic in play. Both parties miss the mark in their response as to why Limbaugh will not be a future NFL owner. The true reason behind Limbaugh’s failed attempt at becoming one of the NFL’s elite is that he is a victim of his own success.
Rush Limbaugh does not possess any particular extraordinary acumen for radio. His voice doesn’t resonate with melodic tones, nor is he an exceptional thinker who delivers fluid, logical streams of thought. Limbaugh’s rise to fame in radio can almost entirely be attributed to his ability to recognize another radio talk show hosts methods and transpose it into the political domain.
In 1984, Howard Stern rose to national prominence on the heels of, what is popularly termed, “shock radio”. Prior to Stern, radio was in a free fall in terms of ratings. He singlehandedly resurrected radio from the clutches of irrelevance. Four years later, Rush Limbaugh catapulted to fame with the syndication of his radio show. The two radio hosts success hinges on one essential theme – creating divisive and controversial content.
Most assuredly, Limbaugh took notice of Stern’s radio style and, wisely, applied it to political radio commentary. Rush followed in the footsteps of Howard and an innumerable number of radio talk show hosts followed in the footsteps of those two. You cannot listen to a talk radio show now, either FM or AM, that is not meant to shock its listeners. It is the recipe for radio success.
One of the characteristics of being a “shock jock” is that you are, on one hand, preaching to a crowd that finds your content insatiably interesting, or on the other hand, a group of people who would label what you’re saying on air as disgustingly putrid. You either think Stern is hilarious or vile, and your opinion of Limbaugh is either laudable or laughable.
To go further, an intrinsic consequence in discussing highly controversial subjects is that it always draws a strong, vital reaction from both sides. There exists a predisposed connection between the listener and the subject at hand – one feels as if he has a vested interest in it, just as the same listener would feel personally offended and/or flattered if something positive and/or negative is said about that person’s mother.
Regardless of which side of the fence you might stand, both sides will tune in to listen to the “shock jock”. Those in support listen to feel vindicated in their beliefs. Those who find it offensive tune in to hold a personal debate with their radio. You create an intense following, but also forge an equally focused opposition. I have little doubt that if you could get Limbaugh in a room by himself and confront him on some of the controversial things he has done on the radio, he would simply respond with – “I’m an entertainer.”
Rush Limbaugh’s immense success as an entertainer is precisely the reason why his bid to become an NFL owner has failed. Being a “shock jock” works in the realm of entertainment. It, however, becomes a liability in the business world. Limbaugh’s presence in the NFL risks lost ticket sales, employee participation, and ad revenue.
Dave Checkett’s, the lead in the group of investors that Limbaugh was part of in seeking ownership of the Rams, did not cave because there was a rising uproar by fans or the media. It was the reservations and opposition from the equally wealthy business owners in the NFL who saw Limbaugh as a potential threat to expanding revenue growth in the league. I would assume that Limbaugh supporters and Limbaugh himself would respect this point – the free market in action. The consumer determines the value of your product based on the potential price they are willing to pay for said product, and the producer adjusts his business plan based on projected consumer demand.
Colts owner Jim Irsay did not voice his concerns over Limbaugh because of his “racist comments” per se. Irsay is interested in the bottom line, in the revenue the NFL generates. Anything that would potentially damage those increasingly growing dollars is bad for business. Irsay, Checketts, and the 30 other NFL owners do not care whether Limbaugh disparaged McNabb’s popularity as a quarterback. Irsay is the man who alienated an entire city when he moved the team from Baltimore to Indianapolis.
Here is where Limbaugh opposition go astray in cheering the removal of Rush in the Rams investor group. It’s moot if the man is racist or not. If, for some strange reason, small kittens were considered a national terror and Limbaugh came out as a strong supporter of kittens, he would inevitably create a large group in opposition to him. The content of the message isn’t important, but the amplitude in consequential division that message produces is the essential element.
Checketts and the NFL can find any number of potential investors equal in wealth to Limbaugh without the risk. Quite simply, Limbaugh is a poor business decision for the NFL. I would even go so far as to say that the views on race by owners is a non-factor.
Consider that the NFL instituted a rule requiring all owners to interview at least one minority candidate for the position of head coach. This is a tacit acknowledgement on the part of the NFL that there exists racism among NFL ownership. It doesn’t matter if Limbaugh intrinsically racist or not. It’s the fact that he has built his career on making controversial statements which anger and upset a segment of the NFL consumer base and, more importantly, a large portion of the NFL players.
The NFL has been on an ever expanding curve in growth over the last decade. Ownership and league management have taken calculated and measured steps to reach the level of popularity the NFL enjoys. One of those areas of focus has been public relations. While Limbaugh ultimately, in the operational success of the NFL, matters little, the impact in public relations cannot be overstated.
Additionally, consider the NFL owners are set to void the collective bargaining agreement leading to a non CBA season in 2011. NFL ownership desperately wants to reach a contract with the NFL Players Association that gives the owners a larger portion of revenue. They are not about to insert an owner who has made comments, racist or not, which have knowingly caused the Player’s Association discomfort. You don’t poke the bear sleeping in the cave when you want to get the honey pot hidden behind him.
This leads to the same misnomer the pro-Limbaugh supporters have been making in posing Rush as a martyr. I stumbled across an article while reading Twitter which illustrates the same misguided thinking that racism is the central theme.
The author rambles through several inane points in defense of Limbaugh. Ignore the predictable “left wing media conspiracy” defense – the author immediately throws that overused talking point into the fray under the pretense that sports reporters are dumb(just as Limbaugh is an entertainer, so is ESPN and sports reporters in general. Their job is to produce, at the very least, readable writeup, and at best, an engaging piece. If, as the author explains the simplicity of football, every NFL report consists of “player ran, player caught football, player ran past defender, player scored touchdown” they would be unemployed. Athletes are generally not in the business of linguistic entertainment. It’s the sports reporters job to add a layer of sophistication to make player interesting for post game consumption).
The point the author misses on several of his points is that this was not a decision based on media or fan perception of Limbaugh’s racism, existent or not. This was not a political influenced decision. This was a business decision to exclude Rush from NFL ownership. Again, Limbaugh is a liability as an investor simply because of his own brand.
Just as those who decry Limbaugh for his racism and cheer his downfall here, his defenders ardently attempt to defend him as not being a racist, and both camps patently ignore that this was a free market decision. A choice made by businessmen on how Limbaugh would potentially affect their future business. ESPN did not remove Limbaugh from the investment group, nor did Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. The key players, the only real players in this were Roger Goodell, Dave Checketts, and 30 other NFL owners who undoubtedly expressed internal concern.
It’s ironic that conservatives, and Limbaugh himself, conveniently ignore the fact that this was the free market in action – businessmen making business decisions. Instead choosing to use the “thief, thief”, martyr, and political defense. These are, in order listed, the act of pointing the finger at your accuser and accusing him of the very same crime, depicting oneself as a victim of a victimless’s event, and turning a non-political issue into a political one for the purpose of rallying support where one would otherwise not find. it.
While liberals jump from their rooftops claiming a political victory and conservatives cry over the unfair treatment directed towards them, what we have is Rush Limbaugh being a victim of his own career and the principles on which he built his success. The conscious decision to not just be another radio political commentator trapped in anonymity through controversial commentary, fractures his appeal across the total consumer base and, hence, limits his future potential investment opportunities.
Just as Limbaugh is free to make any comment he wishes, so to are property owners free to include or exclude individuals from their business operations. Rush Limbaugh was judged by other businessmen to be a risk to their future business. That is their right as property owners. It is not Limbaugh’s right to gain entry into a specific private business investment. He is free to invest his money into creating his own football league if he so chooses. It’s the free market Rush. Embrace it.