Monday, October 26, 2009

Limbaugh’s Bid on the Rams: Pundits Analysis Wrong Again

Limbaugh’s Bid on the Rams: Pundits Analysis Wrong Again

By Evan Weiner

October 20, 2009

7:00 PM (ADT)

(Halifax, Nova Scotia) – Rush Limbaugh is not going to be part of any group that wants to buy the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams. That is a real fact. But the post mortem analysis of the Limbaugh story after he was asked to withdraw from Dave Checketts group’s bid on the franchise from the pundit wing of American media is a bit baffling.

Or is it?

Limbaugh, the ever ready to sprout out utterances conservative philosopher, blamed a group of detractors that included the usual Limbaugh cast of characters including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and President Barack Obama as part of some Limbaugh blather that that his rejection of as a money man in an NFL franchise bid is part of a menacing Obama future that is dark and bleak.

Limbaugh, the businessman, knows that Obama’s National Football League is not much different than Richard Nixon’s NFL, Gerald Ford’s NFL, Jimmy Carter’s NFL, Ronald Reagan’s NFL, George H. W. Bush’s NFL, Bill Clinton’s NFL and George W. Bush’s NFL. The NFL of today was created in 1961 through the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 that was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy which allowed the 14 partners (owners) of the NFL to sell their TV shows as one entity to a TV network and gave NFL owners protection from United States antitrust statues and use the 14 entities as one which meant they could make more money than selling their games piecemeal or ad hock TV networks.

Limbaugh, the businessman, also knows that it was President Lyndon B. Johnson in October 1966 who approved the American Football League-National Football League merger which created a major monopoly (as NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle confirmed as he was on the stand in the NFL-United States Football League antitrust court case in 1986) that gave NFL and AFL owners financial stability as one 24 team entity and led to the creation of the Super Bowl.

Two liberals, Kennedy and Johnson, created today’s moneymaking NFL, a private club that Limbaugh wanted to join.

Limbaugh also has to know that his hero, Ronald Reagan, as the President of the United States signed two bills, the 1984 Cable TV Act and the 1986 Tax Act, that helped the owners get money from cable TV and changed how municipalities funded stadium construction which also aided owners pockets.

Facts never get in the pundits (whether they are from the left or right) way of screaming and yelling, so with that here is a sports primer for such experts on everything like Cal Thomas, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, all of who were recently on FOX displaying their knowledge of how the NFL should work in their world.

For Hannity, who feels bad that Rush probably can never enjoy the NFL again in the same way he used to prior to being dropped as a potential Rams owner; for Coulter who somehow parlayed Rush’s failure into how NFL players probably have more in common with Rush because they are Christians, I am not exactly sure what that has to do with anything, but the players in the Coulter world of absolute punditry correctness could break bread with Rush so much more than his gang of detractors, the Jacksons, Sharptons, the National Football League Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and Obama. For good political measure, the blonde carnival barker threw in that the liberal George Soros was also trying to buy into the Rams, which was unverified. And she added for good measure that Soros was a Jewish Nazi sympathizer in Hungary during World War II as a teenager. It was the usual Coulter stuff that is light on accuracy but filled with raw red meat for her fans who fill her pockets with cash by buying her books and listening to her rants. Her fans aren’t the only ones who listen; journalists seem to like her as they seem to promote her endlessly. And for Thomas who is just a blank on the business dealings of football.

As a public service to both sides of the cable TV news network lighter than air discussions which more than not resemble third graders yelling at each other at a school lunchroom table although the third graders probably have more facts at their disposal, here is a sports owners guide for membership.

Have money and keep a low profile. Don’t do anything that might upset them.

Not everyone who wants to buy a sports team gets one. Edward Gaylord, who owned the Daily Oklahoman from 1974 until his death in 2003, twice failed to buy the Texas Rangers baseball team. Gaylord, who was a staunch conservative and The Oklahoman reflected that view, was turned down by the Lords of Baseball in the 1980s because Major League Baseball owners didn’t want Gaylord to turn the Rangers into a national team through his Dallas Cable TV superstation and have the Rangers on a daily basis on national cable TV with the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves. The owners felt another “national” team would further diminish national television revenues. The Rangers franchise ended up with a group that included George W. Bush in 1989.

Gaylord’s political ideology had nothing to do with being turned down. The baseball fraternity was threatened by Gaylord’s technology. The National Basketball Association did not want the Minnesota Timberwolves to leave Minneapolis in 1994 and blocked the sale of the team to a group that was headed by the boxing promoter Bob Arum. Arum planned to move the team to New Orleans, the NBA wanted to stay in the bigger Twin-Cities market. Blackberry partner Jim Balsillie needs to be rehabilitated before he tries a fourth time to purchase a National Hockey League team. Balsillie tried to make demands of NHL owners when he reached an agreement o but Pittsburgh in 2006 and not play nice with Commissioner Gary Bettman and keep the franchise in western Pennsylvania, did the same thing in 2007 when he bought the Nashville Predators and was found unsuitable as an owner this spring/summer when he wanted to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.

Those are just three examples. The oilman Marvin Davis had the right stuff to own a Major League Baseball team in 1977 but the Barons of Baseball said no when Davis tried to buy the Oakland A’s franchise and move the team to Denver.

The NFL is a private club, 31 owners plus the public ownership in Green Bay, that picks and chooses club members. One of those members is Alex Spanos who owns the San Diego Chargers and this is going to cause some problems for the carnival barker crowd.

Spanos probably has far more in common with the usual daily fare that Limbaugh fills the public airwaves with 15 hours a week. At least Spanos has a real track record of being politically active. He was number 2 on the list of donations to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and spoke at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. In 2004, Spanos was a heavy contributor to the 527 Swift Boat attack ads against the Democrat John Kerry in his bid for the Presidency. At the same time, former President George H. W. Bush accompanied Spanos to Athens, Greece as where they served as the official American representatives at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Spanos should be a hero to the Limbaugh/Hannity/Coulter/Thomas, radio talk show and Roger Ailes’ FOX crowd but Spanos knows there is far more to life than the daily foolishness that is paraded on MSNBC, CNN, FOX, talk radio from Air America or talk radio from Clear Channel (and the fictional) Excellence in Broadcasting network.

Spanos hired Mark Fabiani to help him get a new football stadium and real estate development project in the San Diego area. Fabiani has the credentials to get things done although Spanos might be considered a polar opposite. Fabiani was the Deputy Campaign Manager for Communications and Strategy at Gore for President in 2000 and was the Special Counsel to the President, the Executive Office of the President, the White House, Washington, D. C. between 1994 and 1996.

Fabiani served President Bill Clinton’s White House, Clinton, the mortal enemy of Limbaugh, Hannity, Thomas, Coulter, Ailes, and the rest of the conservative barkers.

The entire game of talk radio and cable news in the United States is shrill whether it is Keith Olbermann or Bill O’Reilly. There is a disingenuous nature to the beast, so much so that one FOX host who suffers from multiple sclerosis and is a financial supporter of a stem cell research center in New York City but real life and the strange life of cable TV news and talk radio never intersect and that host cannot give a public pitch for funding research at the facility and the people who helped put together the center would rather not talk about financial contributions from FOX News Channel personnel including some of the higher ups at FOX but take research money. If it became public, that would ruin the illusion. Cable TV and talk radio show punditry is more Wizard of Oz that academic debate and opening the curtain is the last thing that punditry class wants to do.

The strange disconnect extends into what is considered serious Sunday morning American TV news and interview programs. The Conservative George Will is a prime example of not being all that he appears to be. The free market proponent isn’t exactly a hard-core free market advocate. Will, who was on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Padres and the Baltimore Orioles, in 2000 as a member of a blue ribbon committee studying the industry said that he didn’t believe free market principles should be applied to baseball. Will, who is as stuffy in real life as he is on TV, is a hypocrite and this is typical of what passes as real journalism in America.

I should know, I asked Will about his 2000 stance and he declined to opine on the free market advocate who stifled his principles for baseball.

Olbermann, Chris Mathews, the late Tim Russert, Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, Thomas, Joe Scarborough, Larry King, Don Imus, Anderson Cooper, Campbell Brown, Katie Couric, Brian Williams, Charles Gibson, Bill O’Reilly, George Stephanopolous, Will, Chris Wallace, David Gregory, Alan Colmes and the rest of the barkers or political operators will never be confused with the people who delivered daily commentaries on the old 1970s CBS Radio Spectrum series which included Murray Kempton, M. Stanton Evans, Jeffrey St. John, Stewart Alsop, Jon K. Jessup and Nicholas Von Hoffman. Nor would any of today’s crowd be confused with the legacy of the American conservative William Buckley. Buckley and Kempton were polar opposites politically but were best friends because of their journalistic integrity something that is clearly lacking in American media. Neither Buckley nor Kempton were abrasive personalities and both were meticulous. The screaming hyenas of today are cherished by radio talk programmers and cable TV network executives as they search for angry listeners and viewers who want the red raw meat and vile instead of intellectual give and take.

Olbermann, who is an intelligent guy with a load of luggage in his background, would never have worked for CBS Chairman William Paley’s news department in the 1960s because of his sports background. Paley would not allow Art Linkletter to become a correspondent on “60 Minutes” because of his game show host background.

The carnival barkers have moved on from the Limbaugh debate and are on some other silly trail looking for viewers and listeners who genuflect at their every word. The barkers on a daily basis vent their spleens not because of ideological stances but the chance to scream for money on issues that appeal to a narrow segment of society.

Limbaugh won’t be joining the NFL anytime soon, but it is wrong for the Coulter crowd to blame their mortal enemies, the Jackson-Sharpton wing of the food fight club. The NFL owners like to keep low social profiles and not cause a ruckus and that is what eliminated Limbaugh from the Checketts group, not the liberals.

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