So Rush Limbaugh is in negotiations to buy himself part of a professional football team and then run it. Splendid news for sports fans since watching a game is always more satisfying when you have a rooting interest. And it is difficult to manufacture a reason to prefer, say, the hired hands employed by the Kansas City Chiefs over those wearing the colors of . . . oh, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
There are, however, exceptions. Most of America needs no reason to root against the Washington Redskins. It comes effortlessly and naturally. The Redskins represent the Imperial City, after all, and have given themselves a political-correctness exemption on the team name. Sort of like the Charles Rangel approach to paying taxes. Lobbyists and lawyers and other public-sector fat cats make a big production out of being fans of the Redskins. Almost as big as the production they make over the quality of their boxes and how much they pay for them. The Redskins have been woeful on the field lately, which is some thin solace to citizens who resent the way the city of Washington lives high and wide during the recession as, meanwhile, the rest of the country gets the bill and the shaft. The Redskins serve as a kind of surrogate for Reid, Pelosi, Podesta, and the rest, and this sweetens each of their frequent losses.
A literal Limbaugh team, then, would provide immense emotional release for fans from coast to coast, and since the team he is negotiating to buy, the St. Louis Rams, holds the longest current losing streak in the NFL, there would be hot servings of schadenfreude for Rush-haters everywhere. For the first season or two, anyway. (Interestingly, the Rams’ streak moved into first place last Sunday when the Detroit Lions, who had gone winless in the 2008 season and for the first two games of this season, finally managed to beat . . . get ready . . . the Washington Redskins.)
One suspects that a Limbaugh-run team wouldn’t be a loser for long. Not because the man is a football genius, but precisely because he knows that he is not. He is a fan. A passionate fan, to be sure, but merely a fan nonetheless. And the kind of fan who respects the professionalism of the players and management. Limbaugh himself does something that millions of people think is easy. Lots of those people believe they could do it better than he does. But he knows how hard it is, and he probably understands that while every loud-mouthed fan in American thinks he could do a better job of running a professional football team than the people who actually do it, there is a deep art to putting together a winning team. It isn’t something you pick up in your spare time.
The owner of the Washington Redskins (to continue beating up on that hapless franchise) doesn’t get that. He plainly believes that because he made a lot of money at something, he has the touch it takes to build a great football team. So he hires on the basis of headlines and celebrity and finds himself with coaches who are out of their depth and players who are past their prime. When this becomes evident, he cleans house and starts over. And repeats the process until he has put together a team capable of losing to Detroit.
As an owner, Limbaugh would almost certainly hire a gifted general manager — a football guy — and give him his head. Then he would apply himself to doing those things that he knows and understands and that would bring excitement to the team and kindle enthusiasm among the fans. He would be the kind of owner who knows that the team needs to win, first, and that you hire people to make that happen. And, also, that big-time football is show business and media and buzz and controversy and all of the things for which Limbaugh has a kind of feral understanding. Given the millions of followers he has generated through his intuitive grasp of political culture, it would seem a pretty safe bet he will have the same sort of touch when it comes to generating interest in a football team.
Look for the Limbaugh-owned Rams to play hard-nosed, fundamental football. Like the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team of which Limbaugh is exceedingly fond. And imagine the fun when they line up against the Redskins.
The whole country will have a rooting interest. Limbaugh will make sure of it.