« Soc 101 | Gene Expression Front Page | WARRIOR QUEEN »
October 01, 2003

Rush, Donovan & black quarterbacks

Rush Limbaugh has resigned from NFL Countdown. I haven't watched Countdown much since the end of college and frankly my following of the NFL has been pretty cursory the past few years. I think Rush was probably pretty stupid not to realize that this would blow up in his face. But the thing is...the issue of black quarterbacks is still around after all these years. I remember a few years back when ESPN had a sit down talk with Dante, Donovan and Akili about the issue of black quarterbacks. I really don't see what the big deal is, almost a third of the starting quarterbacks are black, and Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham were standouts for much of the 1990s. Hell, there was open talk that Bill Cowher gave Kordell Stewart more chances to redeem himself because he was black.

As for Rush's assertion about the Eagles-I haven't followed to the team to comment with any great authority, but I remember a few years back with Donovan seemed to take the team on his back and carry them. Rush was wrong on the facts from where I stand (but all sports commentary is bullshit remember)-but I think it's pretty asinine to use the race issue against him when there are plenty of laudatory stories about black quarterbacks breaking the barrier out in the media to make you wonder why they pay attention to someone. It's not like sports commentators aren't allowed to be offensive assholes-I remember last year when Tony Kornheiser basically accused Curt Schilling of being an anti-semitic German on his show (and went on about how funny his last name was). Remember, it's a bunch of millionaires throwing balls around all day, let's get some perspective....

Update: Check out The Yglesias Take. I disagree...but whatever....

Update II: The Countdown crew comments.

Update III: New Sailer column on the Rush & McNabb controversy-a must read!

Posted by razib at 11:36 PM

What little knowledge of American football I have does not allow me to ascertain the veracity of the specifics Rush's statement, but the idea that the popular media would portray some non-majoirty race in a less-than-accurate fashion, well, I am shocked. I thought the media was always accurate and non-biased when it came to presenting anything that had to do with race. I am sure Rush was wrong and the media portrays everyone, no matter what their race, as accuratly as possilbe, and never wants to give a false impression. In fact, we recently had a speaker come to campus who assured us that there was no liberal bias at all in the media, and that its real problems are soely due to rich conservatives. Consequently, I am 100% sure the media's portrayl of Rush here is totally true and looks nothing like yeller journalism.

Posted by: Alex B. at October 2, 2003 06:42 AM

What the hell is up with these networks hiring characters like Savage and Limbaugh and than acting shocked and outraged when they say savage-y and limbaugh-y things??

I mean what the fuck is next? Are they going to hire Ann Coulter to co-host with Regis, and then fire her after she calls him a commy?

"Well, how were we supposed to know??"

Posted by: Jason M. at October 2, 2003 08:18 AM

Jason: Coulter and Savage use overgeneralizations out of ignorance and zealousness. Limbaugh's statement about McNabb was specific and a reasonable, nonmalicious assertion. To excuse the public reaction by simply lumping Limbaugh with Coulture and Savage, implying he made similarly incorrect generalizations out of malice, makes no sense.

The hypothesis: a black quarterback has been given the benefit of the doubt by a well-meaning press corp, because they would like to encourage greater minority representation in leadership positions.

The data: his qb rating puts him at 27 this year, down from 8 last year. His replacement last year (the well-regarded AJ Feeley) went 5-1 in his absence. He is the *highest* paid player in the league, and it is rare to see people slamming him until this year.

The reaction: moral outrage.

It's clearly hypocritical. Supporting Communism, for example, is considered 'the essence of what it means to be patriotic American' by the loud left, but arguing about race in any way not supportive of the standard dogma is considered blasphemy.

Posted by: eric f at October 2, 2003 08:56 AM

Eric, I wasn't commenting on the content of Limbaugh's statement. I was commenting on the absurdity of hiring an established personality and then having the nerve to get outraged when they act like themselves.

If you don't want off-color remarks don't hire Howard Stern to host your show. If you don't want political divisive remarks, don't hire Limbaugh.

The calculus involves such basic common sense, that I'm not sure how people with such huge money investments could keep missing it.

Posted by: Jason M. at October 2, 2003 09:39 AM

Ok now to comment on the comment:

Its weird that this is being cast as a racist offense, or a comment against blacks, when what was (obviously) being criticized was Rush's usual enemy, the "liberal media". That makes this so goddam silly. I hope they hire Krugman next for this position and fire him when he *gasp* makes some anti-bush comment.

On a related note I for one never thought Eminem was all that interesting compared to clearly superior and underrated acts like Jurrasic 5. Maybe I'm wrong but I suppose the whole "white rapper" thing was being sold as a profit-making novelty. Race is sometimes sold to us as a product by "right-wing" corporations.

There, I basically just made the same comment as Limbaugh with an ideological inversion of the generalizations.

Posted by: Jason M. at October 2, 2003 12:06 PM

Limbaugh is an egotistical boob. I don't listen to his show because all he ever does as far as I can tell is talk about how smart he is and I get tired of it after about 3-5 minutes. He made a fool of himself. The type of comment he made is standard fodder on his radio show but not on national Sports TV broadcasts where the networks are trying to attract a multi-racial audience. Apparently he didn't think about the difference.

Now his own mouth has created a firestorm in the very media he despises and they have managed to run him off. That's actually quite funny I think. A battle of midgets. Who's the dumbo now Rush?

Posted by: Katy at October 2, 2003 12:08 PM

"Apparently he didn't think about the difference."

Katy this is bullshit. ESPN hired Rush-fucking-Limbaugh.

If Limbaugh's a tad bit confused after all this, I don't blame him.

Posted by: Jason M. at October 2, 2003 12:18 PM

Jason, the point is that ESPN got exactly what it wanted and expected. Rush was hired to bring up ratings. He did that. Last Sunday's ratings were the highest ever for that show. (I'll post the link later)
A lot of people have been tuning in just to see when he would say something "Limbaugh-y." Conservatives have been waiting for their view and biases to be voiced by Rush in a new forum. Liberals have been unable to turn away from this predictable train wreck, they knew it was just a matter of time.

ESPN's executives aren't stupid or surprised. This was a well planned marketing scheme. And they got all the free publicity they could ever ask for with this episode.

Posted by: Liberal Lurker at October 2, 2003 12:45 PM

i don't know if sports punditry is much about stock prediction in terms of having a real theoretical model. rush is a big Steelers fan and probably had a big enough data set to seem knowledgeable, so i don't think his "lack of expertise" should be held against him....

Posted by: razib at October 2, 2003 01:16 PM

ESPN's executives aren't stupid or surprised. This was a well planned marketing scheme.

Fixed match theory, eh? Probably the only one that makes sense.

But, I dunno . . . seems like they would have kept those higher ratings if they kept him on board.* I'm pretty confused by the whole situation.

*I know he wasn't fired, he resigned. I usually interpet that as a chance to duck the ignomy of imminent termination.

Posted by: Jason M at October 2, 2003 01:39 PM

The issue is a ubiquitous one for affirmative action. If you favor certain historically underrepresented groups, either through quotas or a preference for 'diversity' (which usually just means african americans in the US), the implication is that you are giving these groups the benefit of the doubt you don't give to others. Mentioning this in any specific case, however, is considered racist.

The presumption is the axiom of equality, that current underrepresentation is merely the result of discrimination, and so any preference merely rectifies a bias as opposed to introducing one.

Posted by: eric f at October 2, 2003 02:41 PM

cheerleading McNabb because he's black

godless, as i noted, they tend to ignore that 1/3 of today's NFL quarterbacks are black, and pretend like there is a deficit. you gotz to fill up the slots on SPORTCENTER 4 times a day.

Posted by: razib at October 2, 2003 03:04 PM

I think the issue is that there has yet to be a "superstar" black QB on the order of Joe Montana, and when you combine this with the fact that QB is (rightly or wrongly) considered to be the position that requires the most intelligence, you can see where the sensitivity would come from: the same old elephant that's in every room when race is brought up...

Posted by: jimbo at October 2, 2003 04:51 PM

joe montana was a third round draft pick who didn't have one stand-out athletic skill, rather his accuracy, touch and mobility were crucial. steve young could run like a half-back, while dan marino has an incredible release time, but neither were as great as montana.

Posted by: razib at October 2, 2003 04:57 PM

I saw on the news that Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, and Al Sharpton all called for him to be fired (I assume this was before his resignation). I'm sure these people would consider themselves to be pro-free speeech, but it's not acceptable to tolerate unpopular views on racial issues.

It took me only about 20 seconds to google up a relavent quote...

"...when the Dixie Chicks were kicked off the air for disagreeing with the President of the United States over the Iraq invasion, I suddenly realized that this was a corporation who was censoring our ability to get information on our airwaves." -- Howard Dean.

I would like to hear from Dean exactly how his call for Rush's termination is so different from the actions of the "evil" ClearChannel (or the "evil" anti-DixieChicks, "anti-free speech", "right wing media").

Posted by: Bill T at October 2, 2003 04:59 PM

Not only does Allen Barra agree with Limbaugh over on Slate, he's just as frustrated as I am trying to parse this situation:

"I mean, if they didn't hire Rush Limbaugh to say things like this, what they did they hire him for? To talk about the prevent defense?"

I don't follow sports too closely or enthusiastically, but I remember reading an article in Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago or so talking about what a big issue this "black quarterback" thing is*. (If I remember correctly, it strongly implied that it was an issue b/c it had implications for the IQ debate)

Is that issue all resolved now or something?

*it might have been by Entine.

Posted by: Jason M. at October 2, 2003 05:01 PM

I think the issue of IQ and the need for it at the QB position is WAY overblown. Does the QB need to be smarter than a lineman? Yeah maybe, but what level of intelligence is needed to succeed at this position? I doubt that the intelligence requirement is so high that it is a limiting factor.

My *guess* is that few QBs would be much more than 1 standard deviation above the norm in IQ. This is not that high of a bar. I am sure there are plenty of athletes - black, white, and other that can meet this requirement.

Much more important (aside from the physical requirements) is the ability to think quickly. I don't know of any studies on IQ in sports, but I know several college level athletes and coaches that are extremely quick thinking, but not terribly brilliant from an academic sense. Actually most come off as oafs in academic settings.

Posted by: Liberal Lurker at October 2, 2003 10:11 PM

A National Football League source with access to Wonderlic Personnel Test scores for virtually every player in the league for 1997 disclosed the following position-by-position average scores on the 50-question, 12-minute intelligence exam. The NFL average is 19.

Position All starters All players
Wide receivers 15 20
Tight ends 23 20
Tackles 24 20
Guards 24 22
Centers 25 22
Quarterbacks 25 25
Fullbacks 20 15
Halfbacks 18 15
Defensive linemen 20 15
Linebackers 20 20
Cornerbacks 19 15
Safeties 25 20
Kickers N/A N/A

Posted by: Remedy at October 3, 2003 01:47 PM

Rush's comment is clearly aimed at the media, and not at Donovan McNabb. But how about his central thesis - that the kid glove treatment is due to McNabb being black? Not much evidence for it - McNabb led his team to two consecutive conference finals. His season so far this year has not lived up to that level of play, but when compared to his overall career, this may very well be a blip. So, it might be cause the sportswriters feel he is just in a rut, or teams have adjusted to his style of play. Compare this to the thrashing that Kordell Stewart is receiving in the Chicago media. The woeful 0-3 Bears are being shown absolutely no mercy by either the Tribune or the Sun-Times.
So in this particular case, it does not seem that the NFL "go soft on the brothers" policy is working.

It's one of the less-examined areas of journalism, but sportwriters are notorious for letting their personal biases seep into their reporting. While Mickey Mantle's problems with drinking were well known in the press box, it never made the press, cause Mantle knew how to woo the press. Same with Michael Jordan - his fondness for high stakes gambling and women other than his wife were know, ut because all the writers simply liked him, they did not want to print it. Charles Barkley, who held sports writers in contempt, got no such kid-glove treatment. Maybe this whole thing could have been avoided if McNabb bought Rush a beer.

Posted by: KXB at October 3, 2003 02:38 PM


This is the link you are looking for:


For what it's worth, I used participate in psych. experiments during college for extra cash and they said that John Elway was pretty wicked smart.

I've been lurking on gnxp for quite some time and have found it both infuriating and enlightening. You must be on to something.


Posted by: Remedy at October 4, 2003 12:20 AM