It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Dave Checketts wants to buy the St. Louis Rams and needed investors for his group. And the famous broadcaster Rush Limbaugh had plenty of money to toss in. He also had Missouri roots. So what could possibly go wrong with this?
Well, just about everything.
And that’s why Checketts cut Limbaugh loose as a potential partner Wednesday.
Checketts never saw it coming, this fierce firefight that erupted as soon as Limbaugh’s role became known. Checketts is normally a smooth operator with keen instincts. He can navigate any terrain and avoid the traps. But this time, Checketts walked right into a battle zone. He landed in the middle of the nasty political-culture war that’s raging out of control in America.
Limbaugh is a polarizing figure, and there is no way to get around that. You mention his name, and people begin choosing sides, drawing boundaries and selecting their weapon of choice.
I’ve got nothing against Limbaugh personally. And that’s because I don’t take politics personally. Politics are a gladiator sport, a full-contact sport, and it’s a rough arena. Limbaugh hits hard, but he’s no more vicious than those who attack him from the opposite extreme of the political spectrum. I tend to tune it all out.
Here’s what I’m in favor of: seeing the Rams revived. And I’m in favor of the Rams remaining in St. Louis for the long term. As chairman of the Blues, Checketts established credibility by revitalizing our forlorn hockey franchise. Could Checketts do the same for the Rams? I’d like his chances because he has been an effective leader. And if Checketts thought Limbaugh could help transform and preserve the franchise in a positive way, then Rush was not my enemy.
In the last two days, the e-mails and phone messages piled up, all asking the same question: Why haven’t you jumped into the Limbaugh fray?
Easy answer: Limbaugh was never going to be invited to join this private NFL club, anyway. It simply was not going to happen. So why get worked up about it?
You should have gotten the message earlier this week, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell essentially put the kibosh on the Limbaugh bid by declaring: “We’re all held to a high standard here, and divisive comments are not what the NFL’s all about. I would not want to see those kind of comments from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL, no. Absolutely not.”
At that point Rush was done. The NFL standards sure are interesting, eh?
Let’s hope there are no “divisive” comments when “responsible” parties among NFL owners and the players’ association throw down in what will probably be a brutally tough negotiation for a new labor agreement. Let’s see if Goodell and the owners use a “divisive” tactic and lock out the players following the 2010 season.
Of course, the NFL employs an assortment of players who have run afoul of the law, or who have violated the league’s performance-enhancing drug policies. And you have the venerated coach, Bill Belichick, who was caught cheating in his zeal to win games.
Checketts is a businessman, too. That’s why, when facing a heavy blitz of political correctness, Checketts chose to take the safe way out.
He punted Limbaugh.