So last Sunday I was thinking: could Chris Berman be a political talking head in this country? And would he be any worse than the natterers on cable news, or the morning shows? I mean, Berman is clearly a silly and shallow blowhard, but that never stopped Tim Russert.
My suspicion, fully borne out this week by l'affaire Limbaugh, is that sports are treated far more seriously in this country than politics are, especially by our media. That a comment on the state of our political press and on our national priorities.
Rush Limbaugh is not serious or stable enough to buy into an NFL team. This is true. (And, to get the NFL's back, they're an association of private businesses, in a business based on publicity, and they have every right to choose partners who will reflect well on them and not create problems or damage their brand. You can't make somebody take a business partner.) However Limabaugh's fundamental lack of stability, seriousness, or basic politeness does not disbar him from discussing public affairs in this country.
Should this be a shock? Please. ESPN has already fired the man, for making divisive and intemperate comments. There's no place for a toxic clown like Limbaugh in the business of big-time sports. So he had to go back to discussing politics. (Where transparent race-baiting is not only permitted, it seems, but entitles the race-baiter to self-righteous counter-attacks on his critics.)
Dennis Miller, similarly, was not knowledgeable or lucid enough for Monday Night Football. So instead he has to talk about politics.
On the other hand, an ESPN personality like Keith Olbermann can make the transition from snarking about box scores in the morning to cable news punditry without seeming in any way less smart, serious or prepared than his rivals. In fact, by comparison he's the smart one. And while he too is a pompous, self-righteous and inflammatory geek (in the original sense, as someone who would bite of a chicken's head to get a moment's attention), he is only nearly as bad in this regard as his competition.
We don't take politics nearly as seriously as we take sports. We do not demand the integrity, the manners or the garden-variety sanity from our political commenters that we insist on from the color guy on the game of the week. And that, eventually, will show up in the box score.
cross-posted at http://dagblog.com