LONGSHOTS: Great talent a rush but not all it’s cracked up to be
by Dave Long
Since I am a guy who’ll always take team over individual talents no matter who it is, I’ve enjoyed watching the antics of three very big “me firsters” and subsequent downfalls of two in recent weeks with a high degree of relish.
Two are professional athletes who’ve had varying degrees of success — though the interpretation of the word “success” by some is a lot different than mine. The other’s from outside sports, although he has worked in it and his most recent foray in sports provided as vivid a portrait as one needs to know he’s living on a different planet. And given his track I don’t think it’s “Lovetron” either where in the early days of his NBA career Darryl Dawkins told all he came from before landing in the middle of the ’76ers-Celtics rivalry in the late 1970s.
What these three have in common is that they have been in the eye of the storm each has created. For Terrell Owens it was the usual “everybody’s against me, throw me the damn ball” silliness that has now led to his departure in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas. For Stephon Marbury it was a three-ring circus in New York that with the help of Isiah Thomas and inept owner Jimmy Dolan made the Knicks the laughing stock of the NBA. For Rush Limbaugh it was the usual division and hate mongering toward almost anyone with the audacity to doubt that anything coming from him is, well, omnipotent.
For the first two, their long-running soap operas in Dallas and New York mercifully came to end recently. T.O. is the supremely talented wide-out owner Jerry Jones thought would fit in Dallas after a nasty flame-out in Philly. That ended with him throwing “friend” Donovan McNabb over board just as he had with Jeff Garcia in San Francisco, where he intimated Garcia was gay to the media.
Marbury’s was a nightmare homecoming. A celebrated player growing up in Brooklyn, he was the toast of the town after being shipped out of Phoenix for always injured Antonio McDyess and five other guys I never heard of. He then feuded with coach Larry Brown — not that that is an exclusive club. Ditto the next year plus with Thomas before he was fired. He also shot his way of Minnesota where he supposedly was jealous of Kevin Garnett. The Nets went to two finals after he was traded for Jason Kidd and the trajectory was straight up in Phoenix when Steve Nash took over. Current Knicks coach Mike D’Antonio was behind his exit from Phoenix and this time paid him $20 million NOT to play. Something’s got to be pretty bad to get $20 million NOT to play, don’t you think?
In the case of Rush, many will argue that he’s at the top of his game in “hoping” Barack Obama’s strategy for our economic woes “fails” and with the particularly sensitive comment on Obama’s health care initiatives ... “before it’s all over, it’ll be called the Ted Kennedy memorial health care bill.” That had many Democrats up in arms as they believe it was a classless direct shot as the Senator’s current battle with brain cancer. And that in turn has conservative writers like Jonah Goldberg also in a twist, for what I’m not sure, but he used the word “liberal” a lot more than usual. So why is Rush here? Because he’s being treated by the Republican Party like sports treats those with great talent. And there is no denying Limberger has great talent to bluster while getting a large number of voters to listen to his daily rant.
Owens and Marbury are closer to the end of a cycle that lets the talented get away with almost anything as long as they produce what only people with their ability can. That’s why an alleged disciplinarian like Bill Parcells looked the other way at Lawrence Taylor’s wild life, which included regularly using cocaine. Same for why Ray Lewis was welcomed back to Ravens camp the day after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in a double MURDER. Ray’s great — so welcome back pal!
T.O. played big on a broken leg in the Super Bowl vs. the Patriots with nine catches. But call me a cynic if you like, I bet it had more to do with refusing to miss the chance to get into the hugest spotlight of all than with the glory of his team. But talent got him another chance three days after getting kicked out of Dallas as he’s already signed with Buffalo.
I’ve always considered Marbury to be basketball’s anti-christ and don’t expect it to work out in Boston as his style will slow down the team. But with his track record I’m giving Danny the benefit of the doubt and because Marbury is playing for perhaps his last contract — so he needs it. Especially after finishing atop SI.com’s recent poll where 22 percent of NBA players said he’s the guy they’d least like to play with.
Rush is more like T.O. in wanting Obama to fail than a Reagan disciple. He wants it to fail because it will make him look good. A sage observer. Albeit, one very bullish on the conservative practices that put the country in its biggest financial ditch since the 1930s, along with help from numbskulls on both sides of the aisle in Congress and latent greed on Wall Street. The same sage observer who pretty much spent the Clinton years apoplectic as the Dow Jones Average almost tripled.
Rush believes what he believes and reality doesn’t matter. Like the ludicrous assertion that got him fired from ESPN that left wing sports media bias wanted McNabb to succeed at quarterback because he was black. Guess it didn’t matter that Doug Williams and others have been playing QB in the NFL since the ’70s and that left wing media bias in sports (and elsewhere) is as real as the roommate John Nash kept seeing in A Beautiful Mind.
So I don’t get why Democrats are so upset by him. He’s their secret weapon and not just because people like me are tired of the divisive, anti-American brand of politics he spews. That was a factor in the country turning bluer the last two elections. Plus as demonstrated by new GOP Chief Michael (blood and guts) Steele’s down-on-his-knees apology after criticizing his tone — the GOP is afraid of Rush! With the audience he has, he’s to the GOP what T.O. is to his team. If he’s unhappy and walks, gulp, there goes 90 catches and 16 TDs. Personally, I’d tell him to shove it — because he’s going to force candidates inside the party to go farther to the right to satisfy him, who’ll then be unelectable to the middle in the general.
So I’m all for letting him yak away as it’s helpful and because like the loud voices of Walter Winchell, Joseph McCarthy, Howard Cosell and William Randolph Hearst before his time, his will fade and you’ll barely notice at the end.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.