Local Event Sports Association

Imagine the following scenario on ESPN’s SportsCenter:

“Today, NFL owners approved the sale of the St. Louis Rams to conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.”

Actually, it would not have to be SportsCenter, as it would certainly be a rare case where the sale of a sports franchise attracts the attention of CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. I am sure Keith Olbermann would have much to say about this, while Sean Hannity would note the liberal media’s outrage over the “politicization of sports.”

Now, before I go deeper into this topic, I must first credit both blogger MJD (real name Matthew J. Darnell) on Yahoo! Sports Blog “Shutdown Corner” and Tim Klutsarits of Examiner.com for first making a reference to Limbaugh becoming an owner of the Rams. Also, this was all spurred by an article in the St. Louis Business Journal.

Now, I am not sure how likely it is that Limbaugh would seriously pursue this business endeavour. But he has expressed interests in the past, is originally from the state of Missouri, and claims to have friends in the NFL.

But can you imagine Football Night in America on NBC right before a Limbaugh-owned St. Louis Rams game? I am not so certain if Olbermann could hold back given his feud with Limbaugh (although I am not sure how often the former has brought politics into the football pregame and halftime show, if at all).

People do not like the mixing of sports and politics. Most fans use sports to get away from the drivel of political talkers and the bickering of politics in general. So having someone like Olbermann on NBC’s football coverage is maddening enough for some to actually boycott Sunday night games on NBC.

However, as I have alluded to before, no matter how much we want to believe that sports are apolitical, in reality sports are often politicized. 

There is a reason why the President of the United States of America telephones national champions to congratulate them or invites them to the White House. The entire “business” of sports and the relocation or retaining of franchises is steeped in politics.

However, while winning teams—from Northwestern women’s lacrosse team to the Pittsburgh Steelers—visit the White House regardless of the political party of the President, Keith Olbermann and Rush Limbaugh, fairly or not, bring their partisan politics to sports. Even if they manage to keep their political views away from sports, just those names alone conjure up connections to their respective ideologies.

The Yahoo! Sports blogger MJD noted this in his entry: “It wouldn’t matter if Limbaugh was a completely silent owner, the mere mention of his name drives people into fits of political rage or glee.” 

He then cites two comments from the Examiner.com piece as evidence of this. Additionally, comments to his own article reflected the Grand Canyon-like divide that separates opinions on Limbaugh.

I believe that anyone with the means to purchase a sports franchise should be allowed to do so irrespective of that person’s political views. 

However, MJD and Klutsarits and all of the commenters to their articles reflect the polarizing nature of Rush Limbaugh—and that aspect alone is enough to increase the media attention that the Rams, and the NFL in general, normally receive.

Given how much people in the United States love football—arguably the new national pastime—and that ESPN seems to believe that the NFL season is actually 365.25 days long, such a polarizing figure is not a welcome sight. 

Limbaugh could end up being an excellent owner, and I believe that people on both sides of the political pole would watch St. Louis Rams games simply because they want to see him succeed or fail.

This argument against his potential ownership of an NFL franchise has little to do with his 2003 comments on Donovan McNabb and the media. 

Some saw that comment as bringing politics into sports, while others thought that Limbaugh was attempting to discredit McNabb’s leadership abilities. But that controversy alone is not enough to keep him from owning a team; he was, after all, there to offer his opinions.

However, the added attention is not necessary for the league’s survival, and it only brings controversy to a league that has enough to deal with. A marriage between Limbaugh and the Rams (and essentially the NFL) could potentially create the mother of all migraines. The NFL does not need to be nightly fodder on Fox News and MSNBC.

Not being able to own an NFL team should not stop Rush Limbaugh from owning a sports franchise. And I have just the team for him—the St. Louis Blues!

No, I am not trying to punish him by relegating him to the fourth-most popular professional sport in the United States. But here is a league that has fallen off of the map. It is in need of a resurgence, a jolt!

In a class I am currently teaching, some of my students were surprised when I mentioned that the Penguins pushed the Stanley Cup to a Game Seven. The surprise was not that it was going to a Game Seven, but that hockey was still being played! 

After noting that the NHL does still exist, some were puzzled that Games Three and Six coincided with games in the NBA Finals!

The NHL has, unfortunately, become irrelevant in the U.S. Games are regularly shown on Versus, which is in 71 million households (compared to ESPN being in at least 92 million households). 

This has led to a decrease in national exposure and a loss in revenue. We have witnessed this with players leaving the NHL to play for the Gazprom-backed Kontinetal Hockey League in Russia.

The NHL needs the added exposure, and Limbaugh owning a franchise would do just that. Sure, he would still bring politics into sports and polarize both Blues fans and NHL fans, but he would also bring media attention to a league that is desperate for it. When was the last time Bill O’Reilly or Rachel Maddow opened with hockey?

Now, some will say that he would bring negative media exposure to the league. In this case, people will argue that “no news is good news.” But the NHL only receives widespread media attention when there is a major brawl, some act of “racism,” or some gambling charge against a star player.

In other words, outside of the Stanley Cup finals, most of the time the NHL is lead news when negative situations occur. 

While Limbaugh would bring some negative press with him, people might be more inclined to watch the NHL and St. Louis Blues games because of Limbaugh. I am not sure that people started tuning into hockey after Todd Bertuzzi sucker-punched Steve Moore.

So, I do think that Limbaugh should own a sports team and that the media attention can be positive. 

Just as long as that team is the Blues, I think Limbaugh’s official entry into sports could be a good thing. 

Sure, more people would be talking about Limbaugh as the owner and his political ideology rather than the fact that the Blues reached the Stanley Cup Finals. But the point is that they would be talking about hockey. 

And for a league desperate for attention, this is the best way to attract the spotlight.

Thus, two sports would be “saved.” The NHL would receive an increase in exposure while the NFL avoids politicization. We could then focus our attention on “exciting” issues concerning Brett Favre, Terrell Owens, and Rex Ryan.

Now, about this Olbermann guy…

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