Unproven quotes cloud Limbaugh debate

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

Jack Huberman is an idiot.

Huberman is a central figure in the latest Rush Limbaugh controversy. Huberman attributed two quotes to Limbaugh that were circulated days after news broke that Limbaugh was part of an ownership group that wanted to buy the St. Louis Rams.

At this point, it's not worth repeating the quotes because they don't appear to be accurate. In fact, they may simply be fabricated. In nearly a week since Limbaugh denied making those quotes, Huberman has yet to verify their authenticity and they have been pulled from sites such at The Huffington Post.

Huberman may have made an honest error (one which he seemingly hasn't attempted to publicly acknowledge). Or he could have done something malicious because it served his purpose (Huberman is the author of two anti-right wing books and was a harsh critic of President George W. Bush). Frankly, it doesn't matter. Either way, Huberman was wrong, and he gave Limbaugh a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

Now, instead of having an intelligent discussion of why Limbaugh's statements are or aren't incendiary, Limbaugh can divert the subject from real issues. He can do that rather than explain why he once compared the NFL to watching gang violence.

"Let me put it to you this way," Limbaugh said, according to an Associated Press report. "The NFL often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it."

Then, of course, there's the Donovan McNabb(notes) remark from 2003.

"I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well," Limbaugh said on ESPN at the time. "They're interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there's a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of the team that he really didn't deserve."

Here's the rub: When Limbaugh injected race into the evaluation of the media and McNabb, did he actually talk to any sports reporters or research their writing to gauge how they were evaluating McNabb? Last weekend, 17 longtime NFL reporters (including Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Jarrett Bell of USA Today and Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald) were asked if they had been contacted by Limbaugh or a representative of Limbaugh regarding McNabb. Further, they were asked if they knew any sports writers who had been contacted by Limbaugh or one of his reps regarding McNabb.

All 17 said "no" and "no."

So apparently, Limbaugh made an assumption based on no research about sports writers and how we think. (Note: An email was sent to Limbaugh on Monday asking several questions about this subject. As of publication, Limbaugh had yet to respond.)

The fact is that through McNabb's first four seasons (he was drafted in 1999 and Limbaugh made the comment early in the 2003 season), his statistics and accomplishments were on par with current Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Troy Aikman and John Elway, and future Hall of Famer Brett Favre(notes). McNabb had a better touchdown pass-to-interception ratio (71-38) than all four of those quarterbacks through their first four years (Favre was 70-53, Montana 52-32, Aikman 54-60 and Elway 66-65).

As for team accomplishments, McNabb led the Eagles to the consecutive NFC championship games following the 2001 and '02 seasons.

In terms of race, while it's hard for anyone to ignore another person's skin color, that doesn't mean that we all fall into some social trap of judging someone based on that fact. For instance, I confidently can say that I consider McNabb one of the top five or six quarterbacks in the game today. By contrast, I also confidently can say that I think Vince Young(notes) never will make it as a quarterback in the NFL.

Do I say that about McNabb because he's black? No, I simply look at his ability, numbers and accomplishments and make an assessment. Do I say that about Young because he's black? No, I simply look at his ability, numbers and accomplishments and make an assessment.

Furthermore, do I get some satisfaction out of saying that McNabb is one of the top five or six quarterbacks in the league? No. Likewise, I don't get any pleasure out of saying I don't think Young is going to make it. It's just an evaluation.

In both cases, it simply is what it is. I don't need to make something up, like Huberman. I don't need to inject race into the issue, like Limbaugh.

Personally, I don't really care if Limbaugh had gotten a chance to own a team. It might actually have been good for him to be around some NFL players, particularly black ones. He might have learned something. He might have even had an epiphany about what's going on in the world.


Stupid play of the week: Carolina Panthers safety Dante Wesley(notes) is the easy winner for his egregious hit on special teams against Clifton Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, it's sometimes hard to fault guys who make mistakes like that in the heat of battle. Players will tell you that sometimes they just lose their minds while in action. Considering that, the aforementioned McNabb and Philadelphia coach Andy Reid get credit for the biggest botch of the weekend when they screwed up the timeout situation at the end of the first half at Oakland in a 13-9 loss. Mostly, McNabb gets dinged on this for forgetting that the Eagles were out of timeouts. However, Reid gets some blame for wasting the timeouts prior to that in situations that didn't call for using timeouts.

Speaking of Young: I don't understand why Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher isn't playing him. At this point, even people on his coaching staff and in the locker room have to be supportive of Young getting a chance. Everybody knows that Kerry Collins(notes) isn't the solution and should go back to being a backup. What's worse is that Fisher is making a bigger problem for himself by not playing Young. Ultimately, the Titans need to know whether Young can play. If they (and, more importantly, owner Bud Adams) can come to that conclusion, it makes all the decisions the team must make for the NFL draft that much easier.

Moore takes exception: In the rash of emails I received last week from folks on both sides of the Limbaugh issue, there was a unique one that came from Michael Moore of Michigan. Yep, that Michael Moore. The filmmaker took issue with my contention that the NFL wouldn't really be all that interested in having him own an NFL team anymore than it wants Limbaugh. Essentially, I said that Moore is not much different from Limbaugh in the eyes of the NFL. Replied Moore: "Actually, there's a big difference between Mr. Limbaugh and me. I don't make racist comments about black football players. He does. Also, I don't have a record of being arrested for illegal possession of drugs. He does. The truth is, I would guess most players in the NFL would welcome my participation. The first thing I would do, as an owner, is divide up the profits evenly amongst all the players. You see, there's no profit if they don't play. In addition, those profits should be used for building stadiums if necessary [not taxpayer dollars], lowering ticket prices, youth programs, community improvements, and donations to research facilities for head and spinal injuries. And really – it's ok just to say you don't think Rush should own an NFL team. You don't need to mention me because you're afraid of the dittoheads coming after you."

Upon a second exchange of emails, Moore generally agreed that his ownership would be questioned and got to the heart of his real frustration. "I only wish people who go crazy at the sound of my name would watch one of my movies. If they did, they may not agree with all of my policies, but they would learn three things: 1) I love my country, 2) I have a heart, and 3) I'll give you a good laugh every now and then!" Moore wrote. That's fair enough. In fact, you don't really have to even plunk down money to get a sense of who Moore is (if you've never seen one of his movies). Watch the interview Charlie Rose did with Moore earlier this month. If you listen carefully, you might even hear some stuff from Moore that faintly resembles conservatism (imagine that).

Top five
1. New Orleans Saints: When Drew Brees(notes) is on, he's scary good.
2. Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning(notes) vs. Brees for MVP is a great debate
3. Minnesota Vikings: Narrowly survived an odd defensive meltdown.
4. Denver Broncos: Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is getting some serious mileage from aging players.
5. New England Patriots: How'd Tom Brady(notes) learn to play in the snow as a kid in San Mateo, Calif.?

Bottom five
28. Washington Redskins: Why is Dan Snyder putting a man like Jim Zorn through this?
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Made it close with a kickoff and INT return.
30. Cleveland Browns: If they have decide to jettison Brady Quinn(notes) after the season, that's idiotic.
31. Tennessee Titans: At least this could be a good year to draft a quarterback.
32. St. Louis Rams: If they don't beat Detroit on Nov. 1, 20 straight losses loom.

This and that

Give Ravens rookie Michael Oher(notes) a lot of credit for how he played in the second half against Vikings defensive end Jared Allen(notes) as the Ravens nearly pulled out a victory. Oher was making his first start at left tackle and showed that he could easily be a great one soon (and allow the Ravens to move Jared Gaither(notes) to the right side when he's healthy). Last week, New England coach Bill Belichick raved about Oher's work, particularly in run blocking. On Sunday, Allen had a good game with seven tackles, including four for losses and one sack. However, Oher virtually erased Allen on a couple of key plays, including a 23-yard completion to tight end Todd Heap(notes) and then on 33-yard TD run by Ray Rice(notes) that was right at Allen.

Speaking of Baltimore, its defense is in trouble and is just a shadow of the unit it was last year with Rex Ryan as coordinator and linebacker Bart Scott(notes) clearing space for middle linebacker. Over the past two weeks, the Ravens have allowed Minnesota to gain 167 yards on 31 carries and Cincinnati hit them up for 142 yards on 34 carries the week before. Granted, the Ravens were facing Adrian Peterson and Cedric Benson(notes) in consecutive weeks (the No. 1 and No. 3 rushers in the league), but this is a long fall for the Ravens, who were dominant against the run last year. The problem? It's clear that the Ravens are getting beat on the edge, where middle linebacker Ray Lewis(notes) has been slow getting to the outside.

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