Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

When ESPN made Rush Limbaugh a part of their Sunday NFL Countdown flagship back in 2003, the country was a different place. Everything that is currently bad and dumb about these United States was already very much in evidence, if maybe not quite in its current state of roaring psychedelic metastasis, but it felt as if there was somehow less of it. It might just have been that the bad news and bad faith that swamps our days and nights in 2018 was harder to find 15 years ago, but the process of beating every possible ploughshare into a gnarly homemade sword was much less far along than it is today. We can probably assume that’s because the Anger-Generation Technology that shapes our world was much less sophisticated.

All of which is to say that, while it was obviously a bad idea for ESPN to put Rush Limbaugh on its NFL morning show, it was mostly because Limbaugh is an oaf and a blowhard and was obviously going to fuck it all up. ESPN’s gamble that his audience would follow him from his popular political radio show Raytheon Presents The Infected Grandparent Radio News Hour was explained, before and after Limbaugh inevitably cocked things up with a bit of drowsy racial grievance, as purely an attempt to get more men to watch a football show.


Which, again, was dumb as hell in a bunch of obvious ways, but also believable in its context. It was not an attempt to counter bad-faith accusations of political bias against the network, or to provide a counterpoint to some other idiotic thread of political discourse. It was very much a decision made using the logic of the circular firing squad. It’s just that not everyone in that firing squad was using anti-tank weaponry yet.

Today, they are. Today, as ESPN looks to fill another high-profile vacancy with Jon Gruden leaving Monday Night Football for a 10-year contract with the Oakland Raiders, we demand stronger stuff. Meatier fare. Crazier shit. Worse bad ideas. You’ve read the headline, friends. You know what needs to happen. These times call for a man. A man who has a heart. Who has hot blood, beating through his veins. Who likes to have children. Who strongly questions Adam Gase’s decision to punt in that situation.

Alex Jones has become one of the most powerful broadcasters in these United States because he has taken plays from Limbaugh’s old playbook and added authentic mental illness, a frontier grifter’s pure avarice, and vocal stylings that even Ed Orgeron would admire as forceful. It is true that Jones, if given second chair next to Sean McDonough on ESPN’s NFL showcase, absolutely could not be trusted not to describe MULTIPLE DOCUMENTED INSTANCES OF FLIES LANDING ON DEZ BRYANT or the suspicious sulfurous odor of Sean Payton. Jones cannot, and should not, be trusted not to interrupt game action for a paint-peeling 15-minute monologue accusing Dirk Koetter of being a literal goblin. It is not a question of whether Jones would interrupt a game to promote some sort of Alpha X-Hippo Potency Tonic that is, chemically speaking, indistinguishable from Diet Sierra Mist—he absolutely would, and honestly the question is if he’d ever stop talking about it.


ESPN must give Alex Jones this job, but the network must also make that decision with its eyes open, secure in the knowledge that while the Bilderbergs and the Council On Foreign Relations have nothing to do with how lame the AFC South is, Jones is absolutely going to find a way to blame them for it. Any of these, all of these, are reason for pause. But this is 2018, and this vacancy demands a solution that fits the stupid, terrified moment we’ve made. A half-measure like Rush Limbaugh won’t do. These times demand the real shit.

Also honestly it’s probably him or like Brock Huard.

David Roth is an editor at Deadspin.

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