WaPo Columnist Michael Wilbon Reaches New Heights In Cognitive Dissonance

October 16th, 2009 5:11 PM

Michael Wilbon, a sports writer and columnist for ‘The Washington Post,’ has written a really entertaining column today.

Entertaining, in that it’s self-contradictory in the extreme.  This column is the literary equivalent of punching an inflatable Bobo the Clown.  And of course, it has to be about Rush Limbaugh.

Wilbon can’t even make it out of the first paragraph without making a contradiction that would confuse Yogi Berra:

The free market, rather loudly, told Rush Limbaugh it wasn't interested in what he sells. Undoubtedly there are NFL owners who share Limbaugh's brand of conservatism. A few, I'm told, are so far to the right politically they think Limbaugh is liberal. But the voices that spoke up in the private club Limbaugh wanted to join shouted him down.

First: The free market, rather loudly, tells Rush Limbaugh that it’s very interested in what he sells – and has been growing more so since (roughly) late January of this year.  Second, Wilbon mentions that the NFL owners’ club is a private club; and so it is.  As such an arrangement, it hardly resembles the free market, where owners sell their property without having to gain the approval of their competitors.

Here’s what the LA Times had to say about the NFL on October 15 [print edition only, emphasis mine]:

It's odd that a business built around a quintessentially American game -- teams of oversized men pounding each other senseless to promote the sale of cars, trucks and beer -- would be run more like a socialist collective than a free market. But that's how the major sports leagues function in this country, thanks to exemptions from antitrust laws. The share-the-wealth approach is particularly helpful to football teams in smaller markets, such as St. Louis. But the collaborative structure also means that anyone trying to buy or sell a team has to persuade owners of 24 of the league's 32 teams to approve the deal. The notion of owners sitting in judgment on their would-be competitors is richly ironic, given that their predecessors included unabashed gamblers and felons.

And in case there is any doubt as to whether the NFL franchises are free market items to be traded, ask yourself this: When Rush Limbaugh bought an airplane, did Gulfstream ask themselves how his patronage would reflect on their company?  And, more importantly, did the media?

Next, Wilbon offers a mea culpa, sorta:

I don't listen to his show because his comments about people of color anger and offend me, and I'm not easily offended. I'm not going to try and give specific examples of things he has said over the years; I screwed up already doing that, repeating a quote attributed to Limbaugh (about slavery) that he has told me he simply did not say and does not reflect his feelings. I take him at his word.

First of all, I must note that Wilbon apologized on ESPN (“Pardon the Interruption”, if you’re curious) for attributing that quote to Limbaugh.  But the very next words in this column are:

But Limbaugh has long history of the same insults and race baiting, to the point of declaring he hoped the president of the United States, a black man, fails. I never understood why someone with Limbaugh's gift for communication was so nasty and, in my opinion, gave cover to bigots everywhere under the guise of conservatism. Clearly, I'm not alone.

I do listen to Limbaugh, every chance I get.  I’ve listened to the entire monologue containing the now-infamous “I hope he fails” phrase.  In no way did Limbaugh ever say, imply, hint at, or otherwise give the impression that he hopes the President fails because he’s black.  If Wilbon were to actually listen to Limbaugh’s show, or even to the segment he’s referencing, he would know that Limbaugh has expressed a hope the President fails to implement a liberal agenda.  Limbaugh would have said the same thing about Hillary Clinton or John Kerry, had they ever been given a lease at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Next, and even more irritating:

Limbaugh has the right to say pretty much whatever he wants on his show. People with opposing views have the right to say, "We don't want to be associated with that."

That’s true, when taken completely out of this context.  In this case, people had opposing views to things Limbaugh didn’t say – and that Wilbon joyously promoted.  In this, as in all things, context is king.

The crowning achievement, however, comes in this phrase:

You think if Limbaugh's team had a black quarterback as successful as Donovan McNabb that he'd be dismissive of him?

Hey Wilbon: Limbaugh is a Steelers fan.  You know, a Super Bowl-winning NFL team with a black head coachMike Tomlin was hired over Ron Rivera (the first Puerto Rican to ever play in the NFL) and hometown favorite Russ Grimm.  And that’s not to mention the candidacy of Ken Whisenhunt, the other head coach who went to the Super Bowl last year.  You think if Limbaugh really hated black people, he might have had a problem with hiring Mike Tomlin?  And here’s the biggest point: If Tomlin weren’t having success as a head coach, Limbaugh might be advocating his replacement.

But Tomlin’s Steelers are hard-nosed gridiron warriors who play tough, every week.  Tomlin clearly gets his team ready every Sunday, and does a good job of it.  Sure, the Steelers aren’t as good as they have been, but that’s not entirely Tomlin’s fault – and you can bet with the Browns in town this weekend, the Steelers will be ready to play.  And Limbaugh?

Limbaugh will most likely be in his Florida beach house, waving a Terrible Towel.  Winning means more to Limbaugh than what color the winners are – and if Wilbon had bothered to listen to Limbaugh over the past two decades, he might know that.  Instead, Wilbon went with a lower-grade repeat of the presidential Cambridge drive-by.  In case Wilbon is wondering, that means he “acted stupidly.”