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RUSH: Hey, for those of you in the Stick-to-the-Issues Crowd — and you know who you are. There are about three of you, and you bombard me with e-mails under false, phony, fake names to make yourselves look like there are 25 or 30 of you. It’s funny. It’s laughable. But here’s a little bit of news for you, for this Stick-to-the-Issues Crowd. These are the people that constantly give me grief if I maneuver into discussing football, the National Football League or golf or what have you. Bill Carter in the New York Times — and they’re not really happy about this, but it is what it is: ‘If it wasn’t clear before, this season has underscored the point, italicized it and shouted it from the rooftops: NFL football is by far the most popular form of programming on American television.

‘The evidence: Of the 20 highest-rated telecasts of any kind so far this television season, 18 have been NFL games on CBS, NBC or Fox. In terms of the best of 2010, nothing else comes close. Of the 50 highest-rated programs during the calendar year, 27 have been NFL games, including 8 of the top 10. And at a time when little or nothing on television increases its audience, the NFL is still finding new viewers. NBC’s Sunday night games are up 10 percent this season. With three games left, ‘Sunday Night Football’ is certain to complete the fall as the most-watched offering in prime time, the first time the NFL’s prime-time showcase (which began in 1970 as ‘Monday Night Football’) has ever attained the top ranking. CBS’s Sunday afternoon games are also soaring, up about 10 percent from last year. Games on Fox are up about 2 percent.

‘ESPN’s Monday games are about flat with last season, which that network considers remarkable because last season’s games broke all records.’ There’s another reason why they’re flat over there at ESPN, and the basic reason is that they forget they’re telecasting a football game. You know what’s fascinating about this? As far as the television industry is concerned, this is the reason why it has people wringing their hands: There are no writers. There isn’t a script. It is genuine reality football — or reality TV. The only difference in reality TV and regular TV is that in reality TV the writers are not union, but there are no writers for the National Football League. This is pure, unadulterated, I-have-no-idea-what’s-coming-next drama. You couple that with… I mean, our culture is what it is. The more reprobate the characters are that play this game and the more they star, the more curious people are gonna be about them and the more people are gonna want to see ’em plunge and fall.

And by the same token when you have the high-minded, the impeccably dressed great character superstars continuing to do well, that is an attraction. But it’s also a testament to, I think, economic activity being down. It’s also a testament to the rest of TV not being all that good. I mean, you can count on probably one hand the number of shows that you would want to TiVo or record. Well, speaking for myself. But it’s… I don’t know. The National Football League has done such a fantastic job of marketing itself. Here’s something that happens once a week, and it maintains interest throughout the week. I mean, jump-off-the-cliff kind of interest. It’s… (interruption) What do I mean, ‘ESPN forgets they’re telecasting a football game’?

Well, the game is secondary. I could give you so many examples, but I was watching — and they’re not the worst at it. You watch tonight. ESPN has the Chicago Bears at the Minnesota Vikings outdoors, in this stadium that’s not equipped or winterized. Most NFL fields, even the artificial fields, are heated so that they don’t become rock solid frozen. But the stadium they’re playing in tonight where the college Minnesota Golden Gophers play (their season ends mid-November), it’s not a heated stadium. So what they’re gonna do, what they’ve been doing is heating the stadium under the tarp with hot air, I read for 30 hours. They’re gonna take the tarp off. It’s snowing. It’s the way football should be.

It’s snowing maybe five to six inches this afternoon, and tonight it’ll be 25 to 30 degrees, not too bad. They’ve played in far colder, far worse weather. You watch tonight. Within the first five minutes after a kickoff, the formula is to show the starting lineups. No matter what happens! You could watch on the kickoff an obvious horrible energy, and they’d cut away from it to show you the starting lineups. Now, why not do the starting lineups before the game starts? In the NFL, who cares about the starting lineups anyway? It’s not like baseball. It’s not that big a deal. But all these guys get caught up in the formula of what they’re doing, and what happens on the field becomes secondary to the way the game is produced, whereas the game ought to lead is all I’m saying. Now, ESPN’s improved considerably.

They used to have all these celebrities in the booth and all these people talking about stuff. They’ve done a lot better in that regard, but you can look at the networks — CBS, Fox, NBC, and ESPN — and you could… (interruption) The guy wants to know…? Yeah, they identify these starters, what university they came from. Nobody cares about that except the university. You know, the NFL has a free farm system. Like Dan Connolly. Did you watch the game last night? Dan Connolly, number 63, the New England Patriots with a 71-yard kickoff return. Do you know where Dan Connolly went to school? He went to school in my hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Southeast Missouri State. SEMO.

It’s a university because they have the correct number of books in the library. That’s how they got university status, or did. But the guy has been in the NFL 15 years. Like the Steelers: ‘James Farrior, Virginia!’ Who cares? Virginia cares. It’s part of the relationship between the NFL and the universities which provide the farm system, essentially. So that’s why the universities they’re from are continually identified. But you can tell which networks treat their games as huge, big events and which don’t — and I think it’s one of the reasons why NBC is soaring. They make that look like the only game of the weekend that matters. Even when it doesn’t, they make it look like it’s the only game of the weekend that matters. It’s fascinating. I’ve always been, as you people are well aware, interested in marketing.

This is one of my passions, fascinations, and the way the NFL’s marketed itself for years is amazing. If it wouldn’t cause the Stick-to-the-Issues Crowd to commit suicide, I’d explain it in great detail. (laughing) But I… (interruption) Oh, that’s…? What’s the question? What’s the…? (interruption) Mmm-hmm. Oh! Okay, here’s… (interruption) Well, I don’t know what the truth is with the McNabb jersey thing. All I know is what has been reported. There’s a lot of stuff going on with McNabb and the Redskins that involves the Redskins saving money, not having to pay McNabb, getting a better — or not having to give away a high draft choice versus a low one based on how much he plays in the trade they made with the Eagles, and the way it’s shaping out it looks like McNabb is being insulted left and right when it’s business that’s going on here.

I mean, they’ve made the decision McNabb’s not their quarterback of the future. So they save money by not having him get on the field as much. If he plays X-number of snaps he gets a bonus, so they’ll keep the snaps down. If he plays X-amount of time, then the Eagles get a third round pick instead of a fourth round pick. So the Redskins have decided McNabb’s not their guy so they’re trying to limit the price, what it costs them. Now, the jersey business, there was a big story over the weekend that McNabb Redskins jersey prices have been cut in half, and this was considered to be another in a never-ending line of insults at McNabb.

‘No athlete has ever suffered the humiliation McNabb has suffered last week,’ everybody said, and then the piece de resistance was the cutting the price of the jerseys. That story appeared on NBC’s website (which is a damn good NFL website) and it turned out that it was not the Redskins that did it. It was a single retailer that did it. So the Redskins apologized but they don’t know to who yet. People keep asking. (laughing) Well, now, are they apologizing to the fans, are they apologizing to McNabb, or are they apologizing to the retailer that did it? But it wasn’t the Redskins that cut the price of a McNabb jersey in half.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Kevin in Chicago. Great to have you on the program, sir. Hi.

CALLER: Dittos from the People’s Republic of Illinois, Rush.

RUSH: Thank you, sir.

CALLER: I just have a question for you. What is the big deal with all these NFL players crying about playing on a frozen field when you’ve got hockey players playing on ice three, four, five times a week?

RUSH: All right, this happens to be, for me, a great question. And let me answer this for you. Let me explain what he’s talking about. This is all about this game tonight at the University of Minnesota football field, which is not an NFL stadium. Now, I do believe it has the latest artificial turf, but it does not have a heating system under it, so it can freeze. Now, he’s right. NFL players play on hard, frozen fields, and they have throughout their careers. Remember what’s going on out there, Kevin, is the collective bargaining agreement is up for negotiation. The league is making a huge deal out of concussions. There are penalty flags flying, there are fines, there are all kinds of things. The league is trying to make everybody think that the most upward concern they have is player safety, particularly concussions. All right? They’re going overboard. I mean we’re holding players out a week or two extra when in the old days they go back in five minutes after being on the bench. They’re making a big deal, the league is, about how much they are concerned about player safety. So all the players are doing, ‘Oh, really? You really care, so we’re gonna play here on a stadium that’s not NFL ready, that might have a frozen field, and our heads are gonna get knocked around on this field, and we might get a couple concussions.’ This is gamesmanship, is what this is.

CALLER: It’s caused me to give up on the NFL. I’m just tired of hearing all the crying about all of it. I really am.

RUSH: Wait.

CALLER: I’m not even gonna watch.

RUSH: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

CALLER: I’m right here in Bears country, and I’m not even gonna watch. And I grew up being a Vikings fan.

RUSH: What is it that’s souring you on the NFL?

CALLER: It’s all the crying, it’s —

RUSH: Who? Who’s crying?

CALLER: — the showing off —

RUSH: Who’s crying?

CALLER: — after making a simple play.

RUSH: Who is crying?

CALLER: Well —

RUSH: Kevin, you understand, I’m trying to talk to you when you’re talking. You’re on a cell phone, right?

CALLER: Yes, I am, in Chicago, yeah.

RUSH: Okay. You’re missing 90% of what I’m saying to you. I’m asking you some questions. So after each sentence would you pause if you can? ‘Cause you’re saying a lot of things I want you to answer. I want to have a good conversation. We got an inferior phone system here that’s not permitting me to do that. You’re tired of hearing all the crying. Who’s crying?

CALLER: The players.

RUSH: About what?

CALLER: About safety, about fines, just in general —

RUSH: And this has you down on the league because in the old days, they gutted it up and played through these situations and now they’re coming off like less than men, more crybaby-ish?

CALLER: Yes. And all you have to do is go across town to watch the Blackhawks, and these guys are getting smashed all the time.

RUSH: Yeah. That’s true. They’re getting headed on the ice. They’re getting headed up on the boards. They’re getting headed with sticks. They’re getting headed with the puck. I’m just interested in this because I think this is just gamesmanship. I really don’t think the players are babies. In fact, I think the players are frustrated. I think the players are frustrated at the fines ’cause they look at this as a marketing thing by the league. There have been some veteran players who have had brain injuries that have occurred to them after they retired much earlier in life than the average person. There’s no question there’s a price to pay for playing the game, and the league is responding to this ’cause they need to keep fans. They don’t want to lose you, Kevin. They’re trying to —

CALLER: True.

RUSH: — keep you and they’re trying to keep the stars on the field for the long term. I don’t know if you saw it in Indianapolis yesterday, this kid Austin Collie, third concussion in less than three games. All three of them have been heart-stopping, like, ‘Is this guy going to get up?’ Heath Miller of the Steelers took a hit a couple weeks ago and players on the field actually thought he broke his neck. He ended up walking off the field. The Steelers have kept him out two consecutive weeks. This is new. This is entirely new this year. There haven’t been suspensions yet. By the same token yesterday in the Steelers game, Ryan Clark, the safety, number 25, with just a perfect textbook hit on a receiver, and was fined for it or at least flagged for it and it’s the exact kind of hit, textbook football. It was not helmet to helmet. It was shoulder to shoulder, but he launched himself, he was a missile, and it was a huge hit. And so players are confused, what’s legal, what isn’t, what am I gonna get fined for, what’s not. So with all this going on, now they take ’em to a field that to them is essentially a sandlot field, so they’re gonna say, ‘Well, wait a minute, you guys in the league say you’re all concerned about our safety, and you’re putting us in a…’ This is just gamesmanship because the collective bargaining agreement’s up, pure and simple.

CALLER: You’re probably right on that, Rush.

RUSH: Well, the odds are that I am. .

CALLER: All right, well, thanks a lot, Rush, I appreciate it.

RUSH: Okay, Kevin, appreciate the call.

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