Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rush - You Magnificent Bastard! I Read Your Book!

I should amend the title to this post because it wasn't really Rush's book I read but instead Zev Chafets'Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One.

Jet me say off the top that I do listen to Rush Limbaugh but I'd consider myself far from being a ditto-head. I also listen to NPR and sports talk radio but would equally hate to be labeled as a fan of either of those mediums either. I listen to Rush because he entertains and informs. Agree or disagree with him - Rush makes you think. When he doesn't entertain or inform - I turn the channel. Seeing as he's been #1 in his slot for so long - I'm guessing that millions find him entertaining enough not to turn the channel.

Reading the biography of Rush I was both struck and pleased by the fact that Rush is first and foremost a businessman. Not an entertainer as many who would try to minimize him would have you believe. Not an ideologue as the most ardent ditto-head would have you believe either. No Rush is something else.

Joseph Campbell famously espoused that people should follow their bliss in life in order to find the job or path that was right for them. Rush always wanted to be successful as a radio personality. And he has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Chafets artfully explains this journey in the book.

That's not to infer in any way that Rush does not believe in the things he speaks about on the radio. To paraphrase another old saying, Rush is true not just to his own self but also to that of his father and Ronald Reagan. I would also not try to minimize the impact Rush Limbaugh has had on politics in this country. The political history of the past 30 years could not be written without including chapters on Rush Limbaugh.

None of that explains his success though. My belief is that Rush has been successful because he not only believes in what he's saying but he has fun saying it. So much fun that you get caught up in his point of view and his way of expressing that view. And make no mistake - his is a man's man's point of view.

One stat jumped out at me - Rush's audience are 72% male while Bill O'Reilly's is just 53%. It occurred to me that the same could be said of the men themselves. Rush seems like he's more than 70% real man - interested in football, golf, cigars some sexual innuendo and people making it in this country by the sweat of their own brow. Those things interest me. Bill O'Reilly just doesn't cut if for me. Sorry - I could be 100% wrong but Bill O'Reilly gives me the gut feeling that he secretly tapes Oprah.

The book takes the reader all the way up to the present day and no issue is left out. His hearing loss, his drug addiction and his failure to buy an NFL team are all dealt with factually and evenly.

Reading the book I was reminded of Lance Armstrong who took a medium/sport with low expectations and viewer penetration to unprecedented heights - just as Rush saved AM radio. Older champions took their shots at the new champions - Larry King at Rush and Greg Lemond at Lance. Both famously overcame physical maladies that would have been career ending in lesser mortals (deafness in Limbaugh and cancer for Armstrong). And both have been dogged by the drug issue.

Maybe the most surprising thing gleamed from the book was the idea of Rush getting into politics at 35. It was like learning that Jacques Cousteau didn't lean to swim until he was 40. I heartily recommend the book.

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