If you want rain, you hire a rain dancer. If you want hate, you hire a hate-monger. That seems pretty simple to me. So why is the NFL in such an uproar now that Rush Limbaugh, the ultra-conservative political commentator turned ESPN gridiron analyst, uttered something on air that was not politically correct, never mind particularly insightful? It's Rush Limbaugh for God's sake; this is what the man does for a living. It took Limbaugh all of three weeks to get the ball rolling, so to speak, when he said that the early season struggles of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is black, should not be a surprise because he is overrated. 'I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL,' he said. 'The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.' Love him or hate him, all must agree that Rush's unyielding views have made him one of the most divisive forces in America and when ESPN hired him as a football analyst they did it because Limbaugh's brand of divisiveness plays to an extremely large following. His radio show alone is available in more than 650 markets in the United States. ESPN knew what they wanted when they gave him a microphone to work on their NFL Sunday Countdown show. They wanted higher ratings and it worked: viewership has risen 10 per cent from last season, with the most recent 'McNabb' episode the highest-rated edition in seven years. After a couple of days of the liberal-media fuelled furore and outrage, (at least according to Rush), Limbaugh resigned from the show to save the 'great people at ESPN' from having to deal with this. What the 'great people at ESPN' will have to deal with, though, is the reason they hired Limbaugh in the first place. Did they say to him: 'Hey Rush, we want you to be on this show because we value your football opinions. But is it possible for you to give those same opinions minus your ideologically hidebound and small-minded hate for anything or anyone that has the nerve to disagree with your self-serving and mean-spirited comments, in particular liberals, gays and blacks?' Apparently not. They basically gave him a microphone, which for Limbaugh is a licence to hate. You go on and hate now, hate like only Rush can. Stir things up, and that he did. One day after resigning from ESPN, Limbaugh spoke at a convention of broadcasters, in Philadelphia no less and who says the man isn't calculated? He told them he was hardly fazed by the attention because 'to draw in listeners, we want controversy.' So none of this was really about being right or wrong, gutsy or intuitive. It was about being controversial and the best way to be controversial is to say something that will inflame the largest demographic. Perhaps the most heartening development is that ESPN did not heed the predictable outcry to fire Limbaugh from the social crusaders. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie even went so far as to say that ESPN was institutionally racist for hiring Limbaugh in the first place. But firing him would merely have been fuel for his fire because Limbaugh would have turned around and made himself a martyr. Look at me, nailed to a crucifix for merely speaking the truth! Rush being Rush, he did save most of his venom for the liberal media. 'It's my opinion that the sports media,' he said on his radio show, 'being liberals, just like liberal media is elsewhere, they have a desire that black quarterbacks excel and do very well so that their claims that blacks are being denied opportunity can be validated.' Now if I was to stretch things slightly and include myself as part of the sports media, I guess I would then be a liberal by default. But what, exactly, is a liberal? In the neo-con world of Limbaugh and the current White House, it's pretty simple: anybody who disagrees with them is a liberal. Well then, I guess I'm a liberal and hopefully this will go a long towards pacifying a few members of the feminist lobby who took exception to a piece I wrote a few weeks ago on women in sports. Hey ladies, Rush says I'm a liberal, so back off. The real problem I have with Limbaugh is he stands for nothing other than ratings, he even said so himself. Frankly, his politics mean little to me because there are just as many moronic ideologues on the far left as there are on the far right. All right, maybe not quite as many but certainly enough because no matter which way these extremists lean, they're all shockmeisters anyway, no more, no less. Hand them a microphone, you get hate. Sometimes you get a big crowd to listen to this hate. Rush Limbaugh is a lot of things: insidious, spiteful, calculated and cunning primarily among them. But insignificant? Not nearly.