Author and screenwriter Michael Walsh joined American Greatness Publisher Chris Buskirk to discuss the culture war battle over the National Football League. The problem with pro football goes well beyond players refusing to stand for the National Anthem. Listen to the interview and read the transcript.
Chris Buskirk: I am Chris Buskirk, he is Seth Leibsohn, and welcome back to the Seth and Chris show. We are joined by Michael Walsh. Michael’s a friend of the show, friend of ours. He’s the author of several books, most recently was The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, and before that was Rules for Radical Conservatives. He’s also known as a screenwriter, a novelist, what else do you do Michael? Composer?
Michael Walsh: Weddings and bar mitzvahs, you know, that’s for sure.
Buskirk: I didn’t realize you could sing too, so we’ll have to talk afterwards. I’d like to book you for, I don’t know, Seth, marriage?
Walsh: Yeah, but I don’t do windows, so that’s one thing.
Buskirk: Where’s my rimshot when I need it?
Buskirk: Really. Michael, what do you think, are you getting the NFL season ticket now, after this weekend?
Walsh: No, I gave it up, as I wrote in PJ Media over the weekend, the day that Clint Longley came off the bench and beat the Washington Redskins, my team, back in 1974. And I realize that either my sanity or my health was gonna go if I didn’t stop watching the NFL. So I gradually unwatched and decompressed, and kind of sauntered through the ’80s, moved to Europe for 10 years, when I came back I just didn’t want to watch it anymore. And now I think it’s not just optional, but actually stupid. So I’m glad to see what’s happening to the NFL, cause it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.
Buskirk: You were an early adaptor of not watching the NFL, but you’re not alone. A lot of people, it took people 40 years, but they’re catching up with you, Michael.
Walsh: That’s good because people are just wasting their time. Honest to God, I tell young writers, I was out in L.A. two weeks ago speaking to some young writers out there and I swear if I had not spent so much time watching football, right after college, I’d have written 10 more books and probably sold six more scripts by now. So let this be a lesson to you kids, don’t make that mistake. Go cold turkey, cut the cable, stop watching TV, and forget about the NFL.
Buskirk: Yeah, do you want to watch sports, or do you want to play sports? That’s one of the formulations that I’ve said to my own kids, quite a bit. Thankfully the ones who are inclined in that direction have chosen to play way more than they’ve chosen to watch.
Walsh: Yeah, well sports are for kids and they should play and they should run around and break an arm or two, and get a lot of fresh air and eat some dirt, and do all that good kid stuff. But once you get to be a grown man, what—God, the games were three hours when I was a young man, now they’re four hours, for which you get … 11 minutes of actual football. Eleven minutes. All the cheerleaders in the world aren’t enough to make me spend four hours watching 11 minutes of action. I mean, it’s the greatest bamboozle in the history of American entertainment.
Buskirk: I’ve just thought of it recently as basically an excuse to drink beer and eat wings.
Walsh: Yeah, I think so.
Buskirk: But who needs the excuse?
Walsh: Well, first of all, you don’t need that excuse, you can do that at 3 o’clock in the morning if you want to, especially when you’re a grown-up. And secondly, something that I was thinking of, I could have put in the piece and didn’t, is I think for young men it’s a kind of extension of college. Bonding and hanging out with your buddies, and drinking beer, and eating pizza, and having fun, and frittering away an entire Sunday. But as you get older, and with more responsibilities, when you have children, when you get married, when you have property, you know all those things that actually lead to wealth creation. Those wedding bells are breaking up this old gang of mine, anyway, you move on in life and you gotta put, as St. Paul said, “The things of childhood behind you.” And I think pro football is certainly one of the things of childhood.
Buskirk: Michael . . . when you look at what’s going on in the NFL and, now in the NBA too, of course. We had the Golden State Warriors—really are the ones who kicked off the fracas over the weekend. By saying that they would not go to the White House to accept the sort of traditional congratulations that the sports champions get from the president. How would you explain to somebody, big picture, what’s going on here?
Walsh: Well, with basketball I quit after Willis Reed hobbled onto the court in either 69 or 70, in the NBA championship game against the Jerry West Lakers and hit the first two throws from the floor and then hobbled off again. The greatest game of all time and we all looked at each other and said “That’s not gonna get any better than that. So that’s the end of basketball.” And that was the end of basketball for me. So yeah, but this notion of injecting politics and social justice warriors stuff into sports. I think it’s been coming for a while, yeah and you know who’s really behind it? The sportswriters. That’s who’s really behind it, because just as I tell people the CIA is basically a hardcore Left, practically communist organization, they fell in love with the KGB and really hated when that relationship broke up.
The same is true of sports writers, they tend to be sort of pansies who never played sports, but they love it and they are social justice warriors too. Those are the guys that are pushing this and fanning the flames of this, and now we’ve got it to the point where. I don’t think the league is gonna survive this, frankly, I think once again they’ve run into the Trump buzzsaw, much like Megyn Kelly did. I just read a very disparaging review of her new show, because they consistently underestimate a president they despise, but the public agrees with. And no matter how many polls 538 and Nate Silver take, or analyze, people are gonna agree with basic all American positions. And as I just tweeted, “Taking a knee during the national anthem doesn’t protest police brutality or violence in the black community. It protests the United States of America. Which side of this equation do you really want to be on?”
Buskirk: Well that’s exactly right, and this is what they seem to misunderstand. You know in politics we have our own bubble, right? You have the National Review and you have New York Times, these people all sort of conspire or have conspired to become the bipartisan fusion party and they have led all candidates down the primrose path to destruction. In sports though, you’ve described something that’s very much the same. You’ve got the sports writers, who as politically are an analog to the politics writers, they’re all on the Left. I think they’re doing the same thing to the NFL. I completely agree with you. Will it go away? I doubt it. Will it be a lot less profitable? Will it have a much lower profile in the country? I think so, and I hope so.
Walsh: Well, I think it will go away. Here’s why I think, there’s a lot of trends running against the NFL right now. First of all, they’ve just been exposed for what they are, and Roger Goodell is the son of a former New York State Senator or something, you know, big lefty from New York. And he’s really showed his true colors, has by the way the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I hope. I saw Rush Limbaugh today, admitted he didn’t watch any football for the first time in 45 years yesterday.
Buskirk: Oh, I didn’t hear that, that’s interesting. For people who have listened to him, he’s a big football guy. He tried to buy a team.
Walsh: He was on the broadcast for a while, ’til he got kicked off for a remark about whoever that was. But he stopped watching and his team’s the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they were a total disgrace yesterday, except for that one guy. And I think what you’re gonna see now, is the Cowboys actually come out and do something for America. Some team has an opportunity to be the hero in this and it ain’t the Pittsburgh Steelers. So I hope Rush keeps to his promise and never watches another minute of the Steelers or the NFL.
But I do think they’re in trouble for several reasons. One is that; two is the injuries are horrendous, and they can’t tell these brain injuries until after the poor son of a gun dies. So that can only be found in autopsies, but they’re finding terrible things, because the men are bigger. They’re certainly much bigger than when I was a boy and watching grown men play football. They’re faster, they’re much more heavily armored with the helmets and everything. They’re essentially human spears, and no matter how the league fiddles with the rules, they still can’t avoid the physics of it. So I think you’re gonna see more and more lawsuits. Aaron Hernandez’s family has just filed one. You know, Hernandez didn’t need any encouragement to be a thug and a murderer, ’cause that what he was. But now they’re gonna use this severe brain injury that he suffered throughout football as a battering ram against the league. And also, people are sick of millionaire, billionaire owners moving teams around the country and then demanding that we pay for them by saying, “Hey, don’t you want a pro football team, you can’t have a first-class city without a pro football team.”
Well, I’ve lived in L.A. off and on for 10 or 15 years and L.A. got along perfectly fine without any football teams. And now they have two, which nobody goes to. So I think things are running against the NFL in a way they don’t see, but they will soon enough.
Buskirk: Yeah, I’ve seen some interesting statistics, Michael, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but fewer people are having their kids play football. Which reduces the pipeline of players who will play professionally down the road, and the reason is some of the things that you cited. Which is that it’s just, it’s physically it’s very, very hard on kids and on adults, but you don’t see it until you’re 30, 40, 50, 60. But if you’ve known old football players these guys, they’re broken down at 40, and they’re worse at 50 and they’re worse than that at 60. People have figured that out and don’t want their kids playing anymore.
Walsh: Yeah, they die pretty young, relative to the rest of the population. So back in the day when they didn’t make any money, that was a pretty stupid bet. Now they make a lot of money, but the question is do they have any of it when they retire or finally get cut. And then what kind of quality of life do they have afterwards. It’s just rugby with armor, so take the armor off and play rugby. Play some game where guys in tight pants run up and down a field, but not this game. I think that’s where we’re headed.
Buskirk: Yeah, unless people want to see it. Of course, it’s not only the NFL now, from a cultural-political standpoint we also have to deal with athletes in other sports as well. That goes to the bigger question. I’d be interested in your thoughts, we’re going to a break here, but interested to hear your thoughts on what this means culturally. How we got here? I know this is where you’re an expert. How we got here and where do we go from here.
Michael Walsh is our guest, we’ll be right back.
I am Chris Buskirk, he is Seth Leibsohn, welcome back to the Seth and Chris show. We are joined by Michael Walsh, Michael is the author of a number of books. Most recently The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, and before that Rules for Radical Conservatives.
Michael, what’s a radical conservative to think about what’s going on with these professional athletes, disrespecting, dishonoring our country?
Walsh: Well, I think it’s just basically the extension of the ’60s war against America. You know this is gonna continue ’til all the Baby Boomers are dead, so you guys got—I know I’m 67, so you got another 20 or 30 years to go before you get rid of all of us. I know that’s a happy prospect. But seriously, they never liked America, even back—they cut their teeth on the Vietnam War. Everything to them is either the Civil Rights Movement or the Vietnam War, so that’s how they define themselves as good guys by protesting whatever the cognate in their tiny little marijuana-affected brains seems to link these things. So they now see somehow the National Anthem as representing racism, and this tells you exactly what the Left has always been about. They hate America. They just hate it. Until we realize that guys, we’re not fighting back effectively against these people.
Buskirk: I think that’s absolutely right Michael, the people have always said that they love the Democrats, love to push back with “Are you questioning my patriotism?” Yes!
Walsh: Yes! Darn right I am!
Buskirk: What was the first clue?
Walsh: Yeah, no I’ve been questioning it since I went to college in 1967. So dates from about that time, yeah, 1967 seems like a good year. Certainly by ’68 when you had the Chicago riots around the time of the election, the Nixon-Humphrey election, the Days of Rage. I mean, they’ve been raging ever since, they’ve been raging longer than Achilles raged, and he raged for how many years from the Trojan war? I mean, their just insane people with a chip on their shoulder and a lot of animus against our country.
Buskirk: What do you think is the cultural importance of this as we look at ’em? We hear all about these players, they get a lot of the spotlight, but there’s also those people who are chanting “USA! USA!” and cheering Donald Trump when he was saying that they should be fired.
Walsh: Yeah, that was down in the Alabama speech. Well look, the South was always an exception, and as I pointed out in my story in PJ on Saturday, the militaristic component of football was one of it’s appeals, especially in the south, which is approximately where 99.9 percent of all military enlistees come from. They like that part of it, it’s war by other means, and it’s kind of mechanized tank warfare with large people being the tanks. And Texas, of course, it’s the state religion, let’s face it, but they’re gonna have to wean themselves from this. Because what they’re finding out is that, the NFL hates America, too. Let’s face it, they do, and those owners saying “I have to protect my players.” And people saying, “This is a First Amendment issue.” No, it’s not, the government isn’t saying anything about anybody.
This is between the NFL and its players, and they’ve somehow roped us into this argument, as the bad guys. At some point, Chris and Seth, you’ve gotta stand up for your own side. Who was it, Robert Frost, who said: “A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in an argument.” And we’re becoming liberals, because we go “Yeah, well you may have a point here.” And of course, they don’t have a point. Nothing of what they say is true. There’s no epidemic of police shooting black men out of proportion to whatever proportions you want to talk about, proportions. There’ve been studies, I wrote a big piece about it in the New York Post about two years ago. There’s been another one that came out recently in National Review.
So a lot of this is manufactured controversy, that the owners could stop if they wanted to. Because it violates the terms of their employment, and that’s a private matter. But now, of course, the left wants the government involved in it somehow. It’s just crazy.
Buskirk: Yeah, this has nothing to do with the government. This has to do with right and wrong. In my view, we need to be spending more time talking about that. What they’re doing, I think, is reprehensible in every way, and we’ll talk about it in those terms. Whether the owners fire them or not, I think they should. But that’s neither here nor there, as a culture I want people to look at this and see that these people are shameful and we should not be listening to them.
Walsh: Though also some people have been tweeting, you know, “Well why do we have the stupid National Anthem tradition with sports anyway.” I mean, what’s wrong with these people? They’re really—luckily for us—they can’t resist going over the top. So now you’ll see people on Twitter, which is, of course, a lunatic asylum, saying “Well, I don’t understand why they play the National Anthem at sports anyway, let’s just get rid of that.” Remember this is all part of critical theory, guys, attack every institution and wreck it. That’s the whole goal of critical theory. So now they’ve applied it to football, and they will wreck it, trust me. They will wreck it.
Buskirk: Yeah, I mean, that’s it. Anytime the Left gets a hold of any institution, they use it first as a battering ram, but ultimately they just bring it down. They destroy it and we’re gonna see that with sports that a lot of people like, “Nothing wrong with that, sports are great, kids play ’em, adults can play ’em, too, if they want to.” I’m all for it, but they cannot be and ought not to be used as a battering ram to undermine the foundations of this country or of our policy.
Walsh: No, but Dave Burge the IowaHawk, friend of mine, pointed out—and I’ve done the same thing—basically what the Left does, he compared it to getting inside a host animal, killing it, gutting it, and then wearing it’s skin. Sort of like Buffalo Bill in the Silence of the Lambs. I compare it to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” you know that beautiful woman that you just woke up next to in bed? That’s not your wife, it’s a pod person, but it looks like her. We have to understand the Left seeks to infiltrate institutions, corrupt them and destroy them. But use their protective coloring to prevent assaults from our side against them. Why it’s the New York Times, no it isn’t. It’s not the New York Times anymore, it’s not the New York Times of the 1950s and ’60s. It’s now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democrat Party. That’s what it is; it just calls itself the New York Times.
Frankly, guys, this is what they’re trying to do with countries. Germany—let’s hollow out Germany with a million immigrants a year, thanks to Angela Merkel’s ridiculous policy. And then you’ll have a country in a hundred years that’s still called Germany, but it’ll be an entirely Muslim nation. ’Cause the Germans forgot how to have sex, apparently, and have no children, plus they hate kids. So now you’ve got a country called Germany, but it isn’t Germany, it’s just named Germany. We have to be really on guard against this, ’cause it’s what the left does. They’re like parasites that come in, hollow out a country and destroy it and move on.
Buskirk: That’s a good, that’s a great way to put it. Yeah, it’s the same place, maybe it has the same borders, not that anybody enforces them. But it’s something completely different, even our friends on the Right, who love to talk about America as an idea. Well, they’re not willing to defend that idea.
Walsh: Well, apparently we’re not willing to defend anything, I mean, from what I can tell. So we have to really understand the threat that this poses to us. You know the most conservative movie ever made was by a very lefty friend of mine, Dean Devlin, who wrote “Independence Day,” the original “Independence Day.” And you know, it’s the scene where the president says to the monster speaking through Brent Spiner, “What do you want us to do?” And the monster says “Die.” Then the president, after he’s been released says “I had this vision of them, they move from planet to planet, they destroy everything on it, then they move on.” And this is what we’re up against. I know it sounds a little apocalyptic, but its actually true.
Buskirk: Just look at the history. Michael, you hear the music, we’ve just got less than a minute. What do you think is gonna happen tomorrow in Alabama?
Walsh: I think Roy Moore’s gonna win.
Walsh: Is he ahead in the polls? I’ve been busy . . .
Buskirk: Every single poll I’ve seen he’s been ahead by a minimum of eight and as much as about 14.
Walsh: Well, Mitch McConnell is the worst majority leader in the history of majority leaders. He can’t get Susan Collins on board for the Obamacare repeal. You’ve got your own beloved senator from Arizona lurching around, destroying the crockery as usual. Somebody’s gotta take this party in hand and get it done.
Buskirk: Yeah, I mean, here’s the number one question for anybody running in a GOP primary, will you vote for new leadership? That’s, that to me that’s the litmus test.
Walsh: I think that’s a great thing, Chris. I think we all should make that a big, big point now. Will you vote for new leadership? Cause this one is terrible.
Buskirk: Gotta run. Michael, thanks so much, you can get his books on Amazon.com. We’ll be right back.