The Limbaugh Effect

John Wooden arguably was the greatest coach in the history of sports. Actually, I don’t think there is much of an argument.

Wooden’s influence was immediately visible in the reverence for him displayed by the great UCLA teams—players and coaches—who piled up so many championships with him.

But it was the philosophy of life embedded in his “pyramid of success” that extended his impact beyond basketball into communities including broadcasting, entertainment, corporate America, and the political realm.

“Success,” as defined by Wooden, “is peace of mind that comes with the self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you were capable of becoming.”

At the top of Wooden’s pyramid sits not “Victory,” but rather “Competitive Greatness” which calls on the individual to “be at your best when your best is needed.”

When you pile up 10 championships in 12 years, including seven in a row, people are rightly interested in your insights on professional leadership. What they got from Wooden instead was instruction on living a life of fulfillment. The “Wooden Effect.”

Rush Limbaugh had a similar effect.

I’m sure many will bristle at such a comparison, perhaps Wooden would have done too. I mean not to compare the two men as individuals, however, but rather to examine their respective impacts.

Rush created space on the radio dial for commonsense conservative talk.

He wasn’t the first conservative talker but he raised his craft to an art form. He made it fun. And with tens of millions of daily listeners, he made it impossible to ignore. He paved the way for generations of “skulls full of mush” to grow up to be conservative radio talkers (including me), commentators, journalists, and political leaders.

Rush created community.

Who can forget Dan’s Bake Sale in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1993? Conceived on his show as a combined response to school bake sales organized to reduce the deficit egged on by President Bill Clinton and to a caller named “Dan” who wanted a subscription to Rush’s newsletter but couldn’t afford it, thousands of Dittoheads turned out to celebrate one of the best illustrations of one Rush’s better regular features: demonstrating the absurdity of the Left by being absurd.

All media personalities create community around their content. But no one leveraged the intimacy of radio to create a bigger, more enduring, and more vibrant community during his lifetime than Rush.

Rush had his own pyramid of success. Not unlike Wooden’s, Rush’s was rooted in the cardinal virtues (which also happen to inform America’s founding documents).

Rush told his audience there are rules to which one must adhere in order to make America work and keep her free. Rush both challenged and validated his audience. In effect, he said, you’ve got it right and those on the Left who want to run your lives for you have it wrong. You keep doing what you’re doing and you battle those trying to impose wrong on you—and I’ll be right here with you—and things will work out.

The Left always misses this. Whether it’s Rush listeners or Trump voters, all the Left sees is a cult of the hoi polloi because their view of the great unwashed is, well, that they are the great unwashed.

Rush was a promoter of the individual’s agency; not his fealty to him or anyone else who didn’t create the heavens and the earth in six days.  

Since Rush’s passing, several eulogizers have suggested that Rush’s “talent on loan from God” has now been “returned.”

I’m sorry to nitpick, but I disagree.

We all have the duty and obligation to use our God-given talents to give glory to God while in this mortal coil. When done properly, you return to Him having exhausted all that you were bestowed. Rush deployed all he was conferred.

“Success is peace of mind that comes with the self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you were capable of becoming.”

Take comfort in Rush Limbaugh’s successful life, in the knowledge that he made it to the top of the pyramid and he is now at peace.


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About Dan Proft

Dan Proft is the co-host of Chicago's Morning Answer on AM 560 in Chicago and the host of the nationally syndicated Dan Proft Show on the Salem Radio Network.

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images