RUSH LIMBAUGH … RADIO TALK SHOW HOST WITH 13.5 MILLION LISTENERS EACH WEEK … MARCONI RADIO AWARD FOR SYNDICATED RADIO PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR, 1992, 1995, 2000, 2005 Sport is the very fiber of all we stand for. It keeps our spirits alive. PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DEL ANO ROOSE VELT 144 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME Igrew up playing Little League ball until age of ten and then went into the Babe Ruth League, where I had some success. I was a pitcher and when I wasn’t pitching I played first base. I had two equally defining moments in sports that helped me immeasurably in my life and career. The first came when it was time to go out for the high school team. I thought I was a shoo-in. After all, I had played against and with all the great players who were my age and I’d held my own. I went out for the team, but after the first tryout I didn’t see my name on the posted list, so I didn’t even survive the first cut. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it had to be some kind of mistake. What made it worse was that the coach was a family friend, so I thought I had it locked.
I was in shock. And when I went home and I told my dad, he couldn’t believe it either. So I said, Dad, do me a favor. Please call the coach and find out what happened. He fired back, I damn well will not call the coach, son. You didn’t make the team and it’s time you deal with reality. And if you really need to find out why you didn’t make the team, then you go talk to the coach. I never called him, though. You can go one or two ways when something like that happens, because make no mistake about it, I was embarrassed. Number one, blame somebody else or, number two, go through an honest self-appraisal process and learn from it. What was it about me that made me think I was a shoo-in in for that squad when in reality I wasn’t? From that day on, I vowed to examine my failures so I could learn from them. It happens to be one of the most difficult things a person can do, but it’s necessary. My decision about my sports career would result in another valuable lesson later on in life. At that moment, I decided to end my quest to play high school baseball and try to become the kicker on our high school football team.
NUMBER TWO The second defining moment came in the fall of 1967, when I walked onto the football field and told the coach that I’d like to be their kicker. RUSH LIMBAUGH 145 Well, he let me know that they didn’t have a roster spot just for a kicker and that I’d have to do something else. He recommended the offensive line. The coach was Norm Dawkins, and he was one of these guys who truly was in the game so he could shape kids’ lives. He wanted me to have the respect of the team. He didn’t want me to sit around while the team did the Bull in the Ring or Nutcracker (for you non football players, these are one-on-one drills made to build character). Essentially, I wanted to be the kicker because I did not want to run, and I think Coach Dawkins knew it. Practices were brutal, one of the most physically taxing things I’ve ever done. We ended every practice with gassers (wind sprints) and he’d say after a number of them (during which I’d always be near last), the top three finishers get to hit the locker room. Well, I had been pacing myself for just this moment and I’d wind up finishing among the top three and be done.
Coach Dawkins called me over and asked how I pulled that stunt off, at which time I let him know I was pacing myself. He ripped into me, saying in this game and in your life you do everything full-out all the time, that it’s the only way you can reach your full potential. I have never forgotten that. Those words stuck with me, and that principle helped me throughout my broadcast career. If I had gotten away with it, it would have sent the wrong message, that you can fool people, even authority figures, who in reality are only trying to get the best out of you. The coaches in that small Missouri town cared a lot about us. They were intent on shaping young adults, not just football players. SO, RUSH, HOW DID THE REST OF THE SEASON GO? I played every game on JV as a tackle but never got into a varsity game on the line. But I was the team kicker. The highlight for me was kicking the extra point and beating the dreaded Carbondale, Illinois, team. I never did play my senior year, because I found a full-time on-air job at a local radio station. SO, WERE ALL THE DRAMA AND DRILLS WORTH IT? If I’d been cut from the high school baseball team and called out during the first days of high school football, I don’t know how I would have han- 146 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME dled being fired seven times in my broadcasting career.
I never made excuses or looked to blame anyone or feel bad for myself. Instead, I just moved on. Somehow, I never lost my confidence. I even left radio for a few years, joining the Kansas City Royals front office. After five years being around people making tons of money while I was only making eighteen thousand dollars a year, I got out and found my way back to radio news. I convinced my bosses to give me a twice-daily commentary spot. I still got fired, but I had enough of a track record to get a talk show host slot in Sacramento, which led me to where I am today, the most successful radio host ever. But along the way, I had some bad times, including having one ABC network guy tell me, You don’t have any talent, so if you love radio, try sales. But I had a passion for it and was not going to be stopped. I think desire is 80 percent of achievement and I just loved radio, and I think that’s why I’m where I am today. WHAT I LEARNED FROM WATCHING GEORGE BRETT The days with the Royals were bleak ones for me, but I did have the chance to watch one of the all-time great baseball players in his prime George Brett. They say he made everything look so easy and he did, but few knew why it looked so easy.
Brett looked effortless because he put the work in all the time. For a night game, he was taking batting practice in one hundred five-degree weather six hours before the game. He did that all the time, and watching that made me redouble my efforts to get back into radio, making me more determined to do whatever it took to get it done. The latest example I can use from my life is what I went through hosting my radio show as I lost my hearing. I had a syndicator who stood by me and an unbelievable staff working extra-hard for me, but I also did what I had to do to stay on the air. This included my phone screeners typing out what the callers were saying, so I could answer in a somewhat natural way. Sure, I was worried and stressed out, but I worked through it, and it takes me back to my sports experiences as well as my overall philosophy of finding a way to get it done. I’ve learned to accept reality, and feeling sorry for myself is just not something I want to do. RUSH LIMBAUGH 147 MY WRAP Most of us have to bust our butts to get where we are, and it’s even harder to stay there. Rush has made it and he’s sustained it, and he might just end up back in sportscasting on the side as well. No one could ever accuse him of pacing himself, thanks to a special high school football coach.
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