I’m worried about Gregg Easterbrook, the writer of Tuesday Morning Quarterback (also called TMQ). I’ve been a fan of Easterbrook for a long time, since his first tour of duty with ESPN.com. I followed him to NFL.com when he went into the wilderness, and I’ve followed him back to ESPN.com in his second incarnation. TMQ mixes the NFL and social commentary in a way that nothing else does, with a dash of theology and physics thrown in from time to time.
I feel that Easterbrook is probably one of the more intelligent men writing about Sports today, an accomplished and talented man who is always a delight to read. He runs on for several thousand words, but so do I, and with far less reason. Politically I’d say he’s probably libertarian, and is pro-stripper and anti-gambling, both positions I can agree with.
Last fall (I think), he threw in an aside about how the USA was responsible for what happened in Iraq and how we, as a people, were morally responsible for each death there because we had invaded. I wasn’t totally agreed with the way he framed it (and I don’t remember it very specifically, so I may have misrepresented what he said). Then in a later column he snapped at Ken Mehlman, chairman of the RNC, for the infamous “Playboy Mansion” ad against Democrat Harold Ford, calling Mehlman a nasty name (something about a reptile or being reptilian) and implying that this was standard Republican dirty tricks.
The ridiculousness of that comment was overwhelming; having had the joy to watch both Ford and Corker's ads, I can honestly say that both were negative, bottom-of-the-barrel stuff that was insulting to the intelligence of the viewer. They jumped in mud and started slinging. To single out one or the other, and act as if they were more aggrieved, is simply wishful thinking.
In today’s TMQ, on the draft, he works in one of the beloved canards of the left, saying that in 1979 Ronald Reagan was “still just a washed-up actor” when the original Battlestar Galactica crew reached Earth. Not exactly: in 1979 Reagan had been governor of California twice, from 1967-1975, had pursued the Presidency in 1976 and almost unseated sitting president Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination. Washed-up actor may have been on his resume, but he was hardly “still just” a washed-up actor. Easterbrook’s old enough to know better than to toss that little gem out there.
What worries me is this: I don’t care if Easterbrook is a Republican or Democrat or Green Party or whatever. But when he makes these comments, he begins to betray lazy thinking and flawed analysis. And I read Easterbrook because of the sharp thinking and insight he brings to the topic at hand. Not just the football, either: his analysis of other subjects is often clear and concise, and he has good insights into society, politics, law, and anything else he sets his hand to.
Comments like this make me wonder if he’s starting to let politics drive his brain, when it should be the other way around. I don’t know if that was part of the deal with ESPN to get back on the site; maybe he has to throw in the occasional liberal talking point to make his ABC masters happy. But I do know that I worry that his reason, which is the whole point of reading 5000 words of TMQ in the first place, slips when he makes comments like these.