"If I were president, I would still do the show," Rendell told Page 2.
He won't be president, of course. That's bad news if you were looking forward to his diplomatic summits with the butt-kicking, advanced-calculus-mastering Chinese, but good news if you like the idea of having him and his yapper around on Sundays for performance purposes.
It's hard to deny Rendell's value as an entertainer. He can be, by turns, clever or crude, bright or bombastic, silly or snarky. But unlike many of the recycled former players who dominate local and national sports media across the land, he's rarely boring.
As an Eagles analyst, Rendell has captivated proponents and detractors for years. He is a member of a (mostly) talented bunch. Michael Barkann jokes. Ray Didinger informs. That Other Guy provides unintentional comedy by fumbling more than he did while he was in the NFL. And yet the (no longer) Gov remains the main attraction, if only because his mouth is as big as his waistline used to be.
"He has opinions and things he feels strongly about and he's always willing to express those opinions," a Rendell spokesman recently told the media in a gross understatement.
You watch because you like him. You watch because you loathe him. But you watch. How could you not watch? How could you not pay attention to the man who melted down on 60 Minutes and who has provided Eagles fans with so many memories?
There's the legend about him betting someone $20 he couldn't reach the field with a snowball at the infamous Bounty Bowl game, and the oft-cited mistake he made by advocating for Ricky Williams instead of Donovan McNabb. There was the unfortunate prediction that McNabb and the Redskins would make the playoffs this past season while the Birds wouldn't (oops). There was the comment he made about rooting for the Skins after McNabb was shipped to D.C. And to top it off, there was the attendant backtracking and clumsy damage-control that followed those statements.
Most recently, there was the "nation of wusses" line that became national news after he criticized the Birds for postponing the Vikings game due to inclement weather. That angered a lot of people, including some stadium workers at the Linc, who buried the Gov's seat under snow as a gag. Rendell's rant, which included the now (in)famous remarks about the Chinese, was actually cribbed from Daily News blogger Will Bunch. On ESPN, Rendell admitted as much and gave Bunch credit. See that? In a down economy, Rendell provided free publicity to a local business - ours.
And let's not forget his dedication to showing up for work. In 2009, during a state budget crisis, Rendell continued to appear on CSN's pregame and postgame Eagles shows. The Gov received some heavy criticism for that. He responded with his usual grace and chose his words with careful consideration.
"He understands that on a Sunday afternoon you could fire a machine gun in the halls of the Capitol and not hit anyone," a Rendell spokesman told the media at the time. "That's what he said when I asked him about this."
You don't hear anyone talking about Gov. Corbett firing machine guns in the halls in Harrisburg, now do you? You also don't hear anyone talk about Corbett being wooed by Pittsburgh TV stations to become a Steelers analyst. Call that a coincidence if you like.
In any event, you can rest easy, Birds fans. While the labor unrest shakes football's foundation, the (no longer) Gov has committed to coming back next season. That's something, at least. Some people will be happy about that and others won't be nearly as thrilled.
But here's the thing: Both of those camps - the people who dig Rendell and the people who don't - will keep talking about him. It's impossible to avoid. Just like with entertainers or politicians or, in his case, pols-turned-entertainers, Rendell's oversize personality affords everyone in Philly the opportunity to vent - to rip or praise depending on how you feel about him. The man is an activity, a hobby, a parochial pastime.
Remarkably, some people still haven't figured that out. Or, in Rendell parlance: You guys don't get that. You're simpletons. You're idiots if you don't get that.
Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or email@example.com.
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