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Billy Reed: In a week celebrating inclusion, tolerance in one area, Thom Brennaman implodes in real time


It is sadly ironic that Cincinnati Reds television announcer Thom Brennaman committed career suicide by slur while the Democratic National Convention was celebrating diversity, inclusion and tolerance in uplifting fashion.

That’s why I didn’t see or hear Brennaman’s shocking implosion in real time. I was watching the Democrats nominate Kamela Harris as Joe Biden’s runningmate. It wasn’t until after the convention that night that I was able to see why the internet was blowing up over what Brennaman said during the first game of a double-header between the Reds and the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City.

The broadcast was coming out of a commercial break when Brennaman could be heard saying, into a microphone he incredibly didn’t know was hot, “One of the f*g capitals of the world,” before resuming the broadcast. We still don’t know about the why he made the remark and to whom it was directed.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

I am still not sure what the offensive word was. I don’t think it was the one commonly used to describe a sex act. Seeing it began with an “f,” I thought it might be the ugly pejorative that rhymes with “maggot.” That would make sense because the dictionary defines that word as “offensive” and “used as an insulting and contemptuous term for a male homosexual.”

Even as the internet was blowing up, Brennaman finished the first game and started the second. But in the top of the fifth inning, coming out of a commercial break, Brennaman made broadcast history by issuing an apology that ended being a farewell address. He was pulled off the air immediately afterward and replaced by Jim Day, the talented all-purpose announcer who is probably more popular with Reds’ fans than Brennaman.

Once again I missed seeing this in real time because I was watching people who would have been angered by Brennaman’s remark. As I later watched a replay, I thought about former mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, the first openly gay man who had sought the Presidential nomination. I wondered what Brennaman might have said privately when Mayor Pete was mentioned.

To be honest, I never cared much for Thom as an announcer. Too often he would go off on tangents about things he knew little about. He sucked up to his bosses with the Reds and Fox Sports Ohio. Mainly, he just didn’t have the style, presence, and talent behind the mike that belonged to his father, Marty, the Reds’ beloved radio play-by-play man from 1973 through 2019.

Still, I hate to see anyone end their career in such a horrible way. I also believe in second chances. But in this case, sadly, it will be difficult for many to forgive Thom, no matter how much sensitivity training and public service he is willing to do. In only a few seconds, he became a leper that nobody wants to touch.

“This is not whom I am and never has been, and I’d like to think maybe I could have some people that can back that up. I am very, very sorry and I beg for your forgiveness.”

So far, to my knowledge, there has been no groundswell of support for Thom. His friends seem to have gone underground. Even his dad talked about how badly he felt for his son, but stopped short of saying he had never before heard his son make such a remark.

So maybe the remark Is who Thom Brennaman is. Why would such a thought ever come to his mind? That’s as mysterious as why an announcer with Brennaman’s experience wouldn’t know his mike was hot. It was a rookie mistake, but one serious enough to put Brennaman’s broadcast future in serious doubt.

I’ve met Thom several times, but certainly don’t know him well enough to have a definitive opinion on the kind of person he is. I certainly feel badly for his dad, a friend of many years. But mostly, I’m just going to wait and see how this plays out. I want Thom to be treated fairly, but, heck, I want everyone to be treated fairly. That’s as far as I can go until we get more facts.

I’m happy I was watching the Democratic National Convention when Brennaman killed his career. The war on bigotry is stronger and more relentless than ever. In fact, since Thom now has a lot of time on his hands, it might do him good to get on the internet and listen to the words of Biden, Harris, the Obamas, the Clintons, and so many others who deplore prejudice and hatred.

It could be the first step down the right path.


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