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Thom Brennaman doesn’t inherently deserve to be a broadcaster for a Major League Baseball team. That is both the long and short of the matter, but I guess we can go longer than that, too. If he is truly putting in work to make up for his hot mic usage of a homophobic slur last summer by joining the board of a children’s home that specializes in taking in kids thrown out of their home for being gay, then that’s great! I’m certainly not going to argue that point, and I’ll grant him at least a little benefit of the doubt here, that he feels some remorse about the whole situation beyond “it cost me my job and that’s bad.” Actually embedding himself a bit here in the community he offended is a good way to change the mindset Brennaman had that allowed him to so casually — and with obvious familiarity — throw out an anti-gay slur when he thought his mic was off.
However, none of this means he deserves to go back to being an MLB broadcaster. There are just 30 full-time play-by-play and color commentator jobs each, plus a handful of national broadcasting gigs. Why does Brennaman deserve one of those slots? He didn’t necessarily deserve one even before he got himself in trouble with his actions: the Brennaman broadcasting pipeline isn’t like the Buck one, in that Thom isn’t his dad nor is he Joe Buck, and yet, he was an announcer in multiple sports, with a grip on one of the few full-time jobs that exist in the market at the highest level.
That grip has been loosened, and no matter how remorseful Brennaman might be, it doesn’t mean he “deserves” to work in MLB again, as David J. Halberstam put it last week in an opinion piece that doubled as an interview with the former Reds’ broadcaster. It’s not like Brennaman is suffering by not being able to find a job at all. He worked the 2020-2021 season of the Roberto Clemente League in Puerto Rico. He’s a broadcaster for subscription service Chatterbox, covering sports in the Greater Cincinnati region. A quick look at Google suggests he has a net worth of between $2-3 million. He’s still working, and there are certainly jobs that are not broadcasting for a Major League Baseball team that are out there for him when he needs the work. The “14 months of hell” that Halberstam says Brennaman has suffered are simply because he can’t do that one job. What a ridiculous, entitled notion.
Brennaman says he’s not just checking boxes by doing things like joining the board of that children’s home, and as I said before, I’d like to believe he’s actually attempting to create a situation in which he never allows hate to dictate what comes out of his mouth again. Things like this interview don’t help with that, though, especially not coming from a guy like Halberstam. I don’t even want to bring up how Halberstam was fired from his own job as a broadcaster for the NBA’s Miami Heat following a season in which was fined $2,500 for saying, on air, that Thomas Jefferson’s slaves “would have made good basketball players.” That would just be piling on, and make it seem as if Halberstam isn’t just writing about how Brennaman deserves a second chance, but how David J. Halberstam himself does, and that he is cynically using Brennaman here in order to re-open some doors for himself down the road.
Plus, I don’t need to say it, not when the first half of Halberstam’s article is mostly an uneven rant about how broadcasters keep getting in trouble for the things that they say, but that some media personalities get in less trouble when they say things that aren’t as bad. I’m sure you can get there yourself.
Anyway! If Thom Brennaman needs a job, there are jobs out there. He’s already had at least two since he resigned from the Reds just over a year ago. He might not be able to do the one thing he absolutely wants to do, but that’s just normal life for people whose dads aren’t famous, whose dream careers didn’t open up for them thanks to the unbeatable duo of access and nepotism. There is no reason that Brennaman should be in an MLB booth again when even Halberstam, in his mess of an op-ed/interview, is able to identify that broadcasting booths across the major league sports are far too white. Daniel R. Epstein recently wrote about how we need a higher standard for MLB’s broadcasters, and, even without the homophobic slur, Brennaman wasn’t exactly hitting any of those higher standards with his work.
This is probably a good time to remind, too, that the first time Brennaman came up in this newsletter wasn’t because of the hot mic that cost him his job, either. It was a year earlier, when Brennaman was openly sympathetic to domestic abuser Addison Russell, making himself an example of the horrid culture surrounding domestic abuse in MLB that is well overdue for change. It’s not “just” the one thing that means he shouldn’t have one of these extremely public, extremely high-profile gigs!
I agree that Brennaman doesn’t necessarily need to be tossed down a well forever, never to be seen nor heard from again in any capacity, especially if he is actually trying to change and better himself. He’s all of 58 years old, with plenty of time to prove that he is not, in fact, just checking off boxes to get back in the good graces of those who can give him back the job he no longer has. Basically, none of this means we need to be hearing from him anytime soon, not so shortly after what cost him his job in the first place occurred. What we need now is to stop treating “not being able to broadcast for an MLB team” as if it is the equivalent of being left out in the cold to die, either literally or figuratively, by society. Thom Brennaman is fine. He will find more work — he has already found some. His kids, whom Halberstam invoked, are going to be fine, even if their dad isn’t working for the Reds. Brennaman himself is going to be fine. Halberstam, well, if you read his op-ed, you know he’s probably not going to be fine. But that’s fine, too.
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