Childhood heroes come in many forms. They can include actors, athletes, singers, parents, grandparents, teachers, police officer or firefighters, to name just a few.
Regardless of who your childhood hero was, I am sure it was a sad day when you realized they too are human and are capable of making a mistake. I was reminded of that fact last week.
As I have mentioned in this column in the past, I have been a lifelong fan of the Cincinnati Reds. My dad was a Reds fan and I was raised with the Big Red Machine that won back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976.
Since satellite TV and streaming were not available when I was a child, we depended on the radio calls of Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall to stay up to date on the team. Listening to this duo describe the action brought the game to life. Marty Brennaman was my childhood hero and was the reason I decided to pursue a career in journalism.
As I grew older, I saw Marty’s son, Thom, following in his father’s footsteps as an announcer. I was thrilled when he joined the Reds as a television broadcaster. The legacy was continuing, and by association, a new hero of mine was flourishing.
However, that flourishing career may have come to a crashing halt on Aug. 19, during a doubleheader Cincinnati was playing in Kansas City. Coming back from a commercial, Thom Brennaman uttered an anti-gay slur over an open microphone not realizing the broadcast resumed.
The incident occurred in the seventh inning of the first game of the doubleheader. In the middle of the second game, Brennaman issued an apology for his comment and was removed from the air.
Since the games were in Kansas City, I was not able to watch the Reds’ broadcast of the game. I learned of the incident from a family friend shortly after Thom Brennaman was removed from the air. I was shocked, sad and highly disappointed.
The next day, my phone absolutely blew up. I was fielding texts from friends and family asking my thoughts on the situation with the frequency of Ozzie Smith tracking down grounders with a sinker ball pitcher on the mound.
Strictly as a baseball fan, and knowing the history the Brennaman family has with Cincinnati and Reds, my initial reaction was he made a serious mistake and should be suspended. However, as I thought more about the situation, the more I realized an even harsher penalty may be warranted. This type of conduct cannot be tolerated any longer.
As a journalist, I understand people in my profession are held to a higher standard than most. Reporters and broadcasters serve as the watchdogs of their community to safeguard the rights of the ordinary citizen. One of our jobs is to protect the individual by bringing to light any discriminatory actions relating to income, race or sexual preference taking place in business, government or any other field.
Journalists are to serve as the voice for the masses that may otherwise go unheard. As a result, there needs to be sense of trust between journalists and the people they are reporting for. Brennaman broke that trust.
Therefore, if the Cincinnati Reds organization determines terminating Thom Brennaman is the only way to restore that sense of trust between the citizens of Cincinnati, Reds fans as a whole and the broadcasters for the team, I stand behind that decision.
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