Horning: You can't say that on television

Clay Horning

It’s possible to think two things at the same time in response to one thing, even two things at apparent odds with one another.

I know this because I lived it the moment I learned what (now former) Cincinnati Reds play-by-play man Thom Brennaman said over the air — “… one of the f— capitals of the world” — on a hot mic, a couple of beats before uttering “Reds live, the pre-game show, presented by Ray St. Clair Roofing.”

The undisclosed f-word, of course, is a gay slur, and a few hours later, broadcasting the second game of a doubleheader between the Reds and Kansas City Royals, after realizing what he’d put over the air earlier, Brenneman apologized not particularly artfully, wondering if he’d ever “put on this headset again."

The two things I thought?

“He said what?”

“Dang it.”

The first was shock. The second, believe it or not, was on his behalf.

Immediately, despite being flabbergasted and offended, I felt sympathy, too.

The guy’s really good at what he does (or what he used to do). Also, he’s the son of Marty Brennaman, a Hall of Fame broadcaster who called the Reds before him and who took over, if you can believe it, for Al Michaels six years before Michaels called Miracle on Ice and decades before Michaels became far better known as a caller of the gridiron than a caller of the diamond.

Thom Brenamann is a link to the golden throats of the game, men like his father and Vin Scully and Curt Gowdy and Ernie Harwell and Dick Enberg and Jack Buck and Harry Caray. I want his voice in the game. Why did he have to go expose some some dark mark in his heart?

The very next day, Thursday, listening to Mike Milbury put his foot in his mouth calling Game 5 between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals inside the NHL’s Toronto bubble, the reaction was slightly different.

Milbury was attempting to extol the virtues of the bubble environment.

“If you enjoy playing and you enjoy being with your teammates for long periods of time, it’s a perfect place,” he said. “There’s not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.”

Milbury’s broadcasting days, at least for this hockey season, are now over, too, as they should be.

“In light of the attention caused by my recent remark, I have decided to step away from my role at NBC Sports for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” Milbury said two days later, possibly failing to realize the issue wasn’t the “attention” his remark created, but the remark itself.

Brennaman’s comment came off ugly, vile, bigoted and mean, Milbury’s merely stupid, disrespectful and way, way, way outdated.

Still, they’re right to be grouped together, not just as things one should never say on television, but as the neanderthal and unenlightened sentiments that should have kept them out of the booth in the first place were it well known such thoughts were a part of them.

It’s not “cancel culture” or even political correctness. It’s decency for crying out loud.

I have no problem believing Brennaman might, overall, be a swell, charitable and generous man, but his comments exposed something inside him that’s undeniable and not all right and that certainly can’t be part of a baseball franchise’s public face.

Milbury may be terrific in myriad ways, yet the way he views the sexes, at some level, is right out of the 1950s and that’s not cool, especially as the voice of a sport that’s trying to appeal to everybody.

Also, just as it is for Brennaman, the issue isn’t merely what Milbury said, but what he must think and feel to have said it.

It’s not 1950, 1970 or 1990. Heck, it’s not even 2018 or 2019, and that’s a good thing.

Women are not distractions.

Generally speaking, near as I can tell, they're far better than men.

All that and distractions belong to the one being distracted. Always have.

Broadcasters, and maybe all of us, shouldn’t be so worried about what they might say. They should be concerned about the bias and prejudice inside them that might lead them to say it.

Because if we’re all in this together and believe we're no better or worse than everybody else, we’re bound not to say things that sound like we believe we are.

I’m sure of it.

Clay Horning is a national sports columnist for CNHI. Follow him on Twitter @clayhorning or email him at cfhorning@normantranscript.com.

Recommended for you