Thom Brennaman's Heart

Are you sorry? I sure am sorry. Sorry as all get-out.

We say we're sorry a lot.

But don't worry. We don't mean it. Not at all. We're just required to say "I'm sorry" because there are rules invented by others who have nothing else to do with their time. We don't believe in the rules. Or thinking deep thoughts. Or any thoughts.

Dignity? Respect? Human solidarity? Self-accountability? Nah.

But we're really sorry for using all those words. We probably could be better people if we didn't and knew why, but it's hard work to be a decent person. So we won't.

Getting caught being a discriminatory jerk, however, comes with rules. Call them cultural sentencing guidelines. You are normally required to admit fault.

It's what members of the Catholic Faith used to call an "imperfect act of contrition." That's when you are sorry because you got caught, and know what the punishment will be.

When this happens, we hire professional counselors and therapists to teach us to plausibly pretend we are not a bigot. But our apologies make us look like a sharp knife is poking at our spleen.

Sometimes in life, we cannot tell a lie. Other times we can't tell the truth. Sometimes you can't tell the difference.

But you're not actually sorry in the penitential sense. Inside his head, exiled Fox/Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman is going to be the same Thom Brennaman he's always been. That is unless he takes a deliberate, different path.

Given the habitual requirements of offensive language, there is almost no chance he was using the gay slur the first time. They are not stored in a frontal lobe file cabinet under "Words I Never Use."

The words all are connected to judgements of how we value others, and whether we value others. When an angry man yells "BITCH" at a woman, he is yelling at every woman who has told him "No." He in effect is yelling at every woman.

He is telling all of them who they are in relation to who he is. He counts more than them as a human being.

Anti-gay slurs, especially by men, seem to leap all cultural boundaries. When sainted Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for the same slur in 2011, he was making a judgement, too.

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah got fined $50,000 the same year for the same word. A year later, Amar'e Stoudemire was fined $50,000 for the same word. Indiana Pacer Roy Hibbert similarly had a $75,000 divot taken from his bank account.

In Kobe's case, he made a public case that his slur was wrong. As he told an irritated Twitter fan in 2013 about his behavior; "That wasn't cool and was ignorant on my part. I own it and learn from it and expect the same from others."

So let us presume that Bryant figured out the mechanism of bigotry and decided not to be part of it.

For every sports star who takes a progressive stand, there is another who worries that gay teammates are unwelcome as a "distraction." This is the "I don't want gay dudes looking at my junk" faction.

The various slurs all are words yelled from mobs and jealous ex-husbands before they killed a person who is different.

Those words are triggers for those who receive the words. They are weapons, and meant to be.

The word Brennaman used also shows up in at least 70 percent of homophobic violent hate crimes, a growing phenomenon. It's a terror word.

The National Crime Victimization Survey, a household-based survey administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, reported 200,000 hate crimes last year.

Almost all of them include the word Brennaman employed.

It's a word meant to demean the masculinity of every gay man by calling him fundamentally inferior. By inference, the authors announce they believe themselves to be more manly than gay men.

It's cheap chest-thumping.

The word is meant to dismiss others for their theoretical differences from you. Calling someone else the "F" word - rhymes with "maggot" - also implies that you are not gay. Glad we cleared up that.

It's a singular, powerful value judgement - at least intended that way - which often oddly originates in pro sports from black men. They have been judged this way for centuries for their skin color.

Words matter. A surprise? Too late in the day for a professional announcer to claim otherwise. If he actually is ignorant of how the word functions, he shouldn't have been given a broadcast microphone.

In these public floggings, a relative must stand forth and announce: "This does not represent the Thom Brennaman I know."

But of course it does represent your mind and heart, which is why the words are so often ugly. The words we use represent exactly who we are.

Too bad.

We can choose to keep the words, or dispense with vocabulary that hurts people. You can cancel whatever parts of your culture you wish.

Life is not an inanimate object.

So Brennaman will be punished. Even the Cincinnati Reds want income from gay fans. Gay fans will buy beer at the stadium whenever crowds return.

Gay people do those things, too.

Brennaman does not seem to have been keeping up much with current affairs.

When Brennaman used the word, he was telling those gay customers that he cared more about casually insulting them than he cared about the Reds.

Or perhaps he was thinking what most men are thinking most of the time. That would be nothing.

If I were a Reds owner, I would have fired him for that alone. He was not only biased, he was stupid.

I would have been sorry.


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was THE Glenn Beck. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.

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