It is hard to love a sport, because the truth is that sports will never love you back. Sports will never comfort you when the defeat of your favorite team hurts you, they won’t be there for you as you go through the highs and lows of life. Sports can bring us joy and sorrow in equal measure, and we can love them, but they will never love us back.
For minority groups, the reminder that sports don’t love you back can feel heavier, and more dangerous at times. There is a very real difference between being a cisgendered straight sports fan who does not feel fear going to a game with their significant other, compared to a lesbian couple sitting in the stands just trying to enjoy a game in the company of someone they love without encountering hate speech.
On Wednesday, during a Cincinnati Reds doubleheader, the difference was made abundantly clear, as announcer Thom Brennaman oh-so-casually dropped a homophobic slur on air when he thought his mic was off.
The single word was as loud as a clap of thunder, and you better believe LGBTQ+ fans of baseball heard its message loud and clear. It was blunt, it was dismissive, and it was meant in a derogatory way. Brennaman apologized later, claiming he did not know the hurtful and violent history of the word, but the way he said it told another story.
And the people who heard it knew. Every kid who ever had the word yelled at them from a passing car window knew what it meant. Every person who ever tried to go to a baseball game, only to hear someone in the stands shout the word at a struggling player, using its power to cut them down, they knew. Every person listening who knew that words could be weapons knew what the word meant. And so did Thom Brennaman.
He has since been relieved of his duties with the Reds and with the NFL, though not officially fired from either role.
After the end of the game, Reds players Amir Garrett and Matt Bowman were quick to reach out to LGBTQ+ fans they knew were hurting, ensuring that Brennaman’s words did not speak for the team.
To the LGBTQ community just know I am with you, and whoever is against you, is against me. I’m sorry for what was said today.— CountOnAG (@Amir_Garrett) August 20, 2020
LGBTQ+ community, as a member of the Reds organization, I am so sorry for the way you were marginalized tonight. There will always be a place for you in the baseball community and we are so happy to have you here.— Matt Bowman (@bowmandernchief) August 20, 2020
As one might expect, writers had something to say about it as well, and that’s where we’ll start today’s links.
- In a free article on Baseball Prospectus, Ginny Searle takes a look at the work MLB needs to do for the LGBTQ community, and how Brennaman’s words have made many take a look at that relationship.
- Jimmy Traina gets right to the point in calling Brennaman’s gaffe stupid and highlighting all the ways it got worst along the way.
- Mo Egger wants to know why a word so vicious was Brennaman’s go-to choice in that situation. (The Athletic subscription required.)
- In unusual baseball news, Jared Diamond looks at why players are testing positive for a 50 year old East German steroid.
- Barry M. Bloom and Joseph Feldman look at how broadcast teams are learning to innovate without having fans in the stands to fill dead air.
- The Fernando Tatís Jr. grand slam continues to garner attention as Meghan Montemurro shows that most active players don’t have the same old-school unwritten rules mentality anymore. (The Athletic subscription required.)
- Related, in that Eric Hosmer is also in the recent Padres grand slam club, Jake Mailhot takes a look at what’s working so well for Hosmer right now.
- In the first of two Sam Miller posts I’m sharing today, he has some fun looking at how every single MLB team might be cursed.
- The most recent header graphic in Sarah R. Ingber, Davy Andrews, and Roger Cormier’s minor league series — this about West Virginia Power — might be my favorite yet.
- Emma Baccelieri looks at how weird the 2020 stats are.
- Sam Miller — see I said he’d be here twice — notes 20 ways the 2020 season is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
- Somehow, the trade deadline is just around the corner, and Bradford Doolittle takes a look at which teams have needs, and who might be able to fill them.
- Matt Harvey got the call up from the Royals, but according to Nick Selbe the former Mets wunderkind isn’t in his best form.
- Jay Jaffe takes a look at the trio of hot prospects called up by the Tigers this week and if it’s a glimpse of the team’s winning future.
- David Laurila speaks to Indians scouting director Scott Barnsby about this years unusual draft.
- The Padres have hit HOW MANY grand slams this week?
And tomorrow will be a better day than today, Buster. Make it so.