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Marty's gaffe: The biggest Reds news at the moment

WSAZ (Huntington, Charleston, Ashland, Ironton) coverage of Marty's remarks is here, though it doesn't provide footage of the foot-in-mouth moment. Marty shares his opinions about the lack of material support for the baseball program at Marshall. His pointed comments on that subject would not be news beyond Huntington, W. Va. if not for the diction used:

On Saturday night during Marshall University's preseason baseball banquet and fundraiser at the Cam Henderson Center, Brennaman - the keynote speaker - determined that Marshall's president must be "queer" for softball since the university managed to open a $2.5 million softball facility in March 2008, but baseball is still traveling for home games.

-- Rich Steven, Charleston Daily Mail

This is certainly a poor choice of words, as Brennaman (pretty much) admits in the Enquirer:

"I probably could have made a better choice of words, but in no way does that reflect my opinion about gays at all. It's just a comment I made about the president of the university."

EDIT: It's worth mentioning that there is dictionary definition for queer (adj.) which is “absorbed or interested to an extreme or unreasonable degree” (Merriam-Webster). But context and modern usage matter. Why use the phrase "queer for," which primarily means "gay for" in today's speech, when disparaging support for women's softball?

So Marty's usage is technically defensible. I see this as further evidence this is more of an unfortunate gaffe, without any overwhelming malicious intent behind the word itself. 

The use of the word "queer," in this context, is hard not to see as synonymous with "gay," as Brennaman acknowledges implicitly. This is a clear case of "queerness" being used to signify "something bad." It may not be as egregious as "that's gay" being used interchangeable with "that thing is bad," but it's very similar. The apparent interest in softball, at the expense of baseball, is a seen as a failure by the University, so it's branded "queer." Marty didn't say the president  "was an objectum sexual with an unhealthy affection for softball" (more accurate for his purposes), nor did he throw a "not that there's anything wrong with that" on the end of it.

Just as objectionable, I think, is the notion that support for women's sports is worthy of derision and inescapably a function of being "queer," though I think it's a little bit of a stretch to project this on Marty. He thinks baseball has been underfunded with respect to other sports at Marshall, which may be a valid point. But the consequence of poor word choice is that it can poison, in unintended ways, the statements you make connected to the poorly-chosen word. Furthermore, the more logical explanation for the $2.5M facility might be a donor gift, Title IX compliance or, hey, even genuine interest in promoting female athletics in a men's football and basketball dominated college sports environment.

By all accounts, homophobia is still rampant in professional sports. Still, I don't have any overwhelming reason to think Marty didn't just choose poorly here. As a lifelong fan of his work and an observer of his past lapses into Joe Bidenism, I'm willing to take his explanation at face value. In the context of a baseball fundraiser, the thrust of his remarks were directed at what he sees as lack of support for the program, not at making light of "queers." And while it never excuses insensitive speech, Marty is also not of my generation. The mere use of a dated term like "queer" shows he's a little bit out of touch. This does not make him a bigot or a bad person by any stretch - any more than it does the age 65+ members of our families who make these gaffes on occasion.

But since we can't know a man's mind, word choice matters. Sometimes, it's all we have to go on. As a gifted radio broadcaster, Marty knows this. And a more forceful statement from Marty affirming support for those persons who might be labeled "queer" would be refreshing. It's regrettable when the sports world we spend so much time following plays perfectly to stereotype.