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On the retirement of Marty Brennaman

Chicago White Sox v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

High school was a weird time for me, which to be honest, marks it as a completely unremarkable time period in my life and probably most everybody’s lives. I was a small kid so I kind of had to give up on sports after junior high. As everybody else grew into young manhood and I remained merely a child, it was nearly impossible to keep up. So I didn’t do sports, which as far as I can tell is one of the primary ways teenagers integrate themselves into the broader community. There’s also marching band, skateboarding, and probably a million other things people do to be with other people. I don’t really know because I never did any of them. I spent most of my time playing video games and going to youth group. Neither of which were considered cool.

Dorks and nerds and dweebs and the like have had something of an image overhaul in recent years. Star Wars has become decidedly mainstream. Big Bang Theory was one of the most popular shows on television and it featured four absolutely hopeless geekwads (though they didn’t really lead the audience to sympathize with the geekwads so it wasn’t the paragon of representation some would have you believe it to be). It’s really something to see all the gomers of the world emerge from their mother’s basements and not be immediately shoved into trashcans and rolled down the street.

But it has been 20 years since I was in high school and locker room rough-ups and hallway hip-checks were still the norm.

What I’m saying is that I was an outsider in high school. I was a sophomore when this one dude Troy was a senior. Troy was a popular guy and everybody knew him. I assume he went to parties and did other popular kid things, which is why everybody knew him and liked him, but like I said, I never did any of that so I can only go on what others said. I remember overhearing a conversation towards the end of the school year that went something like “aww man Troy’s gonna graduate and go off to college and he won’t be around and man that sucks.” There was a definite feeling of loss to the whole thing. Troy was moving on and we were all losing something good and important. High schoolers have never had a particularly developed sense of perspective.

I definitely didn’t see it that way. Troy was in my French class that year and he sat in the row ahead of me. He wasn’t overtly hostile to me nor was he particularly warm. He didn’t seem particularly bright and he was fully aware of how his reputation preceded him. When he walked into the room, he expected that all eyes would be on him. And more often than not, that’s the way it went.

As it happens, the school did not collapse in on itself when Troy left. I’m sure we appointed a new Cool Kid in his stead, though I was not invited to the deliberations. I didn’t even stick around for my junior and senior years. I went to community college instead. Unlike most kids, I actually got a useful and valuable education as a high school upper classman.

This whole Marty Brennaman Farewell Tour reminds me a lot of Troy back in high school. I get that Marty is beloved in Reds country. He’s been calling Reds games since the mid-70s, fer christsakes. Most every Reds fan can identify with the experience of hearing Marty call the game on the radio, maybe sitting in bed as a child with a little transistor next to your pillow. Maybe sitting in the car parked in the driveway, ten minutes after you got home, listening to the ninth inning of a tie game. Hundreds of Reds players have come and gone in the last 40-some years, team ownership has changed hands a number of times, they moved to a new stadium, they’ve changed divisions. But Marty has been here the whole time. He is probably one of the single-most important individuals in the Reds community. He will be missed when he’s gone.

But if I’m being honest, I really won’t miss him. I understand that he is beloved by many in this community, and rightfully so. But I grew up in the hills of southeastern Ohio and AM radio didn’t work so well down in my holler. I actually wasn’t a serious baseball fan until I reached adulthood and even then, my community was one build around the internet and not the radio. I’ve been in the same high school with him this whole time and I’ve run into him on a few occasions, but there is nothing special here. We’ll have a new broadcaster next year. The place won’t collapse in his absence.

I don’t want this whole thing to sound like a Marty hatepiece. He has his detractors to be sure, and I’ve long counted myself among them. But this isn’t about that. Marty is really popular and a lot of people are feeling a real sense of loss with his retirement. I don’t want to be so spiteful and petty as to spit at that. It’s important to acknowledge his influence on this community for all these decades. He’s just not my kind of guy. The Fast and Furious franchise is one of the highest grossing film franchises in history whether you like them or not.

The internet tends to have a few different kinds of things that show up in thinkpieces like this: there’s the This Thing is Great! kind of thing and then there’s also the The Thing You Think is Great Actually Sucks! kind of thing. I’m dangerously close to slipping into the latter one here but I really don’t want to. And I’m certainly not going to write up the first kind just because it’s the popular thing to do. I don’t think Marty is great, but I don’t begrudge you if you do. I think he kinda sucks, but I don’t want to be a jerk and shit in the punchbowl at his retirement party. So I guess I’ll politely bid Marty a cordial farewell and just leave it at that.

Farewell, Marty. You mean a lot to a lot of people, and that’s really something. You have left your stamp on this community and will not be soon forgotten. Nobody could possibly fill your shoes when you leave, and I sincerely hope they don’t even try.