When I was a kid, my elementary school gym teacher was a man named Mitch Miracle. He was something of a local legend, an inadvertent sign of the crushing poverty - both economic and otherwise - of the local community. He had played basketball in the ‘70s for Marietta College and, as far as I know, still holds the school record for career free throw percentage. His technique was so perfect that it was said he put the same exact spin rate on every single shot he took.
He never taught me how to shoot like that. He was an asshole and he hated me.
He was a pretty typical coach/teacher. He was a coach first and a teacher only in the sense that he was employed by a school district. Thing is though that he wasn’t allowed to be a coach anymore. So all he was was a teacher.
You might guess correctly why a fella like this wouldn’t take kindly to a smart ass like me.
But see, he wasn’t permitted to coach anymore because in the early ‘90s he was arrested for exposing himself to some teenage girls. Which is uncool for anybody to do, but it looks particularly skeezy for a jr high girls basketball coach. Remember though this was the early ‘90s so the only real consequences for his actions were the loss of his coaching duties.
In the summer of ‘98 I was 14 and had just finished eighth grade. I was moving to the high school the next year, so I felt a real relief in knowing that I would never again have to encounter Mitch Miracle as a teacher. He had taken the opportunity of our last class together (as he had so many times before) to single me out and lecture me and express to all of my friends and classmates just how little he thought of me. I felt pretty good about how I kept my mouth shut and showed him just how little interest I had in what he had to say that day. That wasn’t always the case.
I think it was in late July that year when I was watching the six o’clock news with my mom and sister. Ol’ Mitch’s mugshot led off the broadcast and the anchor explained that he was once again arrested for once again exposing himself to teenage girls once again. They noted that because it was his second offense, the minimum sentence was something like a few years in prison.
The sweetly luxurious pleasure of that particular mete of justice is something I will not soon forget. And last night when Thom Brennaman ended his career hoist with his own petard I was delighted to have tasted it once again.
I have never met Thom Brennaman, but I feel like I know him pretty well. I’ve spent countless hours with him over the last 15 years or so, listening to his self-serious drone going on about how professional the Cardinals organization is or how Kyle Schwarber is from Middletown or how Josh Harrison went to Moeller and UC or how Jeff Keppinger can flat-out hit. And honestly while we all make fun of him for going on and on about the same things over and over again I know I’m just as guilty of that kind of thing myself. If you spend as much time with me as I have with Thom, you would probably get pretty tired of hearing me go on and on about how our society is self-immolating or how good butter noodles are. I mean, if you spend enough time watching somebody they are bound to dip into re-runs every now and then.
All that’s to say that I feel like I know Thom Brennaman pretty well. I obviously don’t know his heart of hearts, but you can learn quite a lot about somebody’s heart of hearts by watching how they present themselves. And over the years Thom has proven to be generally skeptical of intelligence, suffocatingly pompous, and an insufferable nag. It seems like he believes he has earnestly reflected on himself and his life and has concluded that it is his determination, hard work, and talent that have earned him his many legitimately impressive successes. He believes he is a man in good standing with his community, and he likely sees himself as a leader. He is a man of faith, after all. Those were the words he chose to describe himself in opening his bizarre on-air apology.
This is not a picture of an honest Christian man apologizing for a grievous injury caused, it is of a frightened failson who knows he has disappointed his father beyond redemption by breaking the #1 family rule: never get caught.
Listening to his apology, you can tell his anxiety is genuine. He sure is worried he may never wear the headset again. He apologizes to his bosses, the people who sign his paycheck, and “anyone (he) may have offended.” You know a good way to tell if an apology is genuine or not? On what is the apology focused? Thom’s apology is all about him. How sorry he is, how good of a person he is, how he hopes he has some friends out there who will back him up. And IF anybody out there is offended, well, yeah, he’s sorry to you, too.
He needs you to understand: that is not who he is. It never has been.
Knowing Thom as well as I do, I know that isn’t true.
And knowing genuine people of faith (I can’t claim honestly to be one myself), I know how bitter and cynical it is of him to use it as a shield. Christianity is a faith dedicated to the tenets of peace, kindness, mercy, and care. It is not for you protect yourself from the consequences of your actions.
And listening to the offending comment, you can feel the acidic curl in his lip when he says the word. This is a man well-practiced with the word. You can tell from the ease with which he says it that he has said it numerous times and likely with some regularity. He clearly enjoys saying it. It is, indeed, exactly the kind of man he is.
And so it is likely now that Thom Brennaman has called his last baseball game. And knowing him as I do, I’m filled with the giddy hum of a bright new summer morning. You see, I’ve spent 15 years sharing baseball with this man. His one job, the one job he has ever trained for, the job he was given because it is the job his father had, was to talk to me about Reds baseball. And just my luck there weren’t a whole lot of alternatives for me. He has always been bad at his job and he has never deserved any of the professional blessings he has so abundantly received.
He made one of my favorite things in the world less enjoyable. And in a perfectly just world, THAT is why he should have been dragged out of the booth mid-game a long, long time ago.
But I’m not bitter about that. The poetic justice of Thom Brennaman getting cancelled for dropping a slur on a hot mic is the sweetest of metes.
Fuck you, Thom. I hope to neither see you or hear from you again.