We aren’t supposed to mix politics and sports around here, but I keep trying to play inside the lines in this ridiculous playpen we have constructed of sports and the politics in a sick, divided America won’t stop climbing over left-field walls and unbuilt Mexican walls and barging into me.
This week, it arrived in one of the strangest and most amazing ways yet ... with legendary Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman spitting a gay slur so very casually into a mic he didn’t know was hot ... and then apologizing many hours later in the most awkward way possible ... by stopping mid-apology after saying “I’m a man of faith” to hear the crack of a bat ... and interrupting the broadcasting of what might have been the end of his career ... with the most somber, funniest home run call you will ever hear in your life.
Until the very end, Brennaman treated even the game of baseball and the craft of broadcasting it with more respect than he could extend human beings who happen to be gay, even while ostensibly in the middle of an apology meant to save his career.
This isn’t even yet the politics I’m talking about, of course, because being gay isn’t supposed to be politics just like wearing a mask isn’t supposed to be politics. But we have drifted to a place in a contaminated America — our divided states united in name only — where opinions can be traded for facts, snowflake, and anything can be weaponized as politics, even college football.
So bravely into the breach stepped Curt Schilling, using all his white power as a sports champion to champion not for gay people but for the real victim here ... Thom Brennaman.
“In today’s cancel culture,” Schilling wrote on Twitter while defending the good family baseball name of the Brennamans, “I’m expecting overreaction to this mistake.”
OK, first of all, Curt, this wasn’t a mistake. Losing all your baseball millions, plus $75 million in Rhode Island tax-payer loan dollars, to go bankrupt in video games, now that can be classified a mistake.
But Brennaman didn’t use that word by accident. Quite the contrary. He said it with his chest, like a man who had plenty of practice with it. He makes his career as a craftsman communicator with words. The way he said this was closer to expert than error. He said it wasn’t the real him, but I have worked in TV a long time — the real you is always the one who doesn’t know the microphone is around.
But none of this, believe it or not, is even the most forceful way Schilling dragged politics into this playpen that day.
You see what happened with political strategist Steve Bannon?
He was indicted for fraud on his We Build The Wall PAC, allegedly stealing money while getting a divisive president elected with a platform of building a literal wall between ourselves and those dirty brown rapists from Mexico who look like my father. Remember them? They were supposedly marching with ill intent to our borders, so we locked up their brown babies in cages at the edges of America, let freedom ring.
Guess who is on the board of directors for We Build The Wall. Yeah, Curt Schilling.
Now Bannon, who wanted to build a wall to protect his white us from my Hispanic them, is accused of using that platform, that racism, that division, that hate not unlike the kind Brennaman spit, to not only protect his precious white power (which is legal in America) but also to line his pockets (which is decidedly not legal in America).
The politics of money and race and power and sexuality, Schilling is sitting on the board of directors ... while blaming the rest of us for creating the culture of cancel.