Opinion: If Thom Brennaman wore a uniform, he'd still be calling games on Sundays

Andy Furman
Opinion contributor

Something was missing when the NFL season kicked-off last weekend.

It wasn’t soon-to-be Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Deshaun Watson − he’ll return after an 11-game suspension, reached in a settlement. If you missed it, that suspension came after the National Football League appealed his original six-game punishment.

It wasn’t even a Bengals win. They lost their season opener to the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers.

What was really missing − and missed − was the voice of Thom Brennaman calling games for the Fox network.

Thom Brennaman

Aug. 19 marked the second − yes second − anniversary of Brennaman’s use of an anti-gay slur while broadcasting a Cincinnati Reds baseball game. While previewing the Reds’ second-game of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals, Brennaman − with a "hot-mic" − was heard saying, "one of the (expletive) capitals of the world."

In the top of the fifth-inning he said: "I made a comment earlier tonight that I guess went out over the air that I am deeply ashamed of. If I have hurt anyone out there, I say from the bottom of my heart that I am very sorry."

He resigned from the Reds. And Fox pulled him from calling NFL games.

Punishment comes in different sizes, shapes and forms. For athletes − talent always trumps trouble.

As for quarterback Watson, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women − an 11-game suspension and a fine of $5 million after an NFL settlement − will permit him to return to work.

Watson’s case was the first to be handled by an arbitration process established in the 2020 collective bargaining agreement. His initial six-game ban was imposed on Aug. 1 by a retired federal judge appointed by the league and the players’ union. But the NFL appealed the judge’s decision, putting the power back in the hands of a Goodell appointee.

Too bad Brennaman doesn’t wear a uniform − he’d be calling NFL games on Sundays.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson speaks to the media, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in Berea, Ohio, after the team announced that Watson has reached a settlement with the NFL and will serve an 11-game unpaid suspension and pay a $5 million fine rather than risk missing his first season as quarterback of the Cleveland Browns following accusations of sexual misconduct while he played for the Houston Texans.

But Watson is not alone. He’s got plenty of company with those in uniform who were suspended − and returned to work.

Michael Vick comes to mind. The former Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback was indefinitely suspended in 2007 for his role in a dogfighting scandal. The suspension lasted two seasons; Vick was reinstated before the 2009 season after serving an 18-month prison sentence.

Adam (Pacman) Jones, a former Cincinnati Bengal, was suspended for the 2007 season with the Tennessee Titans for his role in a fight at a strip club that led to three people being shot.

I wonder if Brennaman heard about this one?

Donte’ Stallworth, a receiver with the Cleveland Browns, was suspended for the entire 2009 season after striking and killing a pedestrian in Miami Beach while driving drunk. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 7:   Donte Stallworth #18 of the Cleveland Browns carries the ball during the game against the Tennessee Titans on December 7, 2008 at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Darren Waller, in 2017, a tight end with the Baltimore Ravens, was suspended for a year for violating the substance abuse policy. He had been suspended for four games in the 2016 season for the same violation. He was reinstated in 2018.

And get this − hope you’re listening Thom.

Travis Henry, in 2008, then a Denver Broncos’ running back, was suspended for at least one-year after he tested positive for marijuana for the third time. Before the suspension was complete, he was sentenced for three years in prison for financing a drug operation. The NFL reinstated him in 2018.

Talent does trump trouble − get the picture?

And Josh Gordon, a receiver now with the Tennessee Titans, was suspended six times for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, including a suspension for the entire 2015 season. He was again suspended in January, 2021, then reinstated in September.

Another former Bengal, receiver Chris Henry was suspended six games in 2007 after he was arrested four times between December 2005 and June 2006.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leaves Federal court in New York, Monday, Aug. 31, 2015. Last-minute settlement talks between lawyers for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady have failed, leaving a judge to decide the fate of "Deflategate." (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

And who can forget the Tom Brady Deflategate scandal in 2016 when the Indianapolis Cots accused the New England Patriots of deflating footballs to give Brady an advantage. TB got four games.

The options for Brennaman were there.

Drugs, drinking, arrests, striking and killing a pedestrian. All of these would have probably gotten him back behind a microphone. He had a slip of the tongue with an open microphone. And his career was done.

Something is terribly wrong. Don’t you think?

Andy Furman is a member of the Enquirer Board of Contributors. He also talks sports nationally on Fox Sports Radio, serves as PR coordinator for The Point/Arc in Northern Kentucky and writes for the Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle.

Andy Furman