Given what I do for a living, I am loath to criticize anyone who expresses their opinion for a paycheck.
The First Amendment is a wonderful thing and free speech is among the greatest rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
But with rights come responsibility. There are lines you don’t cross, and one of the clearest lines involves children. When an adult does something you don’t like, you shouldn’t take it out on their kids.
I did not vote for Donald Trump and consider him an incurious fool who is bad for the country and bad for the world. But anyone who goes after his 11-year-old son is beneath contempt.
Which brings us to the case of Alex Reimer, among whose duties at the sports talk radio station WEEI is to express his opinions on the subjects of the day, sports and otherwise.
Like more than a few people, Reimer didn’t like the most recent project of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a documentary called “Tom vs Time.”
Brady’s 5-year-old daughter, Vivian, briefly appears in the film. Vivian seems like a lot of other 5-year-olds, excitedly telling her dad about her day. I thought it was kind of sweet.
Reimer did not. He described Brady’s daughter as an “annoying little pissant.”
Give Reimer some credit. He resisted the urge to criticize Gisele’s taste in furnishings and did not describe the Brady manse in terms the president reserves for Haiti and Africa, which in today’s coarsening media world stands as a marker of progress.
But stop and consider what he said: He referred to a 5-year-old the way some children might demean each other on a playground.
If Reimer wanted to criticize Brady, as some others have, by saying, for instance, that he shouldn’t expose his kids to trolls like Reimer, I wouldn’t agree with that opinion but I would defend anyone’s right to express it.
But belittling a little girl who was having an ordinary moment with her dad is indefensible, what Sean O’Casey once described as going “beyond the beyonds.”
Before cutting short his weekly, contractually obligated appearance on WEEI’s “Kirk & Callahan” show, Tom Brady let the people who pay him to appear on their station know that he was none too pleased.
“It was very disappointing to hear that,” Brady said in reference to Reimer’s remarks. “My daughter or any child certainly does not deserve that.”
Showing far more class than many of his detractors, Brady stressed that this isn’t just about his kid. As he said, no kid should be called names like that by an alleged adult.
I’ve read some of Reimer’s stuff and heard him on the radio enough to conclude that he is a talented, ambitious young man with many attributes. Unfortunately, maturity is not one of them.
But this goes well beyond the mistake of any one person. It calls into question the very format of talk radio in general and sports talk radio in particular. It seems those who scream the longest and loudest get the best ratings. And in that game, it’s all about the ratings.
Still, you can push the envelope only so much, because eventually the envelope falls off the table, spilling some ugly things into plain view.
On Friday, Reimer was suspended indefinitely. Suspensions in sports talk radio are like penalties in hockey; it doesn’t stop the fighting, it just takes the guy out of action for a while. And, continuing with that hockey metaphor, suspensions in that business are sort of a badge of honor, proof that you’re edgy and not afraid to say anything. Still, given the offense, and given Brady’s stature, this might be a suspension that sticks.
I used to listen to a fair amount of sports talk, but that’s when they talked mostly about sports. The highest-rated shows, like “Kirk & Callahan,” seem to spend less time talking about sports and more time talking about themselves, while denigrating competitors and even people on their own station. I don’t need that. I already went to high school.
I still listen to the adults. Dale Arnold has forgotten more about hockey than I’ll ever remember. And Mike Holley is a good guy with good judgment, on football, on basketball, on life. There are other smart, decent people on the radio. You know who you are.
Like other Patriots fans, I was thrilled by last year’s implausible Super Bowl comeback. It was one of the most extraordinary football games I’ve ever watched. I still don’t know how Julian Edelman kept the ball from hitting the ground.
But for all that excitement, the one image that will linger with me long after I forgot how good James White was that day, was the moment when Tom Brady embraced his mom, Galynn, as the confetti still rained down inside NRG Stadium in Houston.
Galynn Brady was battling cancer, and her kerchief-clad head and smile spoke more about real life and real values and what binds us and families than any football game or trophy could.
If, on Sunday, the Patriots prevail against the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis, all the talk will be of Tom Brady becoming the first player to win six Super Bowls.
But, if the Pats do win, the one thing I’d really like to see Tom Brady lifting in his arms is not the Vince Lombardi Trophy, but Vivian.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org