Alex Reimer was sent home from the first Super Bowl he’d ever covered.
The WEEI columnist and radio show host has been a quick success due to his abrasive style on air and on digital media. Hot takes — some of them insulting — have worked for him.
But Reimer carelessly made fun of Tom Brady’s 5-year-old daughter, Vivian Brady. Reimer is now serving an indefinite suspension for those comments.
On radio last week, he called Vivian “an annoying little pissant.” (What is a pissant? It’s defined as a worthless or insignificant thing.) Reimer got onto the topic of Brady’s daughter when referencing the opening scene of episode one of Brady’s documentary series, “Tom vs. Time.” Reimer cited Vivian’s presence as one element of the show feeling contrived.
While his comments weren’t flattering, they also weren’t unique on the Boston sports radio scene, where hosts rant and rave regularly. But no one insults children — and certainly no one insults Brady’s children. Brady is the most important element of the equation. Brady has a weekly radio spot on WEEI, and the company just extended their deal with the Patriots to maintain those interviews, along with weekly appearances by Bill Belichick. The station’s relationship with Brady and the Patriots is of the utmost importance. So when Brady threatened to cancel that weekly appearance on Monday over Reimer’s comments, the host was in trouble.
Brady has since clarified that he doesn’t want Reimer fired. While that was probably a possibility — and might still be — Reimer’s job looks somewhat safe. But he’ll face significant hurdles when he returns from his suspension.
So what’s next for him?
The topic was too hot for most sports radio hosts to touch at radio row after Reimer’s suspension went into effect. WEEI’s Mike Mutnansky, WBZ The Sports Hub’s Michael Felger and Chris Gasper, and ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton were all asked for comment on the story. They all declined an interview with The Big Lead. Reimer declined interviews about the topic.
But there were some who were willing to discuss what could be next for Reimer.
“In this day and age, athletes are held to a standard and they have lost jobs and they’ve lost opportunities based on the slightest things they said,” NBC Sports Washington analyst and former Redskins cornerback Brian Mitchell said Tuesday. “Some athletes have been accused of stuff and they lose their job, and then they get it back. I think that the same scrutiny that they want to throw at an athlete should be held to [Reimer] as well.”
Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job. Should Reimer? That’s the kind of hot take Reimer might enjoy presenting. The reality, however, is that if WEEI was going to fire him, they probably would have done so by now.
A number of Boston sports radio hosts have gotten suspended over the last few years, only to walk the tight-rope of edginess and political correctness upon their return. WEEI’s Kirk Minihane took a hiatus after making disparaging remarks about the Boston Red Sox, with whom the radio station had a partnership. Felger got suspended after going on an inappropriate rant after Roy Halladay died.
They remain two of the most impactful voices on radio in Boston. But they were already big names before their incidents. Reimer, on the other hand, is just a rising star.
“I think the correct course of action is probably exactly what happened,” ESPN Burlington’s Brady Farkas said. “But I do think it’s a tough slope for WEEI. I’m sure there have been things that have been said that are more offensive than that. … But WEEI’s relationship with the Patriots is so important that you have to keep that relationship strong. The Tom Brady segment — I would have to imagine that that is the most viewed or most listened to or most downloaded thing on their website every week.
“I don’t think that this should ruin his career. Tom said yesterday that it shouldn’t ruin his career. And I think Tom Brady doesn’t seem like a vengeful person. He seems overly positive in a lot of ways. I think he defended his family which was necessary. I think the station defended their biggest ally, which is Brady and the Patriots. And for Reimer, I think that he’ll learn from this, and hopefully he’ll get to do that in Boston at WEEI.”
Reimer will likely return to WEEI’s digital platform, where he’s been publishing columns on Boston sports. That’s a safe way for an editor to filter through his material, so nothing slips like it did on radio.
But the question is whether he’ll get another shot on radio. And if he does, what kind of personality will he be?
He can try to clean up his act, and avoid the abrasive foundation he’s created. But there’s also a scenario where he leans into the drama he’s created. Reimer has done it before. Minihane and Reimer manufactured drama over Reimer’s appearance on NBC Sports Boston’s television show, a competitor. They fought. Minihane kicked him off the show. Reimer and his father pleaded that he get another shot to be a part of the show.
It feels contrived because it was contrived. But it was the type of reality radio which Boston sports fans have come to enjoy.
So why not use this attention to continue his ascent? No one outside New England knew his name heading into this week. He has since become a national story.
Reimer could turn into a WWE-style bad guy on sports radio. He can’t go around insulting Brady — he’ll have to tread carefully. But he can certainly continue to push the edge by fighting with Boston homers, which tends to create a stir and WEEI likes causing a stir.
Reimer doesn’t have the veteran savvy of Felger or Minihane. But Reimer is also young — he’s in his mid twenties. He has time to develop this adversarial schtick, and learn how to go about maintaining it without ruining his career, much like the men he seems to be emulating in Felger or Minihane.
Gary Tanguay, who works for NBC Sports Boston and appears regularly on Minihane’s show, said this could take a positive twist for Reimer. And while we don’t condone what Reimer said or did, that’s just the strange (and often unfortunate) reality in the Boston sports media landscape.
Drama works. And Reimer has brought endless drama in his young career.