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June 25, 2019

Natalie Egenolf: After unwarranted criticism of Reid, KC radio host needs a lesson in empathy

By bringing up the tragic death of Andy Reid's son as an indictment of the Chiefs coach, this sports talk host crossed the line

Having been in sports radio for the past decade, I have heard my fair share of takes — both hot and cold — and, yes, even some that may be considered room temperature. Opinions are generally meant to solicit a response, and in my experience in Philadelphia sports talk radio, there have been opinions that have received harsh criticism and it’s been warranted. 

In some cases, due to the nature of talk radio, one sentence can be completely taken out of context and blown up into a viral sound bite. The sound bite makes it way around the internet, receives backlash, context is then explained, and then inevitably it suffers the same fate all things internet outrage culture do. I’ve seen the scenario play out time and time again. 

The nature of sports talk also lends itself to a host searching for an angle for conversation, particularly in June in the sports world when drumming up a conversation with meat can require some creativity. A few weeks ago on The Mike Missanelli Show, we were able to hold a four hour conversation about baseball netting — it was not exactly where we planned on the conversation going, but sometimes you have to adjust the sails to where the conversation takes you. 

There are other times when someone reaches in an attempt to tie a point together, regardless of whether or not it makes sense.

However, I’ve never understood the sports talk hosts who like to play God in the way they judge someone's character, crossing the line of sports talk conversation and diving into the personal side of someone’s life. 

And that’s exactly what Kevin Kietzman from Sports Radio 810 in Kansas City did when he was trying to compare Reid’s disciplinary skills during the Tyreek Hill case to the tragic death of Andy Reid’s son Garrett, who passed away from a heroin overdose in 2012 during Eagles training camp. Kietzman said:

“The thing is, [the Chiefs] probably think [Reid] can fix [Hill], but they thought they could fix him before and they failed. Andy Reid does not have a great record of fixing players. He doesn’t. Discipline is not his thing. It did not work out particularly well in his family life, and that needs to be added to this, as we’re talking about the Chiefs. He wasn’t real great at that either. He’s had a lot of things go bad on him, family and players.”

I vividly remember the struggles that Andy Reid went through with his sons. We watched them play out publicly for years. I remember the tragedy at Lehigh University when Garrett was found and it was an incredibly somber start to a season that transcended anything that had to do with football. 

Kietzman defended his situation, saying he wasn’t trying to compare Hill to Reid’s son’s death, only how he disciplined his sons.

But that’s the key here — I think hosts forget that life transcends sports. In a world where “everything” is fair game if you’re in the public eye, you should at least have the self awareness to not make such a reach for the sake of an opinion. 

Managing a football player with anger issues is not the same as “managing” a child who is struggling with addiction by trying to give them a job and keep them on track. You can not compare the two and should never feel you have the power to do so. 

Kietzman clearly had the predisposition to judge Andy Reid’s player management skills based on how he was as a parent, a parent dealing with an epidemic that kills hundreds on a daily basis. Regardless of intent, I fail to see how the topic is fair game for any conversation surrounding football. 

Reid has been long gone from Philadelphia, but here is some advice to the sports talkers in KC, educate yourself on the heroin epidemic — not to mention how it impacts families and friends — and then discuss addiction “management” and discipline. 

If you figure out the magic answer that has seemed to escape experts and doctors from all walks of life for years, please call the rehab facilities and countless numbers of parents who have been trying to “manage” and save their children from this epidemic for years. You clearly have never known anyone who has faced the demon head on. 

But even if you haven't, that's OK. Empathy for someone's personal struggle is still possible in the sports world. 

To quote our old friend Andy Reid, “Gotta do a better job; time's yours."

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Follow Natalie on Twitter: @NatalieEgenolf

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