The culture of hot takes, talking heads and the occasional disgusting statement will never change. It’s made to be a juvenile culture.
In the end, Kevin Keitzman got what he wanted.
Sure, he’ll issue explanations. He might even offer an apology. Given enough pressure and full-throated responses, he might even retract his statements or step aside for a moment or two. Not to worry: he will return (or someone equally as two-dimensional will rise up in his place).
Despite any rebuttals that sound contrary to this, Keitzman, a host on 810 WHB, became what he wanted to be most: a lightning rod. He got his 15 minutes, his shining moment, his name in (digital) lights. A talking head seeks one thing—attention—and we’re still giving it to him.
This column isn’t about the fact that Keitzman’s recent statements about Andy Reid’s family were disgusting (which they were). Nor is it even about what our response to Keitzman should be (to ignore him). Instead, it’s good for us to remember that Keitzman isn’t so much an enemy, by definition, as he is a symptom. And it rarely works to simply treat the symptom.
If you missed the theatrics, Keitzman spent some of his time as a sports radio host discussing Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Specifically he was concerned about the way the team deals (or does not deal) with character concerns very well. In response he made this statement:
"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."
You can get the full context here with a response from Keitzman and the whole deal. Again, my concern here isn’t about Keitzman in a singular sense. He’s a two-dimensional product, an obvious outcome.
Here’s the thing: Even as Keitzman receives a punishment in some form, his numbers will simultaneously go up. Even as the public image of the radio station seeks to hold him accountable and put on the right face, those charged with watching the metrics on the inside are silently pumping their fists. There are “thank yous” being mouthed behind sound bites filled with contrition.
But should Keitzman really even be that sorry? That might sound like a dumb question, but when described as a product, I mean just that. He’s a product. He’s only producing the outcome he was hired to generate. If he has been tasked with drastic means to achieve those results, is he at fault for producing them?
The answer is yes in one way. A man doesn’t have to jump through the hoops if he feels he cannot do so ethically. Keitzman is a willing participant here, guilty of saying foolish (and even harmful) things. That warrants both a response and repercussions.
At the same time, sports talk in general is a juvenile culture. There’s a reason that Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith exist in our worlds as sports fans. They have learned how to game the system to achieve maximum results (clicks, viewers, social responses, et al) in order to enjoy the financial spoils for doing so. Nevermind that each sold their birthright for a bowl of soup in the process (see the Biblical story of Jacob).
That’s what juvenile culture produces: persons who are willing to forgo any ethical impulse or moral compass for the sake of a few bucks. A juvenile culture is two-dimensional on all sides. Every argument is binary (either/or). Nothing is complex. There is no mystery. Everything is definitive!
Juvenile culture insists Tyreek Hill is guilty—wait, no he’s innocent—the moment the news hits the Twitter feed. Juvenile culture demands immediate action on the part of a team when something goes wrong. Juvenile culture can be identified best by its reactionary responses.
Is the person talking in extremes? It’s juvenile.
Is there any room for gray area? It’s juvenile.
Is there an understanding of (and appreciation for) complexity and mystery? It’s juvenile.
Sports talk by definition is meant to tell you that Chris Jones is worth big money (or not) within a 60 second span before the commercial break. There’s literally no room for nuance. There are no savvy arguments to be made. Every take must be sharp. Every angle must be absolute. Every response must be exaggerated.
Note: This isn’t just sports talk. It’s also found in our current political system. Immigration is a highly complex issue, but we’re all talking against each other with distilled talking points lacking any depth or care. Talking heads have us waging war on reason by turning us against each other. You also find this in religion, where mystery and gray areas are quickly pushed aside in the name of certainty (yet somehow faith is still pushed as a main tenet). It’s all around us, in other words.
Juvenile culture always seeks to entertain, even if it’s just another word for distraction. It’s the reason GoDaddy puts scantily clad women in its Super Bowl ads and why Kevin Keitzman cannot afford to give time to thoughtful arguments. He’s trapped inside a beast that’s already given him his directives. Sing and dance to attract. If it doesn’t work, sing a new song and dance a new dance.
On Monday, Keitzman found a song that worked. It was so asinine and disgusting that people stopped to tune in, like cars driving by a harsh automobile accident to slow down and look. To everyone outside of 810, it was a major misstep, but inside Keitzman’s juvenile culture, it worked as planned.