The Cowboy: An Expert on Barbecue and Twitter

There are times during Reds TV broadcasts when one just shakes his head and thinks, “Goddammit George Grande, the world ain’t all that great.” And there are times when you might say, “Welshy, I really miss your mustache and I think it's funny how uncomfortable George Grande makes you.” And then there are times when Jeff Brantley talks about himself, and all you can do is laugh out loud.—-

Last night’s Reds game quickly got out of hand — one friend of mine surmised that Bronson Arroyo left the stove on in his apartment and Dusty wouldn’t let him go home to turn it off, so he got rocked on purpose — and Reds fans were left to the playful musings of Mr. Brantley. Of course, Brantley’s thoughts on barbecue, Twitter and what times of day it’s appropriate to eat a meal were all prompted by one Thom Brennaman.

You see, Brantley — a Major League Baseball veteran nicknamed “The Cowboy” after his Alabama roots — considers himself an expert at cooking things on the grill. Last year the former All-Star demonstrated his exact form when spreading sauce on cuts of meat while wearing a promotional Montgomery Inn apron. Brantley, 44-years-old at the time, mimicked the back and forth spreading of barbecue sauce with an invisible brush on non-existent ribs. At the time, it was entertainment much more worthy of a baseball fan’s attention than the play of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.

The great thing about The Cowboy is that you can tell he’s being himself, whether he’s on TV with Thom or in the radio booth with Marty. Brantley is a little funny, a little weird, a little country and just opinionated enough to be insightful without being annoying. The great thing about the TV broadcasts is that Thom knows all of this.

The fake barbecuing last year? Thom prompted it. The time Brantley said he’s willing to eat meals at both 12-noon and 12-midnight? Thom ran with it. When Fox Sports Net started making all of its personalities join Twitter, Thom didn’t miss a beat.

Last night, with the Reds trailing 9-0 after two innings and the on-field entertainment relegated to betting on which Reds position player would end up pitching (Paul Janish), Brennaman and Brantley again ran with the Twitter jokes.

The discussion eventually led to what kind of photo The Cowboy was going to use on his Twitter profile. Brantley said he’s currently using his FSN headshot, which was quite unimpressive to Thom, who obviously knows and appreciates what a character Brantley is. But Brantley stopped him, explaining that the headshot was just for now and that he’ll change it out for another one later, so his friends and followers can see a real picture of The Cowboy.

It should be noted that Chris Welsh seems to think Twitter is pretty funny, too. I can’t help but laugh every time these veterans of baseball and broadcasting start talking about the latest Internet technology. (But NOT the quarter-screen text-message poll, athough last night’s poll on whether or not Brantley could work out enough to make his abs into a six-pack was pretty funny.) The Twitter stuff seems to have brought out the inner-skeptic of all of these guys.

“So, Chris, do you have a lot of people following you on Twitter?” George Grande asks.

Welsh answers: “Yea, but not as many as The Cowboy, HAHAHA.”

This underhanded mockery of technological gimmickry — whether it’s the future of communication or not — makes me feel a little more like those old dudes on the TV. It’s nice to see sports broadcasters being playful. In a day and age when there are TV and radio shows entirely dedicated to dudes arguing about the slightest intricacies of the game, it’s important to be able to sit back, relax and laugh at some other parts of life between innings.

So thanks for being funny and having a good time in the booth, gentlemen. The broadcasts are that much more amusing when you trust Thom to prompt discussions of your personal life that make us laugh and realize that you're good people. But until Jeff Piecoro and Jim Day can follow suit — why are those dudes so weird? — we're still going to have to turn the TV off immediately following the final out.

Image: Jeff Brantley looking like a smartass in 1989.

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