The City Was Listening

By: Chad Jones

Alex Reimer stands in front of the microphone ready to sprout his opinions over Boston’s airwaves. His lean five-foot-eight frame is covered by dark jeans and a grey long-sleeve shirt. His red lanyard hangs just under his five o’clock shadow. The media pass drapes all the way down to his naval. Reimer is stationed behind the main microphone, as he will be hosting alone for the first hour this evening. His many pages of notes are strewn in front of him on the main console. As the clock edges closer to six, Reimer prepares for his conversation with New England. It takes him mere seconds to make a self deprecating remark.

“My name is Alex Reimer, as you can tell from the screechy voice,” is the second sentence he utters. Reimer’s rather high-pitched tone is unusual in the sports radio business, as hosts often sound like lifelong chainsmokers. The Boston University graduate from Natick, Massachusetts might not look or sound the part of a bomb-tossing, sports radio host. However, Alex Reimer is a far cry from the traditional sports media member.

Reimer is a 26-year-old millennial in an industry overflowing with 55-year-old Baby Boomers. He works as a sports radio personality but is very outspoken about his political views. Reimer is employed at a Boston-based sports station, but he is most known for insulting Tom Brady’s daughter. He is in an openly gay man in a business that sees few and far between. His incredible ambition and preparation separates him from some who do not take their media job as serious. Most importantly, in a world where media members can be fired at any moment, he now knows the importance of “straddling that line about what is proactive and what is offensive,” as he put it.

Reimer’s willingness to discuss typically avoided topics got him working at one of the most successful sports radio stations in the country before he was 25. His many flirtations with the line of “provocative and offensive” have gained him notoriety but almost cost him his job.

Alex Reimer became a household name in the sports world during January of 2018. While that may sound like a dream come true, the situation was nothing short of Reimer’s worst nightmare. On Thursday, January 25th, Alex Reimer was on WEEI’s “Mut at Night” program where Tom Brady’s recent “Tom vs. Time” documentary was brought up. When Reimer was asked to share his thoughts regarding the documentary, he said that Tom Brady’s five-year-old daughter, Vivian, was “being an annoying little piss ant”. After a few days of making national headlines over the weekend, WEEI released a statement on Monday, January 29th, saying Reimer’s remarks were “utterly indefensible” and “mean-spirited”. The statement also said Reimer would be “suspended indefinitely from all WEEI platforms.”

Reimer had faced controversy inside the walls of WEEI before, but never to this extent. He prefers to look at the positive side when thinking back to that situation. “The Brady thing was a lesson of where is the line.” Reimer mentions that talk show hosts often try to be “the snooty dick-head,” when on air. He then sarcastically mocks his own answer when asked about the documentary that night by saying, “Oh I think the kids are piss ants because I’m, friggin, the Prince of Darkness and everything sucks.”

Reimer admits, “I should have just been like ‘(the documentary) was fine, what else do you want to talk about?’ Every line doesn’t have to be a homerun, it’s okay to just have a normal conversation.” Reimer is very candid about his most famous statement, acknowledging that the entire situation was a “big learning experience and it taught me a lot.” Although, he does mention “it’s easy for me to say now, I mean, going through it I was a friggin mess. It taught me a lot of lessons about how things work and the backlash and the outrage that we have and all of that.”

For his comments, Reimer would not appear on the station’s airwaves until a “Red Sox review, at like, midnight on a Friday night before the 4th of July,” Reimer recalled. During his 5-month hiatus from WEEI, Reimer acknowledged “I’m sure I was pretty damned close to being fired.” Reimer would survive the Brady backlash and stay employed in large part because Tom Brady and the Patriot organization said they did not want him to lose his job. Also, WEEI’s morning show, “Kirk and Callahan”, came to his defense after a few months and agreed Reimer said an unbelievably stupid one-liner, but he served his punishment and should not be fired.

Kirk Minihane, a former WEEI personality, said Reimer got “caught up in the moment,” when he made that statement. Minihane also mentioned Reimer has learned from that mistake and “changed for the better since then.” Now almost a year removed from the incident, Reimer occasionally jokes about his infamous remark. He understands one of the most important attributes a host can have is a sense of humor, a thick skin, and perspective: “It’s always good to keep in mind it’s a show,” he mentioned.

Reimer now fully comprehends how important that line between “what is provocative and what is offensive” really is. He knows the unemployment line is full of past radio hosts who were either too timid or too offensive. He learned the hard way that “kids are off limits, family members are off limits,” he explained.

Steve Buckley, a long-time columnist for the Boston Herald, drove this point home in a January 2018 article regarding Reimer’s situation. Buckley wrote, “Athletes, politicians, entertainers and sports media types are fair for discussion — within reason, one hopes — but husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, and (especially) children should be left alone.” Buckley, who has known Reimer since he was in high school, also said that Reimer is still learning that “there are consequences saying things you can’t really back up.”

Reimer did admit one part of the job he “struggled with is not putting private citizens in the crosshairs… Don’t mention people on the air that did not sign up to be mentioned on the air and be public figures.” After all the negativity and doubt that surrounded Reimer during the Brady scandal, he is still driven as ever to succeed.

Reimer sarcastically joked his “narcissism” motivates him to be on the radio every day, as Reimer is still a part-time, on-air personality. He then admits that the people who doubted him are fuel that burns inside his heart. “Howard Stern said you have to have that rage inside you to be a successful radio personality and I think, to an extent, I do have that. Especially in the aftermath of the Brady thing.”

Reimer revealed that he will occasionally look up his name and take note of media members who wrote a “disparaging remark about me… and then I will remember that.” Reimer went on to say, “Especially in the Brady thing, I was left for dead, nobody was defending me, ‘you should fire this kid, enough with him.’ I remember that. And every time I go on the radio or file a story even, it’s a win. I’m still here. I think of that stuff a lot. It’s probably not healthy, but it’s what drives me.”

Reimer will continue to prove his doubters wrong as he hosts “WEEI at Night” on Friday, November 9th. This will be one of his last shows in this building, as the station will be moving to another location down the street. In 2016, Reimer made his debut at WEEI, one of the country’s most popular sports radio stations. Unfortunately, that studio is being renovated for the new station moving in and is unavailable. This secondary studio Reimer occupies tonight looks like it has been through both a war zone and a hurricane. There are holes in the wall, speakers attached to nothing, and equipment Edward R. Murrow would have scoffed at using. The small confinement resembles a closet. Worst of all, Reimer cannot see his producers, as they are in another control room down the hall.

Although the working conditions tonight are less than stellar, Reimer will never forget what happened in this building. This was where 23-year-old Alex Reimer introduced himself to Boston over the air-waves. One unforgettable day behind the microphone made every podcast he recorded, article he wrote, blog he posted worth it.

“Obviously my first show I’ll always remember, just because that was a cool instance where we talk all the time about wanting to get in the door. My whole life… I just wanted to get in the door,” Reimer said. “Just get me an opportunity at this place, (WEEI), just all I can ask for, and I got it.”

Reimer described how his first ever hour on WEEI’s highly rated morning show, “Kirk and Callahan”, went. He recalled they argued about Donald Trump and Tom Brady, the show’s two most popular talking points. He understood the program’s bread and butter since he was a “die hard listener to the show.”Reimer knew he, “nailed this they asked me to stay around for an additional hour.” After the show, he signed his “freelance contract” making him an official WEEI personality.

For the next two years, Alex Reimer would be a character on “Kirk and Callahan”, one of the most popular sports radio programs/soap operas in the country. In 2017, the show’s first, full year, the program would be the most listened to morning show in Boston for ten-out-of-the-twelve-months. The program had a rotating third co-host, and Reimer emerged as one of the most prominent third voices on the program.

John Tomase, a WEEI personality and columnist who was also an occasional third host, mentioned it was impressive that 24-year-old Reimer could “really hold his own” in a debate with the show’s two opinionated personalities, Kirk Minihane and Gerry Callahan. In Tomase’s view, that “differentiated him from anyone else (that young) in the Boston media market.”

Kirk Minihane lauded Reimer because he “kicked ass from the start” and “always gave everything he had.” Minihane was amused by him on the show because he thought Reimer was, “kind of dumb but kind of smart.” On that show, Minihane was never bashful about calling someone out if he disagreed with them. Reimer never wanted to shy away from a heated argument with Minihane or anyone else. He also respected that Reimer was “not going to be afraid” and was “as fearless as he could be,” while on the air. In Minihane’s mind, Reimer was “by far, the best third guy on that show.”

Gerry Callahan noticed Reimer understood he had to “fight for his opinions” and “never be boring,” as soon as he got his chance on the program. Today, many people in the media, especially younger members, despise seeing negative comments about them on social media. He appreciated that Reimer was “not afraid” and not “governed by Twitter.” Callahan also enjoyed having him on that show because Reimer has “more balls than brains.”

Chris Curtis, the producer of “Kirk and Callahan”, said Reimer was the “most prepared third voice.” Curtis also mentioned Reimer made an impression right away because of his “willingness to discuss private matters on a public forum.” The most famous example of Reimer’s openness came when he announced he was gay during one of his first appearances on the show.

He mentioned it casually, during the last segment of the program on November 2nd, 2016. During the last 16 minutes of the show, Reimer seamlessly transitioned back and forth from joking about his homosexuality to being honest about his past experiences. He admitted he had never slept with a woman and explained, “(people in the gay community) call that a gold-star gay.” Also during that segment, Callahan complemented Reimer by saying, “I like his attitude though…To do this job, to even sit in (the third chair)… you have to have a level of fearlessness, you can’t be afraid. Obviously, Reimer’s not afraid.” Reimer poked fun at himself by jesting being gay “in 2016 is a great career move.” Minihane chimed in by joking Reimer is now “safe forever” from being fired. The segment perfectly let Boston know who Alex Reimer was. However, Reimer might not have owned the confidence to have this conversation on the air if not for an article he read in high school.

Steve Buckley wrote a column coming out as a gay man in January of 2011. Reimer said that article helped reassure him that, “(he could) be an openly gay man and be a very successful sports writer.” He went on to say, “To see someone like that who has had such an incredible career and a long career, yeah, it definitely, definitely meant a lot to me… It was very, very good for me to see, definitely told me that it’s okay. You can still be who you are and still be a success in the sports media field, absolutely.”

Reimer acknowledged that to become a success in sports media, “reps, lots of reps” are needed to hone in the craft. Being the host of “WEEI at Night” this evening, he has the power to steer the direction of the show. He discussed multiple topics over the four hours, both sports related and otherwise. A large portion of the program was spent breaking down the upcoming Patriot game against the Titans on Sunday. Reimer also engaged in a ‘much ado about nothing’ conversation that revolved around the age parents should stop showering with their children.

Reimer enjoys hosting his own show as it informs the program director and the station that he can do a traditional sports broadcast. However, especially after being a part of “Kirk and Callahan”, he knows the importance of discussing other topics as well.

The self proclaimed “flaming liberal” enjoys venturing into politics quite often. He repeatedly engages in intense political debates with Callahan on the airwaves. Since Reimer has a completely different political outlook than the staunch conservative Callahan, their arguments make for a very compelling radio listen. Callahan thinks Reimer is “a little out there politically,” and enjoys debating him on both local and national political issues. Despite their polar opposite political stances, Callahan enjoys Reimer’s presence on his current show. Even with Reimer’s willingness to venture into those areas, he knows there is a time in place to discuss politics on air.

He explained that a “political monologue” would not be as entertaining to the listeners if he was hosting at night. Reimer acknowledged that he occasionally talks politics on the night show with John Tomase. Since they both generally agree politically, Reimer and Tomase often banter in a more lighthearted political conversation. Tomase “loves Reimer” in part because he is “smart, well read” and has “good instincts for what is a story.” Reimer has impressed many of his older peers, and he is not yet 27.

Reimer is very pleased with his job at WEEI due to there being “so much creative freedom in my current role.” He explained that he has “never, ever had Rob (Braford, his editor) tell me what to write, what not to write. I can count on one hand the amount of times Joey (Zabrano, the program director) has told me what not to talk about.” Reimer went on to say, “To work at a place where you are allowed to do your own thing is incredible. I love that, that’s my favorite part about it, bar none.”

When it comes to his future, Reimer wants to keep his options open. “I probably would eventually get out of sports media, just as my interests go.” Wherever he winds up working, Reimer knows the formula he wants to follow. He is interested in doing something, “like the ‘Kirk and Callahan’ show. It wasn’t a sports show, it wasn’t a political show, it was a show where we just talked about issues. I think that’s the best kind of radio.”

The young, brash, bombastic, ambitious, radio personality usually gives himself, “Saturday off, and that I’m not writing anything. I’m not, really, following the news. Like, I’ll allow myself one day a week where I kind uh, pull back. But, other than that, I am looking at everything. I am reading everything. I am following everything. And that’s the thing; you have to be committed… You just always have to be on and aware and be engaged… You have to be engaged all the time.”

Reimer believes, “anything that you’re passionate about” can make compelling radio. Reimer recalled, “The best show I’ve ever done at ‘EI, solo, was last December.” Reimer said that night he discussed the Boston Globe’s Spotlight story on racism in Boston sports, The Boston Globe’s sexual harassment story, and ESPN’s sexual harassment situation. Reimer went on to say, “Those were the three topics I hit for those four hours. I was alone, and it was the best show I have ever done because that is stuff that is right up my wheelhouse. That is media. That is culture. That is race, uh. That is the stuff that I really love. So it’s passionate radio.”

Reimer would then say, “Anything you’re passionate about… The mentality should never be, like, ‘okay we have to do this segment.’ No, you don’t have to do anything. If you’re not passionate about it, don’t do it. Do something else. So again, people just want to be entertained and they can tell when you’re going through the motions.”

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