For Pete's Sake

Sports talk radio debate on paternity leave turns into referendum on fatherhood

Michael Felger, a radio host at Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Michael Felger, a radio host at Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub.

The normal conversations on sports-talk radio in Boston are about the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, but one station last week had a debate on a father’s role after a baby is born.

Michael Felger, a radio host at Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub, made waves last fall when he criticized Al Horford of the Boston Celtics for missing a game after his wife gave birth. Felger said if it was a “generic” birth, then Horford could have made it to the game.

Last week, Felger also criticized his coworker, CBS Boston sportswriter Michael Hurley, who apparently took time off after his wife gave birth to their second child. On Friday, Hurley asked for a chance to respond.

Before Hurley spoke, Felger recapped his objection to paternity leave, blaming millennials in part.

“It’s just insane,” Felger said. “Someone has to work. I don’t mind paternity/maternity, I’m saying, someone stay home with the kid, of course, then someone else has to go to work. The world just doesn’t come to a stop, because you had a baby. But that’s the way these kids think nowadays. The world stops because I had a baby. So no one is going to work, commerce isn’t going to move, money is not going to exchange hands anywhere. The world will just stop spinning because I had a baby. And I feel it’s getting worse by the day.”

When Hurley joined the conversation, he said it wasn’t Felger’s position to comment on other people having babies.

“I know that your candy-(behind) probably couldn’t handle a ‘generic’ delivery, because I’m sure you cry real tears every time you get those eyebrows waxed at the salon,” Hurley said. “But we look at our wife who is still recovering, whose breasts are engorged with milk, who can’t even walk to the bathroom. They have a crying newborn in one arm and a crying 2-year-old tugging on the other arm.

“We see that woman that we love and are devoted to and we say how can I help that woman? How can I help my children? We don’t say how fast can I run away. How fast can I get out of here because I can’t handle it?”

Felger wondered how long a man needs to take off work. Hurley said he didn’t have the luxury of leaning on his family to help care for the children.

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“This is what life is like for people who don’t summer in Nantucket,” Hurley said. “We have to figure it out. I’m thankful I work for a company that gives me time to take care of my family.”

That incensed Felger.

“Hey, Hurley, you sound serious,” Felger said. “Why do you think I get to summer in Nantucket? Because I work my ass off, Hurley. Because I work my ass off! And when my wife had a baby, I went into work two days later because my work’s important to me. I didn’t think you were serious. You’re serious. You want a tissue? Why do you think I summer in Nantucket? You think that was handed to me? … Because I work my ass off, and I prioritize work. And that’s important to me and it’s important to my family.

“I didn’t spend two weeks going goo-goo, gah-gah. And if you have to if someone’s hurt, do it. But don’t put your crap on me either.”

If you strip away the insults, you can see that these two have very different thoughts on what a husband should do after the birth of a baby (or babies). Should a man stay with his wife while he can (depending on the length of his paternity leave) or get back to work quickly for financial reasons? Or is there a balance of the two?

You can listen to the whole debate here, but below is an abbreviated version of their discussion.

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Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff