Brian Burke: Father of the Century
The Emmy nominations were announced a few days ago and 24/7 Caps – Pens garnered three: Outstanding Edited Sports Special, Outstanding Post Produced Audio/Sound and the Dick Schaap Writing Award. HBO is a shoe-in for the nod, and Emmy night will have all the manufactured drama of the BAFTAs or more likely, the Latin Grammys.
But another award’s nominees were announced this week - the Canadian National Newspaper Awards, and we’re going to be rooting for one of them just as much as we do for Meryl on Oscar night, National Post’s Sports columnist Bruce Arthur and his piece on how Brian Burke honored his lost son, Brendan, by marching in the 2010 Toronto Gay Pride Parade.
Enough of this tortured prose, let’s turn it over to a real writer, Bruce Arthur. The entire piece can be found here. If you want a heartfelt story, and maybe a good cry, give it a read.
TORONTO — On the 156th day of the rest of his life, Brian Burke woke up and he tried to keep another promise. He would march, he said. So he marched.
And marching was easier, in a way. Not that it was easy. As Brian Burke walked the streets of Toronto, sweating in the sun and waving at the sea of people at one of the world’s grandest Pride Parades, he thought about his son. He thought about Brendan, his beautiful boy. How could he not? Brendan was why he was here.
…This wasn’t Brian Burke’s first visit to this celebration of tolerance. The year before, eight months after Brendan’s revelation of his sexuality, Burke had flown his son to Toronto and taken Brendan to the parade.
It’s easy to say you accept a gay son. It’s different, in a town where you are very recognizable, to take your gay son to the Pride Parade. And as they watched the rainbow kaleidoscope of people spin by that day, Brian Burke made a promise.
“He said, ‘I really appreciate you coming out,’” says Burke, his eyes hidden behind sunglasses. “I said, ‘Well, next year we’ll march in it.’”
…Brian Burke is one of the world’s better speakers. Some of his pronouncements are practically Shakespearean, blunt and unhesitating and full of powerful and complicated words. But the reason marching was easier is that every time he tries to talk about Brendan, 156 days later, he gets strangled by his heart. Brian Burke can talk about anything but this.
…After the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, a picture surfaced that showed somebody had written the words “is gay” next to the name of Philadelphia defenceman Chris Pronger on a whiteboard in the dressing room.
A few weeks later, Blackhawks defenceman Brent Sopel accepted an invitation to take the Cup to the Chicago Pride Parade. He told reporters, “When Brendan came out, Brian stood by him, and his whole family stood by him, like every family should. We teach our kids about accepting everybody. Tolerate everybody, to understand where everyone is coming from.” The Stanley Cup had never been part of a Pride Parade, either.
…One year ago Brian Burke promised his son Brendan he would march in the Pride Parade with him. And in a way, he did. But when Burke is asked what he thought as he marched, as he clapped and waved to the crowds, the sunglasses can’t hide him.
“I just wish he was here,” he says.”
A Cup at a gay pride parade? Don’t give us any more ideas…