Son of Leafs’ GM was Nationally Featured in ESPN.com Column
Sad late breaking news to report here on page 2 today.
About two months ago, before I started this paper, on my blog, I published a piece on a courageous, young gay man named Brendan Burke. http://nationalgaynews.blogspot.com
All I was really doing was recapturing a compelling story which John Buccigross of ESPN.com had done about the 21 year old, who was the son of Brian Burke, a National Hockey League GM with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brendan’s riveting story, superbly written by Buccigross, stirred national discussion about homosexuality in the closeted and often homophobic world of professional sports. The feature related the process whereby Brendan, who had been working in the locker rooms as a team captain for the Maple Leafs, came out to his dad and family.
Yesterday, in our daily, online newspaper, www.southfloridagaynews.com, which I hope you are reading everyday for new stories, we had to report that this admirable bright light, Brendan Burke, was tragically killed in a car accident on a snowy Indiana road last Friday night.
The Buccigross story was done so well I had written on my blog that “I command you to go to it at once.” If it was not a Sunday, and SFGN had not already been laid out, I would be reprinting it today. But go online and read it anyway. Here is the link:
It is a story about a young man growing up and having to deal with the jock mentality; that often narrow and homophobic mindset. In truth, his coming out to his family is no more difficult than most experiences similarly dealt with by gay men and women everywhere. But I made a point of contacting him, congratulating him, and penciling him in for a story down the road. I grew up in a world of sports where gay men are not often welcome; not in Super Bowl ads, or on the field.
Of Brendan’s death, his older brother Patrick told the Toronto newspapers: “He was a blueprint for how to be happy and successful. He was genuine, he was loving, he was kind, he was fearless.”
His dad, Brian, who is slated to be the GM for the men’s US Hockey Team this month in Vancouver, had told ESPN about his son’s homosexuality: “I simply could not be more proud of Brendan than I am, and I love him as much as I admire him,” Brian Burke said in the interview. Now he has lost him. So have we all. He stood up in a forum where so many others are silent still.
“Of course we still love you,” his dad said at the time. “This won’t change a thing.”
How many gay lives may have been saved if parents all responded that way? It was a great ‘coming out’ column for a life cut too short on a snowy Indiana road.
“Imagine if I was in the opposite situation, with a family that wouldn’t accept me, working for a sports team where I knew I couldn’t come out because I’d be fired or ostracized,” Brendan Burke had told ESPN.com.”
People in that situation deserve to know that they can feel safe, that sports aren’t all homophobic and that there are plenty of people in sports who accept people for who they are.”
Brendan Burke was one of six children. He was studying at the University of Miami in Ohio, where he worked for the men’s hockey team analyzing video and compiling statistics.
Patrick Burke said he hoped his brother would be remembered not for his sexuality, but for his bravery and character.
“If he had been born straight, he would have come up with another cause to fight for, and he would have been front and center in that one, too,” Burke said.
Also killed in the crash was another Miami University student, sophomore Mark Reedy, who was travelling with Burke at the time. A second life lost.
Reedy was a popular athlete whose death has left many friends equally saddened by his loss, Reedy ‘loved sports,’ and had vacationed last year in South Florida, playing volleyball every morning on the beach.