Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brendan Burke

We all have heroes for one reason or another. They could be people in our lives or in our career fields that we aspire to be like. They could be celebrities with qualities we wish to embody. They could even be characters in movies that react to a situation in a way we find admirable. Often times they are extraordinary, the best of the best, but on occasion they’re not much different than you or I. Or at least they wish people saw them that way.

Brendan Burke was one of those people. A twenty one year old young man, he strove to be no different than you or I. Son of notorious Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, he was the manager of the Miami of Ohio University Hockey team. All his life he’d been burdened by an admission that could change his standing in the eyes of his family, his peers, and his teammates. Brendan Burke was gay. Late in 2009, Brendan finally became open with his sexuality, and ESPN did an excellent cover story on the reactions of his teammates, and his larger than life father. Well, as best they could anyways. The reaction, when it wasn’t positive, wasn’t really anything. You see, in a rare moment that gives rise to one’s faith in humanity, no one really cared. It’s not that people already knew, though I’m sure some did. It’s that the message to Brendan was universal, “we support you no matter what, and this doesn’t change anything.”

His hockey teammates went even further, rallying behind his cause. They imposed a ban on anti-gay slurs in the locker room, some players effectively becoming policemen against such terms, even though it was never intentional. How much have phrases like “that’s so gay” become part of our everyday language? It’s heartwarming to see a complete and utter absence of negativity in situations like these. It speaks to who we are, and how far we’ve come as a society, and yet, how far we still have to go if situations like these are still aberrations and not the norm.

Unfortunately, unlike many tales of heroes, this one does not have a happy ending. Brendan Burke along with one of his friends died in a car accident on February 5th, 2010, a life tragically cut all too short. I don’t doubt that there are hundreds that wish we could have Brendan back, even those that did not know him. But you almost have to wonder if, after his message was broadcast to the world through ESPN in November 2009 if he’s gone because he fulfilled his purpose here.

No comments:

Post a Comment