The Good, The Bad, The Shoalts

Greetings from Detroit.

I listened to the Leafs take on the lightning tonight on XM radio as I drove across the 401 and I have to tell you I have never heard a more boring play by play duo as the guy on Tampa radio, one of whom sounded like Phil Esposito. I may not love Joe Bowen, but at least you can listen to the guy. When the opposing team scores, Bowen isn’t as excited as those rare opportunities when the Buds score, but he isn’t totally monotone as whomever did play by play for the Bolts. No joke, when the Leafs scored tonight, he may as well been reading the phonebook. His voice didn’t raise at all. One word… BRUTAL.

Meanwhile, the MSM took on the Brendan Burke issue today. The articles ranged from the good (Arthur, and Blair), the fair( Damien Cox) , the over the top, (Steve Simmons), the yawn, (Michael Grange) and finally, the absurd, (David Shoalts).

“Burke’s support for son could change hockey and all of sports” – That’s the headline from Simmons article in the Toronto Sun. Now, this is a big story, but come on guys. Don’t go too overboard here. I could be totally wrong but I just don’t see players across the league all of the sudden opening their hearts and embracing gay athletes in their sport because of the Burkes. That isn’t in any way diminishing the courage of either Brian or Brendan.

Simmons’s article isn’t all bad though:

” It took the kind of temerity his father is known for Brendan Burke, at 21, to go public. And Buccigross’ piece should be mandatory reading for those who care about family, love and support.

In various forms, I’ve known Brian Burke for almost 30 years: The longer I’ve known him, the more depth I’ve discovered. When you strip away all the noise, the headlines, the made-for-TV bluster, what you’re left with is a large man with an even larger heart.

“Just don’t tell anybody,” he once told a colleague. “I don’t want to spoil my reputation.”

But here is big, loud Burke now, in a remarkable position of sorts: In the historical and sometimes hysterical homophobic hockey world, he can suddenly become the voice of tolerance, the voice of acceptance. He can tell people it’s OK to play hockey, be belligerent, and be gay. He can tell people it’s all right to coach and manage and scout: Sexual preferences really aren’t anybody’s business. ”

That is important and entirely accurate for sure.

Meanwhile check out Michael Grange, a writer who’s work I generally enjoy:

“If you’re gay but can skate, handle the puck and stand up for your teammates, come on out.

A fantasy of a forward-thinking hockey future or a reality close at hand? It depends whom you ask.

The NHL is still waiting for its first openly gay lodge member, either active or emeritus. There’s never been a gay player come out during his career in any of the other three major North American team sports, either, and only a handful in retirement. ”

That’s just the start of a rambling piece that really doesn’t say all that much.

Here is, in my opinion the best Damien had to offer:

“Burke, the president and general manager of the Maple Leafs and one of the best-known figures in all of hockey, learned of his son’s sexual orientation at Christmas 2007. He knew ahead of time that his son, a student at the University of Miami (Ohio) and a student worker on the school’s highly regarded hockey team, had spoken to Buccigross and that a story was to be released Tuesday afternoon.

“The feedback has been awesome,” Burke said Tuesday, about three hours after the story was first posted. “My emails have been off the charts.”

At the same time, however, Burke believes there will be those who won’t embrace the family love inherent in his acceptance of his son’s orientation or of Brendan’s decision to go public with his sexuality. Burke remembered that when he was in California in November to vote in the U.S. presidential election – he voted for Barack Obama – he was aggressively confronted by anti-gay activists protesting a same-sex marriage proposition on the California ballot.

“I told them to (expletive) get lost,” said Burke, who also voted for the proposition. “But over the next two weeks, yeah, I expect to get some hate mail over today’s story. There is going to be a backlash. All I care about is if Brendan is prepared for it. It takes jam to do what he’s done.”

All things that I didn’t know about Burke before and am more impressed with him after learning. I read the quotes from Burke and you can 100% envision him saying those things.

Jeff Blair, hits one out of the park on this one, along with Bruce Arthur:

“t never hurts to have somebody tell you, “It’s okay.” But while Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke’s support of his son’s decision to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality is welcomed both for what it says about Burke as a father and administrator, it does little to make the shower stall any less tyrannical.

History suggests that for all the good intentions and words to come out of the story of Brian and Brendan Burke, as reported this week by, and for all the right-thinking ideas espoused, homosexuality is still a taboo in team sports. Actors, artists, singers and politicians have all managed to acknowledge being gay without necessarily ending their careers. But team athletes haven’t – not while they’re competing. ”

Call it cynicism, or negativity, but unfortunately, I think Blair is most likely right. It’s too bad, and it’s doesn’t reduce the positive effects of the Burke Boys, it’s just a sad commentary on the world of professional sports.

“One of the most telling aspects of the ESPN story on Brendan’s struggle with how to tell his father the news is the seemingly enlightened reaction of the University of Miami (Ohio) RedHawks men’s hockey team to the report. Although the cautionary part of it is Brendan Burke is not a player, but a student manager with the team and that counts when ranks close – as baseball learned all too well during the steroid era, for example.

So we’re a long way from where we need to be. It is the locker room that must be the area of effective change, and an active player who must be the agent of change, if being gay is to become less of a taboo in team sports. ”

I think Blair is entirely correct. Again, a sad commentary on where we are, and a rather large admission that the effect of the Burke boys won’t be nearly as great as the headline writer on Simmons’ story.

“The demeanour of the players tells much more about their feelings with regards to gay athletes than their words. ”

That is how Shoalts opens his piece on the story. It’s the beginning of the end for Shoalts. Why ask a question if you aren’t going to believe the question. If you ask it of guys, there has to be certain degree of faith that the answer you are given is truthful. Secondly, last time I checked I didn’t know Shoalts to be a licensed psychologist or lie detector who can sense that he is being lied to.

“All of those questioned were sincere in saying they would, like the Leafs GM, support any family member who revealed they were gay.”

Then why ask the question? Why start with the preamble that every quote in your piece is not to believed? Shoalts went down the line, Maple Leafs, players and coaches, and Tampa Lightning players too. He has quotes from multiple players. Yet he leads with a line that suggests he doesn’t really believe them. Why bother reading on? In all it’s not a bad story but for the beginning. Kind of surprising given the author.

We can’t be surprised by the coverage. The MSM is in the news business and this is news. It’s bigger than life because it’s Brian Burke and he is in Toronto. It’s good attention if it changes anything. However, I think Blair is probably right though, until a current NHLer comes out, little will change. We still live in a hurtful society.

In other news, the Buds almost lost one tonight having choked on a 2-0 lead. They percervered and won, beating Tampa, in Tampa for the first time in regulation. Small, tiny steps for this team. Let’s see them string a couple of these together, then we can get excited.

Happy US turkey day to all celebrating- prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.



Simmons is here

Grange is here

Cox is here

Blair is here

Shoalts is here

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