They are a precious few, these people who are willing to engage in the hurly-burly of dealing with the media - who lead with their chin; who can wade in with a challenge as well as an answer.
The hockey world knows that Brian Burke is one of those few, a person whose greatest strength is not just his passion - shoot, anybody can be faux passionate - as much as his comfort with his passion.
And many of us found ourselves thinking about Brian and Brendan Burke Saturday morning, with news of Brendan's death in a traffic accident.
Journalists are expected to come to wide-ranging conclusions about people based on a few minutes of access. Then, we're expected to distill it in a couple of sentences or paragraphs for everyone else. That, too, takes a certain comfort level.
Fifteen minutes didn't tell me a lot about Brendan Burke, nor should it. But what did come across in an interview I did for the Globe and Mail about Brendan's decision to come out to the hockey world is that he had inherited his father's forthrightness, and was prepared to deal with whatever came his way because it was part of the deal if you wanted to be true to yourself and your values.
Still, Brendan Burke admitted that the manner in which his story became public - tastefully and without prejudice by ESPN's John Buccigross - was calculated. It was done with the full support of friends and family and the Miami (Ohio) hockey program, for whom he served as student manager. Because of its delicacy, nobody afford to have it mishandled.
"I realize that the brunt of the story has been about who my dad is ... but to me the important thing is that it's started a discussion and people realize there could be a gay person next to them in the locker room," Brendan Burke said in a telephone interview on U.S. Thanksgiving. " And, you know, I think it's important that it's starting here. We started a discussion. Let's see where it goes. " That Brendan Burke won't be around to see where it goes is a shame. True advocates aren't always easy to come by. That Brian Burke could be around without Brendan leaves those of us who are parents with a shared emptiness, because you aren't supposed to out-live your kids. That's not supposed to be part of the deal.
-- Hearing NFLPA boss DeMaurice Smith fret about a lockout strains the imagination. NFL owners won't need to lock out players because the NFLPA has always been their lapdog and nothing's changed this time around. A vastly more interesting labour scenario begins to play out next weekend at the NBA All-Star Game, when NBA commissioner David Stern and NBA Players Association director Billy Hunter reveal details of owners initial collective bargaining agreement offer, which is expected to ask for a reduction in maximum guaranteed salaries and that pre-existing deals to be revised to conform to the new limits, even if those contracts are negotiated before the current deal expires on July 1, 2011. The fact they want to get an 18-month jump on bargaining suggests ownership knows this crisis is too good to pass up.
-- The people criticizing Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos for signing Kevin Gregg don't get it: he's value shopping, adding a serviceable arm with some track record at a low price. Gregg will not be anywhere near the ninth inning when the Blue Jays are playing meaningful games. Makes you wish he'd sign a Frank Thomas so we could have a real debate, doesn't it? OK, maybe not so much ... The state that put us all to sleep while it introduced us to Jim Balsillie, the Phoenix Coyotes and Judge Redfield T. Baum is in the middle of another sports financing mess. Today, state lawmakers in Arizona are expected to introduce legislation for a new $119 million spring training facility for the Chicago Cubs in Mesa which will be funded, in part, by a ticket surcharge on every Cactus League Grapefruit game. Neighboring counties and the other 13 Cactus League teams don't like the idea and the most vociferous opponent has been Chicago White Sox's owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa ripped Reinsdorf for his opposition, noting that the White Sox bolted on the city of Tucson and moved to a publicly-funded facility in Glendale. "Is this the same Jerry Reinsdorf that skipped out on Pima County taxpayers who had spent tens of millions of dollars to provide him with a taxpayer-funded stadium, to come to Glendale, where Maricopa County taxpayers provided him a Taj Mahal spring training facility?" asked Smith, who went on to point out to that the White Sox's play in a publicly-funded part in Chicago and that Reinsdorf wanted to line up at the public trough when it came to buy the Coyotes.
-- So hockey head-hunter Patrice Cormier gets to start his NHL career in the hockey wasteland that is Atlanta because of the Ilya Kovalchuk trade. It's nice when good things happen to good people, isn't it? See you after that thing in Vancouver-Whistler.