Just before the Olympic Games, You Can Play founder Patrick Burke wrote a reflective column after the movie-theater shooting in Colorado took the life of a YCP intern. Burke opened up about the death of his brother a couple years ago on Outsports, and he did so again with this column.
His words reflect my thoughts when his brother, Brendan, was killed several years ago. The tragedy of unrealized potential hung over me upon his death, and Patrick shares his feelings about that unrealized potential as his own personal motivation. I wanted to share those words here, and Patrick has given us the okay to do so...
By Patrick Burke
In the early hours of July 20th, 2012, Jessica (Redfield) Ghawi – daughter, sister, friend, sportswriter, You Can Play intern, and more – was one of 12 people tragically killed in Aurora, Colorado. I liked and respected her immensely. But this piece cannot be about Jessica, because I firmly believe that her family and close friends deserve the honor of being the ones who remember her publicly.
This is why I try not to write about my late brother Brendan very often. Largely on account of our gender and employment, my father and I have been given far too much of a role in shaping his public perception and legacy. My mother, Kerry; my sisters Katie, Molly, Mairin, and Gracie; and my step-mother Jennifer rarely get the opportunity to share their thoughts and memories of him. This is despite the fact that without their influence Brendan would not have been even close to the person I am so proud he was. For that matter, let it be known that if there is anything good or decent about me as a person, it stems directly from these wonderful women, especially my mother. My sisters, who would prefer to grieve privately, have given me a wonderful gift by permitting me to work with You Can Play. They have sacrificed their privacy and perpetuated the nonsense belief that I am some sort of fantastic brother and in doing so have provided me with a much-needed outlet for my grief. It is a debt I can never truly repay to them, except to try to show them just how much that gift means to me.
For many reasons, today has re-opened some wounds. And for some insane reason I have an easier time writing out my thoughts and sharing them with a thousand strangers than I do picking up the phone and calling a close friend. I am writing this in the hope that maybe you’ll understand why I’m so passionate about You Can Play, and making sure we do this right. In the hope that you’ll see beyond the intentional pugnacity of my public image as presented on twitter. Perhaps selfishly, I also hope that it will be cathartic for me in a way that spending an afternoon crying into a towel has proven not to be. Most importantly, I am writing to you, the sports community, to tell you about an opportunity we have that we are denying ourselves.
For better or worse, my life is defined through the lens of sports. If I have my way, it always will be. My life has been enhanced wonderfully and completely by my affiliation with hockey – first by birth, then by childhood passion, then by participation, and now by choice of employment. I know the vast majority of people reading this right now feel the same way. Sport has a way of evoking joy, enhancing community, and inspiring greatness that few other aspects of our culture can match. In the wake of losing Brendan, I have constantly sought comfort, distraction, and happiness in the hockey community.