I have been writing since I started at The St. Louis American in 1981. I have written well over a thousand columns and stories that have truly spanned the globe. I never realized that writing about a friend would be this challenging. The passing of Bryan Burwell truly hit close to home last week as he was more than just a colleague. He was a friend in so many ways.
It was not uncommon for Bryan and I to be the only two African Americans in a press box. While he would writing and I would be in the broadcast booth, we would always find a way to circle back to pick each other’s brain on what we had experienced, be it the game we were covering or some other issue that would have nothing to do with the score. It could be strategy, second guessing or someone who would attempt to remind us that we were black and they were not. Fortunately, the latter did not come into play often as Bryan would check that person like a hat at the door.
Bryan Burwell was a real man in so many ways. Being a real man did not require being tough, caustic to others or reminding people that he had it and you didn’t. Bryan’s approach was much more cerebral. He was cool. He went out of his way to speak to people he didn’t know. He never brought an attitude or issues to work. He was always reasonable when reason was needed. Bryan was a friend to many. In the press box, on the golf course or in any social environment, he could blend in.
Burwell, always the conspiracy theorist, could peel off the first layer of an issue if it did not smell right to him. He was loyal to a fault when it came to teams or coaches. When the Rams were awful with no relief in sight a few years ago, Bryan could still make chicken salad out of the worst parts of a chicken.
When he did that, I would always get the inquiry: “What’s wrong with Burwell?” I would simply reply, “Nothing, that’s just Bryan.” I never appreciated him more when he would stray off the traditional reservation, because he gave us something new to look at.
I remember calling Bryan to get him to come to St. Louis when the Post-Dispatch was looking for a columnist. When he decided to come, I made sure he became a part of my family, as he and his family shared my friends and my family. Including my golf game. Yes, Brian was bitten by the golf bug. While he would never be confused for anyone with the last name “Woods,” it was hard to tell him that.
He really felt like his game was improving after he gave you the reasons why he had not been playing or practicing. He made his shot infrequently at times, but when he was on he had no problem reminding you of it. His friends could offer an assortment of adjectives to describe his game. “Comical” would be one way to describe it, and yet you seldom turned down the chance to play with him. Bryan and I would haggle over his score keeping, and yet he would lodge a complaint with others about how I kept his score. Now, that was comedy.
The sad thing is all I have now are the memories. I wish there were one more time I could look at him in disbelief when he put down a 5 on his score card, clearly having forgotten two strokes. I wish I had one more time to watch him throw a club and then turn and look around and say it was ok for us to laugh. Yes, I will miss Bryan Burwell.
Bryan Burwell was a lot of things to a lot of people. He was a truly loving husband who valued time with his wife and daughter in a manner that made us envious. He was a mentor to any young person who was trying to learn about the business and would give them as much time as they needed.
Bryan had no problem calling out people who deserved to get called out. In 2006 there was a player who had gotten way out of line in how he treated people around town and at the ball park. Bryan had had enough and proceeded to skewer this deserving player to the point where many congratulated him for stepping up and doing the right thing. Many were grateful for his actions. That was Bryan. He got enough hate mail from the racially challenged around town and he seemed to thrive on it, as it was vindication that he was writing about the tough subjects.
Bryan Burwell was a colleague I never had in St. Louis before his arrival. He helped me be better in so many ways that I will be eternally grateful for. He will no longer write stories for the daily paper, but I will always feel like he will be paying attention and some way, somehow, he will find a way to get the final word in, like he always did.
Thank you, Bryan Burwell. You will be missed for all you gave us.
Cardinal Ritter, DeAndreis, Laboure'
In a kind gesture, the folks at Cardinal Ritter College Prep will play Thursday night at Cardinal Ritter. The difference here is they will be wearing the uniform of the now-defunct, once-mighty DeAndries Wildcats and the ladies of Laboure’ High Schools. It’s throwback Thursday at Cardinal Ritter, and all DeAndreis and Laboure’ alums are invited. It will be a night of homecoming and honor, as well as war stories being told. The proceeds for the game will go to the scholarship fund in the name of Joe Wiley who taught at all three schools. The girls’ game tips off at 5 p.m., with the boys to follow at 6:15 p.m. An alum reception will take place right after the game. Great idea and a great cause that could use your support.