LOOK AROUND YOU: GIVE THANKS

The Edmonton Oilers are 2-0, but they could easily be 0-2. If it wasn’t for Nikolai Khabibulin, who swiped a couple of points in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers Sunday, the mood around town might be considerably different today than what it is.

I’m no deep-thinker, as readers here can attest, but it seems to me that a day — Thanksgiving Day — that has many of us booked off work and settling in for a feast, or maybe just recovering from one, is as good a time as any for us to take a minute to think about all we have to be grateful for, that 2-0 record aside.

That’s not business as usual for me because I’m too often as finicky and entitled and me-me-me as anybody you’ll ever meet (maybe you’re guilty of that, too), but every now and then it’s probably a good idea to do it. For anybody looking for comment or analysis regarding the Oilers in the rest of this item — funny how fans expect that on a hockey website — you’ll want to click through because this isn’t that.

Just some thoughts . . .

CUSHY GIG

As a creature of habit, I’ve felt a bit displaced on game nights at Rexall Place because I no longer have one of the prime seats up in the press box reserved for me. The best seats are for the beat writers and columnists from both daily newspapers. I occupied those seats for 20 years or so, alongside Jim Matheson and Terry Jones (tight fit).

Now? My credentials have landed me down the line with, gulp, junior scribes, internet writers, radio guys and TV types. I’m Robin Friggin’ Brownlee, for crying out loud. This will never do.

How my angst must resonate with fans who have to pay to get into the rink, which is something I haven’t had to do since I first walked into Rexall Place in 1989. Poor baby.

Just the other day, I was bemoaning how packed the media parking lot has become in recent years. With the addition of so many outlets in the past 10 years, we’re crammed in pretty good. Last thing I need is some knucklehead opening his car door on my ride, Snap. Lose it. Overreact. My parking is free and I still have an A Lot pass. That means I walk 200 feet, at most, to the door.

I’ve been pissing and moaning since the Oilers started charging for the pre-game meal about five years ago. It used to be free. It’s an even worse deal for me now because I can’t (or won’t) load up my plate like I used to, as reporters are prone to do, now that I’m on this weight-loss kick. I can’t even get my money’s worth. What a rip-off.

The meal is $10, including all the trips to the buffet, beverages and desserts you want. That’s less than fans who’ve already paid for tickets and parking shell out for a hot dog and a beer. How does $10 sound to the family guy bringing his wife and two kids to the game?

IN PERSPECTIVE

I don’t miss the travelling I used to do with the Oilers. Too many long days. Security since the World Trade Centre attacks has made travel, even by charter, a pain in the ass. I don’t know how Rod Phillips did it for 37 years. I had no misgivings getting off that merry-go-round in 2007.

Oh, what a grind it was, free hotels or not.

Poor me. Once you’ve been to Chicago or New York or Los Angeles or Miami 10 or 15 or 20 times, it’s run-of-the-mill, right? I thought so, until I started booking (and paying) for similar trips for family vacations and the like. The hotel costs how much a night (and we aren’t talking the Ritz-Carlton)? The airfare is what? Business-class seating and free booze and food on the flights, though, right?

Without the salary that comes with being a senior writer at the dailies, I’ve had to hustle to make up for it, taking freelance jobs that see me working for two or three different outlets on any given day. That includes writing here for Oilersnation, Canadian Press or NHL.com.

Twice a week, I do radio on The Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260. Gregor makes it fun and he’s patient, considering I’m OK at best on-air. Still, I get pissed off sometimes that I’ve got to switch gears so often, depending on who I’m writing for. I don’t make as much as I used to.

There’s a woman named Ofelia who works at the gas bar where I fill up my cars. Ofelia has worked there for several years and, for a year or so until we got a full-time nanny, she supplemented her income from that with babysitting my son Sam.

I stopped in today and, as usual, she was working. Ofelia, in her 60s, takes all the shifts nobody else wants. "Say hello to Sam for me," she said. "Happy Thanksgiving." On days when I write a story for any one of CP, NHL.com or Oilersnation and do a radio show, I make more in five or six hours than Ofelia does in a week. I’ll bet a lot of you do, too.

JUST A THOUGHT

I don’t have a lot of patience — there’s a news bulletin — for some of the comments people write here. Who are these knuckleheads with fake names questioning my take on things? I don’t need the aggravation.

Last night at the game on the way up the stairs to the press box, a big guy in an Oilers jersey asked, "What do you think happens tonight, Robin?" I liked it that he recognized me, and he didn’t even say, "Didn’t you used to be Robin Brownlee?"

The other day in the deli section at the supermarket, I asked a clerk why he was out of the sandwich meat I wanted, my expression making it obvious I wasn’t impressed. "I know that voice," he said. "The Gregor show, right?" He went to the back and came out with the product I was looking for. "I really like that show," he said.

There’s a lot of people out there who do more important and meaningful work than I do. That list is too long to even contemplate. Nobody knows who they are. Nobody outside their place of employment or immediate family says, "Great job. I love your work." Along the way, if the flipside is that a few people think I suck at it, that’s not so bad, is it?

LUCKY MAN

When I got back from the game Sunday after a long day, the exterior lights of the house where on. My wife, Analyn, got into the habit of turning them on to welcome me back home during the years I spent on the road.

It was Analyn’s way of making sure I knew she was thinking about me, just in case she was asleep when I got back. Even now, though I’m gone for hours instead of days and weeks, she turns those lights on. Hours or weeks, I can’t wait to get home to her.

When our oldest son Michael began his first year at the University of Alberta in September, I almost shat myself when we got the prices of tuition and books. Seems there’s been a few increases since I faked my way into journalism school. Michael wants to go into medicine. Analyn and I will be paying for this until I’m 117.

Michael spends every week night studying in his room downstairs, sessions interrupted only by occasional breaks that see him wrestling with Sam or peeling paint off the walls with his guitar. Mercy, the kid can play — like on my 50th birthday when he cranked out a rendition of Sweet Child of Mine as a present in front of a house full of people.

Michael bangs out wicked riffs and honour-student marks with the same regularity. He’s a wonderful brother to Sam and a great kid. You can’t put a price on that. Then, there’s Sam. You know his story. I can barely talk or write about that little boy without tearing up or getting all goofy, and that buggers up the Big Bad Bronte image good and plenty. So, I’ll stop right here.

Happy Thanksgiving Day.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Ender

    Thanks for the post, Robin. At first, when I saw it wasn’t going to be about hockey, I was prepared for a Reader’s Digest piece about Thanksgiving. I was pleasantly surprised. The anecdotes were a nice lift to the evening. Thanks for sharing, Mr. Brownlee. If I see you in the supermarket, I’ll thank you in person, right before I swipe the last package of the product that you like.

  • Great article Robin, every time I see a personal article I think I’m gonna hate it and I end up liking it more than usual. I think its crap that with your level of experience they give you no seniority, it’s like the 58 year old fella we have at my shop who ranks lower than the kids. Bull shat. I hate that crap, but that’s the world we live in. I would like to think the Oilers org is run better than that, but it’s just as cold as any business today. Work dehumanizes us all. At the end of your career they just kick you to the curb, or say thanks and quickly move on without you.
    Anyways, I am thankful for Robin’s articles and on air persona. I still think you should get your own show on 1260.

  • As far as I am concerned Spector, Brownlee, Gregor, Stauffer & Barnes are the major Oiler media folks in town. Let”s all e-mail the Oilers to get Brownlee equal status to the Journal & ( god forbid ) the Sun scribes.

    • I appreciate the sentiment, but no.

      I’m not complaining about that. There’s a pecking order and that’s just fine because it served me well for a long time. I don’t need my old seating arrangement to feel good about what I’m doing now.

      As for status, I’ve always believed the writer or the reporter should make the outlet important and relevant, not vice-versa.

    • Well, they don’t get to travel on the charter any more. That ended last season. They’re back flying commercial like we used to a lot of the time before 1998 or so. At least back then, the team travelled commercial, too. And there wasn’t the take off your belt-shoes stuff etc that’s the norm now.

      Still, you get paid to go to hockey games and write about what you see. You get away from our winters for 41 road games, which translates to something like 80-90 days. Being in L.A. or Phoenix or Nashville or wherever in mid-January isn’t a bad gig.

  • When I first loaded up this here webspace it said this article was by Wanye. I almost fainted when I got about 5 words in and not only did it make coherent sense, but there wasn’t various pictures of cats all over the place. Thank heavens it’s been fixed.