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.

  • PhillipSmithson

    “Then, there’s Sam. YOU KNOW HIS STORY …”

    …as always, a great read Robin…when i first read your bio/blurb/tag under your copy many months ago,the last sentence announcement reads… ‘most importantly, he’s Sam’s dad’…but i do not know Sams’ story…is there a link to what you’ve written about him?
    > I don’t want to feel left out…
    I think I’d like to know his story.
    I lost my son in June of 2002, he was a musician, on tour, and your ‘peeling paint’ reference made me laff out loud,it touched me deeply, my kid had great hands, with a hockey stick AND a guitar.Like your Michael, my son Jordan ripped me HIS rendition of ‘Stairway To Heaven’ on MY 50th,two short years before he was gone…
    So as the words on this screen become more difficult to read as I type, let me quickly take this opportunity to say I’ve been most thankful to read your words here each and every time you post. You ARE the reason I keep coming back to read YOU and the other Voices Of The Nation…

    the “mouthbreathers”?
    not so much … maybe at little

    • I’m sorry for your loss. I don’t even want to imagine that kind of pain.

      I’ve mentioned Sam here often. I can look up the items I’ve written and send them to you if you want. You can also hear Sam’s story when I do Astral Media’s telethon for the Stollery Children’s Hospital again this year. He’s one of their many success stories.

  • There is a soft side of you in there Robin. Great read!

    From my estimation there is only a few dozen that actually use our real names here. Kinda sad when you think about it. Wayne could probably let us know. I’m not scared to be a nation follower so why should you?

  • Robin thanks for the reminder, perspective is an amazing thing. How lucky, how blessed… some days it is a bit overwhelming.

    I feel like a bit of a suck right now, sitting at the breakfast table with my youngest, recently returned from a short stint at Alberta Children’s and right as rain. The story of Sam is an amazing one and should be told.

  • The Fish

    Robin,

    While sometimes I disagree with what you have to say, I still think you are one of the best hockey writers in the country. Your articles are the only ones on this site that are a must read for me. I like that fact that you write for this website because you don’t have to watch what you say and can essentially just shoot the sh*t with the readers here. Also, it can be fun to get your goat at times.

  • positivebrontefan

    That’s a good read Robin. We too often take for granted what we have until it’s gone. I have two beautiful daughters and could not imagine anything happening to them. I myself almost died at the tender age of six weeks old and it was the wonderful people at the University Hospital that saved my life, (well before the Stollery). My mother to this day talks about the wonderful people there and I can tell how they touched my parents lives with their compassion almost 36 years ago.
    I am thankful for all the wonderful people in the health services industry, they truly are a special group of people.
    As far as real names mine is John and I am a fan of the Team 1260 and do very much enjoy your Friday visits to the Gregor show.

  • Jmask5

    The Oilers could easily be 1-1 not 0-2. They outplayed Calgary and deserved to win that one. I believe the scoring chances were 22-12 for the Oilers so it wasn’t really that close. Besides even Khabibulin himself admitted that the Calgary game wasn’t that tough.

  • SuntanOil

    Robin – Great article. it’s amazing how much better life is when when we know what’s important and get to focus on that.

    Pelhem Grenville – I too remember hearing about Jordan and how my heart went out to you. I didn’t have anywhere to send my condolences back then, and I certainly wish to send them to you even now. To this day I have one of your photos hanging on my wall.

    btw – great nickname – any relation?

  • Bucknuck

    nice article Robin. For most of us, life is good if we just stop long enough to realize it. I guess that’s what this Thanksgiving day thing is all about.

  • Travis Dakin

    It has been a very sad Thanksgiving for good friends of ours who lost their little boy from a preventable accident last week. My wife has been with her friend during this terrible time for her and her husband and kids and the pain and sorrow is unbelievable.

    I’m daddy daycaring for my two little one’s and no matter how flustered I am getting or how cranky they get I still count my lucky stars every time I lay eyes on my boys or hear them. I can’t even imagine the pain our friends are going through and this will be the toughest funeral I have ever been to.

    My thoughts are with all of you who have experienced something terrible and tragic in your lives.

    I am so very thankful for my two healthy boys and my wonderful wife.

    Thanks to all of you, and ON as well, for being my nighttime, and sometimes daytime, entertainment and vent place.

  • I tried it at home

    Great and timely article, Robin, but I dont think youre “Ok at best on air” I work up north and have to miss way too many radio shows, and Ive always looked forward to the days I know youre on. Have a good one