EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Even in his final days, Bryan Burwell never changed.
On Nov. 15, I watched the Missouri-Texas A&M game with a group of friends at Bryan's house. By that time, the stage 4 liver cancer had limited him. He was spending most of his days in his basement.
As the Tigers and Aggies traded penalties that prolonged the game, Bryan couldn’t help but crack a joke in his usual self-deprecating way. “Come on, I’ve got cancer over here.”
That cancer claimed his life on Thursday. That night spent watching the game at his house was the last time I saw Bryan, but in so many ways, it was a fitting goodbye.
See, nobody loved being a sports writer more than Bryan Burwell.
Not because he got to watch the beauty of sports or turn beautiful phrases, though he enjoyed both. No, that night will forever remain etched in my mind because this was Bryan in his element.
It wasn’t about the sports themselves. Bryan was about people, and the camaraderie of being a part of that club was something he cherished.
I first met Bryan when I was a young journalism major at Missouri. I, as so many other aspiring sports writers would attest, was stunned that a giant in the business never made me feel like I was anything but his equal.
Bryan was not only a local columnist but a national personality. He excelled on television, radio and, of course, print. One needs look no further than Twitter today to see the many lives he touched.
Bryan and I hit it off right away, sharing a passion for hoops and football, not to mention sarcastic humor that instantly made him one of the people I looked up to most in the business.
As a columnist, nobody better understood the backlash that comes with expressing an opinion. But while Bryan understood he might anger many of his readers, he enjoyed being able to stir conversation. And when he’d write something negative about a player or coach, he was always in the locker room the next day ready to face the music.
On my last visit with Bryan in November, he was wearing a Superman T-shirt. It had been part of a care package sent to him by Southern Illinois basketball coach Barry Hinson after he’d learned of Bryan’s illness.
Bryan Burwell wasn’t faster than a speeding bullet, nor more powerful than a locomotive. He was a mentor, a friend, a husband, a father and a damn good sports journalist.
He wasn’t Superman. But he was a super man.