Fryar, I truly believe that many folks turn away from bbq because of inferior product. They are hard to control the temp and produce below average results...leading you to stick the smoker in the corner and curse it!
As Bruce stated, for the $$ you can't buy a better smoker that the WSM...and you will be able to really hone your skills on this unit as well. I have two and the success on those units helped build my confidence to move on to other cookers.
If you can make the mods to the Brinkman then it will help, but between the original cost and then the additional parts and labor to make it an ok cooker, it might be a wash in cost overall.
The good news is that everyone here is willing to help whatever you decide to do!! Good luck!!