When I woke up on Sunday to the news, I didn’t think it would hit me as hard as it would.
But, when Hannah Storm gave the official word, my heart broke for his family, his friends, and for a generation of ESPN viewers that grew up watching him on SportsCenter.
Stuart Scott had succumbed to his battle with cancer.
Now, I was never fortunate enough to know Stuart Scott personally – for that matter, I never met the man in person – but that didn’t change the fact that I still felt compelled to say something.
Because, seeing the many tributes of friends and colleagues who knew him over his 21 years as an ESPN personality – one that effectively changed the game in ways I didn’t even realize while watching him on television – he deserves every good word that has been spoken about him.
He changed the way we view the world of sports media, and changed the way we talk about it. Of course you know the phrases he coined – “Cooler than the other side of the pillow” and “Boo-Yow” (or, as the millions of his followers know it as, “Boo-Yah”) – but he also changed the conversation in sports media as one of the trail-blazing African American sportscasters, thrust into the spotlight of national television on a nightly basis. He did it with class, fervor, enthusiasm and swagger.
It speaks to Scott’s influence when you practically have to be reminded that he was the first of his kind to enter the lexicon of pop culture – he normalized his own style, one that related to the black youth of America, in the eyes of a generation.
Cancer took this man too soon, like it has for millions of others. But, even to the end, he was an inspiration in how he bravely fought the illness for as long as he did.
And you could tell that his death not only hit sporting America hard, but especially his colleagues, both current and former – like Rich Eisen, now on NFL Network, whose tribute to his good friend just minutes after he received the news was as raw, real, heartfelt and heartbreaking as you could imagine:
While many knew this unfortunate day would come, it was still difficult to process. I’m just a random sports blogger swimming through a small corner of the internet; a fan of Scott’s work, that he had done for years. He was a part of my sports life – a bigger part than I realized. It’s surreal to know that we, as a sporting public, will no longer be graced by his enthusiastic voice and beaming personality on the Worldwide Leader.
Furthermore, as an aspiring sports writer who would like to see himself on shows like SportsCenter someday, Stuart Scott was – and still is – something of an inspiration. To have worked as hard as he did, even through the seven years he had courageously battled cancer, you can only aspire to work a fraction as hard every day, and know that it was a good effort.
Words can’t express my condolences to Scott’s family, friends and colleagues. So, I feel like the only appropriate thing to do now is to share Stuart’s poignant words in what might go down as one of the greatest speeches in sports media history: his acceptance speech at the 2014 ESPYs for the Jimmy V Perserverence Award (A big thanks to Lybio.net for a majority of the transcript):
You know tomorrow all my boys are gonna be like, “Oh man, I saw you at the ESPYs with Peyton Manning, ‘Money’ Mayweather, and KD.”
I’m gonna be like, “Yeah, whatever. Jack Bauer saves the world and he introduced me.”
24 is my favorite TV show of all time, so Kiefer Sutherland, thank you very much, I am very honored.
Every day I am reminded that our life’s journey is really about the people who touch us. When I first heard that I was going to be honored with this reward, the very first thing that I did was — I was speechless. Briefly.
I’ve presented this award before. I mean, I’ve watched in awe as Kay Yow and Eric LeGrand and all these other great people graced this stage and although intellectually, I get it. I’m a public figure, I have a public job, I’m battling cancer, hopefully I’m inspiring – at my gut level, I really didn’t think that I belonged with those great people.
But I listened to what Jim Valvano said 21 years ago. The most poignant seven words ever uttered in any speech anywhere:
“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up”.
Those great people didn’t. Coach Valvano didn’t. So, to be honored with this, I now have a responsibility to also not ever give up.
I’m not special. I just listened to what the man said. I listened to all that he said, everything that he asked of us. And that’s to build the V Foundation.
And, let me tell you, man, it works. I’m talking tangible benefits. You saw me in that clinical trial. Now, here’s a thing about that. Coach Valvano’s words 21 years ago helping me and thousands of people like me, right now, direct benefits – that’s why all of this, why we’re here tonight, that’s why it’s so important.
I also realized something else recently. You heard me kind of allude to it in the piece. I said, “I’m not losing. I’m still here, I’m fighting. I’m not losing.” But I’ve gotta amend that.
When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.
Fight like hell.
And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest, and let somebody else fight for you. That’s also very, very important. I can’t do this “don’t give up” thing all by myself. I’ve got thousands of people on Twitter and on the streets who encourage me. I’ve got these amazingly wonderful people at ESPN. I’ve got corporate executives, my bosses – this is true – who would text message me.
They would say, “Hey, I heard you had chemotherapy today, you want me to stop by on the way home from work and pick you up something to eat and bring it to you?”
Seriously? Who does that?
Whose boss does that? My bosses do that.
But even with all that the fight is still much more difficult than I even realized.
What you didn’t see in the piece is what’s gone on probably the last ten days. I just got out of the hospital this past Friday. Seven day stay. Man, I crashed. I had liver complications. I had kidney failure. I had four surgeries in a span of seven days. I had tubes and wires running in and out of every part of my body. And guys, when I say every part of my body … ev-er-y … part of my body.
As of Sunday, I didn’t even know if I’d make it here. I couldn’t fight.
But doctors and nurses could.
The people that I love and my friends and family – they could fight.
My girlfriend, who slept on a very uncomfortable hospital cot by my side every night – she could fight.
The people that I love did last week what they always do. They visited, they talked to me, they listened to me, they sat silent sometimes. They loved me.
And that’s another one of the components of the V Foundation. This whole fight, this journey thing, is not a solo venture. This is something that requires support.
I called my big sister Susan a few days ago. Why?
I needed to cry. It was that simple.
And I know that I can call her, I can call my other sister Synthia, my brother Stephen, my mom and dad, and I can just cry. And those things are very important.
I have one more necessity. Eh, it’s really two. Two very vibrant, intelligent, beautiful young ladies. The best thing I have ever done, the best thing I will ever do, is be a dad to Taelor and Sydni. It’s true.
I can’t ever give up because I can’t leave my daughters.
Yes, sometimes I embarrass them. Sometimes, they think I’m a tyrant. That’s a direct quote. There is an adjective that describes tyrant too, but I’m not going to go there.
But Taelor and Sydni, I love you guys more than I will ever be able to express. You two are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage here tonight because of you.
My oldest daughter, Taelor, I wanted her to be here, but college sophomore, summer school, second semester’s starting this week. Baby girl, I love you, but you go do you. You go do that.
My littlest angel is here. My fourteen-year-old. Sydni, come up here and give dad a hug, because I need one.
I want to say thank you ESPN, thank you ESPYs, thank all of you. Have a great rest of your night and have a great rest of your life.