I think it’s weird how death impacts you differently as you get older. When you’re younger, it’s confusing and emotional but in ways in which you can’t comprehend. When my dad died, I was just 7 years old. I didn’t cry. I remember that so vividly. Why? Because, what kid doesn’t cry when their father dies? What was wrong with me? Well, as I slowly figured out, we aren’t truly able to process the permanency of death at such young ages. As I grew older, without a father in my life, the permanency of his death slowly became more apparent, and the pain surfaced, even to the point of tears, every now and then. So it’s not that strange, I guess, that now, at 33, death impacts me much, much more severely. However, it’s not because of it’s impact on me, it’s because I feel an empathy that is so real for people who suffer real loss.
Today longtime ESPN Anchor, Stuart Scott, died of cancer at the age of 49. I never knew him, I never met him, and I didn’t even always enjoy his performances, and yet I felt strangely impacted by his death. While running on the treadmill this morning, watching NFL Countdown just wasn’t the same. You could feel the sadness of all Keyshawn, CC, TJ, Coach, and Boomer just come through the screen. Then as they broke into segments on Scott, you could sit back and remember the energy and life that he brought to ESPN. I could almost immediately feel what those people must be feeling, realizing that he’ll never sit behind the desk again.
Make no mistake, Scott wasn’t beloved by everyone for his personality injected style, but he was respected. He was one of the first to bring real personality and flair to reading highlights. He brought swag and hip hop culture, which permeated sports culture – but not sports media, to the center of the largest sports media network in the world. Now, seemingly dated, phrases like “Boyaahhh” and “Cooler than the other side of the pillow” were game changing at the time he brought them out. It was like listening to EMCEE Rell of the “And 1 Mixtape”, but it was on the white-washed “Sports Center”. You’re lying if you never shouted “Boyahh” after hitting a J in someone’s face. Stuart Scott’s impact was real, it was transcendent, and it will be felt for years to come.
One of the biggest reasons that Scott will live on, is due to the amazing speech he gave this year at the Espy’s, after winning the Jim Valvano award. Just hours after receiving multiple treatments related to his battle with cancer, Scott took the stage to deliver his greatest performance in his long and illustrious career. If you haven’t ever watched it, I’ve included the video below – it’s a must watch. The two things that stood out most to me, were the way he spoke about his daughters and the way he spoke about beating cancer. His love for his daughters was so real and powerful. It actually makes me question if I can ever love anyone as much as I will when I one day have kids of my own. In fact, every single piece recorded in his memory today, by every person who worked at ESPN, seemed to include the way he would talk about his children. Growing up a child whose father committed suicide – it definitely impacted me a lot to see someone’s father care about them as much as Scott cared about his own kids. Which brings me to the second part of his speech that hit me, the way he talked about beating cancer.
“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer,” Scott told the audience. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
I don’t know if I will ever get cancer or any other debilitating disease, however, those words mean as much to me regardless. We are judged and remembered based on how we live our lives. It’s not about being perfect, but about being good, striving to be better, and ultimately having an impact – no matter how small it is. Every year, sometimes multiple times a year I watch the original Jim Valvano speech because it motivates me so much to hear him talk about laughing, crying, and loving – and to hear him say “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” Now, I have a second video to add to my annual motivational moments on youtube. This Stuart Scott speech hits on so many levels, and even though he was only hours out of treatment (and only 5.5 months from ultimately dying), Scott was, for all 6minutes and 56 seconds, “Cooler than the other side of the pillow.”
In case you’ve never seen the Jim Valvaon speech, here it is: