When I was a teenager, I had daily routine before school. Wake up. Get ready for school. Watch Rocky & Bullwinkle. Eat cheese toast. Turn to ESPN at 7a to watch SportsCenter. Over the years, my routine has varied some but the one constant has always been my morning dose of SportsCenter. It was on SportsCenter that I got watch one of my favorite sports anchors every morning, Stuart Scott.
I can remember the day I met him as if it happened recently. My sixth grade PE teacher, Ms. Graves, who has become a dear friend of the family invited me to go with her to Late Night with Roy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her son, Will, who was like a little brother was a freshman on the basketball team. Supporting Will was a no-brainer. As a proud graduate of North Carolina State University, traveling over into enemy territory was nothing new for me. In an effort to clearly let the masses know that I was there to support Will, only, and not the team I put on as much red as I could find. Red headband. Red NC State shirt. Red Chuck Taylors. Even in all my red, I was excited. I was excited that Will was going to get his first chance to really showcase his talent to the fans that would be cheering him on for the next four years and I was excited to see Scott in his element, up close.
I settle into my seat and soon Scott was introduced. I was mesmerized as I watched him command the crowd of thousands in the same manner that made him a favorite on SportsCenter. I could not believe I was seeing him in person. Then, it happened. He spotted me. I was sitting three rows from the court and I stuck out like beanstalk in a haystack. He was walking by the bench when I heard him say, “I know I don’t see what I think I see.” We immediately locked eyes and I smiled. Scott asked me to come out onto the court. Now even in all my boldness, I was not about to let him get me out on that court to ridicule me. I shook my head and told him to come up to where I was. As is typical with the banter between a Wolfpacker and a Tar Heel, neither of us budged. He gave up but not without making a State joke then moved on to something else.
After the event, I went over to speak to him. As I approached, he immediately smiled. He reached out to shake my hand, gave me a hug and thanked me for being a good sport. I told him how much I enjoyed him on SportsCenter and how he was one of my favorites. He thanked me, asked me a little about myself, told me to keep doing what I was doing and posed for a picture.
Over the past few weeks, Scott has crossed my mind often. Typically when that would happen, I would go check his Twitter feed to see if he had tweeted anything. He was a regular tweeter and the fact that he had not tweeted since November 14 was a cause for concern. As the weeks went on and the tweets still did not happen, I became increasingly sad. The absence of his tweets resonated loudly. Whenever he crossed my mind, I would pray; for him, his healing, his family especially his daughters, his colleagues, his medical staff, all those who knew and loved him. I tried to remain optimistic as I knew that wherever he was, he was fighting a good fight.
In July, I watched with the world as Scott accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPYs. It was fitting that a man who had dedicated so much of his time and efforts to the V Foundation was now on the receiving end of the award named in reference to how Jimmy V lived his life while battling the same disease as Scott. My eyes filled with tears as I listened to Scott deliver a speech that totally changed the way I looked at cancer. He provided me with an 18 word quote that resonated loudly…”You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.”
When my friend Quincy passed away in October after a 10 year battle, it was that quote that often made me smile, through the tears, when I thought about Quincy. Quincy never let cancer define him. NEVER. He lived a life worthy of being remembered forever. He woke up every day determined to live and that is what he did until he took his last breath. As I sat glued to ESPN this morning, I knew Scott had lived the type of life he spoke about on that stage in July. If you were a regular watcher or ESPN, you saw it every time Scott was on. The only indication that he was in the fight of his life was the LIVESTRONG bracelet that always adorned his wrist. There was never any pity, sadness or despair. Whenever Scott was on, he was on just like he had always been. He was a living example of what beating cancer looked like.
Today, through tears, I have thought a lot about Quincy. I have read tweet after tweet from Scott’s colleagues, current and former athletes, the President and those who just love sports. I have watched his fellow anchors fight back tears as “he is” has to now change to “he was.” I have reminisced on the countless hours I have spent watching Scott revolutionize the title of sports anchor/analyst. And I have thought a lot about the day I met him in the Smith Center. At the time, I was still focused on one day becoming an athletic director. Thoughts of one day being a sports journalist had not crossed my mind. If it had, then my interaction with Scott that day would have been much different. I probably would have thanked him for being authentically him. I probably would have thanked him for giving hope to countless black journalists who strive to have a platform as big as his one day. I probably would have thanked him for never compromising who he was. I probably would have thanked him for stepping out on faith and trailblazing a path for others to follow. I probably would have thanked him for bridging the gap between hip-hop culture, sports and corporate America. I probably would have thanked him for being so great on the job and for being even better off of it.
I would have thanked him simply for being Stuart Scott.
Staurt, you nailed it as only you could. With style, grace and a BooYow to top it off.
Well done, sir. Well done.