On Halloween, I received a text. At the time of receipt, I was fully engaged in trying to cheer my beloved North Carolina State Wolfpack onto victory against the number one team in the country. I quickly glanced at the text and said to myself, “I’ll check it later once I get stationary.”
November 1. I finally settled in to catch up on what I had missed that weekend. I soon found out there was a party going on and I was beyond fashionably late. The internet was all abuzz. My social media feeds were filled with people talking about it. The unexpected was happening.
Update: As of this afternoon, ESPN has acknowledged the mistake and is working to inform all powers that be on their shows and various platforms that Andre is the person in the video. Thank you for making the correction, ESPN!
Last night, I was happily settled into my Monday night routine. I was comfortable in my onesie, the tv was on ESPN Monday Night Countdown and I was chatting with my mother about the day’s events. We were bother eagerly awaiting our favorite segment, C’mon Man!
What does that mean exactly? Well, my life often revolves around sports. I have been known rearrange activities or even skip them because “the game” is coming on. I watch SportsCenter daily. I read ESPN.com daily to stay abreast on the latest happenings. And I answer at least one question a day from someone regarding something sports related.
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.
No need for an introduction paragraph. Let me get straight to the point.
I debated for a while if I would address this Stephen A. Smith controversy. As a communication major, the word implication urks me to my core. To use the word implication brings in to the conversation that you interpreted my words a certain way whether that is what I meant or not.
We saw it happen last week with Coach Tony Dungy. His statement regarding the drafting of Michael Sam was very clear. If he was still coaching and had the opportunity to draft him, he would have chosen not to because he would not have wanted the distractions that came along with drafting Sam. Somehow, this implied that he would not draft him because of his sexuality. Somehow, this implied that Dungy hated Sam because of his sexuality. Somehow, this implied that Dungy was a Bible thumping Christian who hated people who do not live according to his beliefs.
Seriously? Assumptions were made without research being done. Assumptions were made by people based off what they saw on social media. Assumptions were made simply based off Dungy’s religious beliefs. There were numerous discussions I shut down by pointing out this one simple fact: what Dungy said lined up with his philosophy that he used for years while coaching in the NFL-minimize distractions. Think about it. When he was coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, how many times did you hear of negative happenings in their camp? When Dungy was coach of the Indianapolis Colts, how many times did you hear of negative happenings in their camp? Exactly.
People are quick to twist your words whether you pretzeled them or not.
Back to Smith. I have been a follower of Smith’s work for years. I have always loved his passion for sports and his unique views when addressing certain topics. When I returned home Monday, I was surprised to learn that he was in “hot water” because he “alluded” to the fact that women can provoke men to be abusive while discussing the two game suspension of Ray Rice(who was charged with assault on his then fiance earlier this year). My first reaction was um ok. What did he say wrong? If that is all he said, then what is the issue. However, I knew what the issue was. I have been engulfed in this world of communication long enough to know where this was headed. Unfortunately, I knew it was towards a place that throws up another barrier when it comes to addressing issues that are plaguing our country.
This morning I watched the clip of Smith’s original diatribe on Friday. I also watched his apology that he issued on Monday and I have concluded that what is being lost in this country right now is the right to opinion. Mainly, the right to have an opinion that differs from what is “politically correct” at the moment. Everyone in this country is entitled to their opinion. Everyone in this country is technically protected by the First Amendment guaranteeing them free speech. With that being acknowledged, I acknowledge the fact that there are some things that are unacceptable when it comes to what comes out of ones mouth. However, you are still entitled to your opinion.
What Smith offered up was just that, an opinion. It was not the one that you have probably heard spewed all over the media though. Not once did Smith say that it was ok for a man to hit a woman. Not once did Smith say that a woman deserves to be hit by a man. Not once did Smith insinuate that domestic violence is ok. In fact, he REPEATEDLY reiterated that domestic violence is NEVER ok.
What Smith did was open the door to discuss what has increasingly become an issue that is rarely addressed. Now before you tangle my words, let me be clear. Domestic violence is NEVER ok. NEVER. Let’s break this down though because I understood exactly what Smith was saying. When he alluded to women provoking men, I got it. We(women) know the kind of power we have. Well, most of us do. Most of us also know that there are a lot of men out here who respect women enough to to not lay hands on us. However, there are a lot of men who were raised in environments where this was ok. In turn, they are teaching their young sons that this is an acceptable way to handle their business simply because this is all they know.
At the same time, women know how to push buttons. Been there, done that. If we have not done it ourselves, we have been witness to a woman pushing a man’s buttons so hard that it takes everything in that man to not act on instinct. I have seen women unleash verbal assaults on men that were so lethal that my defending instincts were put on alert. From what I have heard, Smith called in to question the roll Rice’s wife played in the situation. Reports have consistently stated that she was also verbally and physically abusive towards him that night. He also brought up the fact that up until this point, this was out of character for Rice.
Honestly, we can take the domestic aspect out of the conversation and just look at it from a standpoint of person to person. While growing up, there were times that I provoked my mama into reminding me who was the parent. After my lips stop stinging from the quickness of her backhand, I duly noted in my young mind that I might not want to do that again. Did I deserve it? Some will argue no. I say yes. That is the way she chose t discipline me at times. I caused that reaction from her. I provoked her. If I had just gone to my room and pitched a fit behind closed doors, like I did most times, then my lips would not still be tingling minutes later.
While the outcomes of parental discipline and domestic violence are different, the root is the same in some instances. Most people can only take so much chastising, verbal abuse and insults before they reach their boiling point. We all know that when people reach their boiling point things sometimes happen that can take the calmest person out of their character. Domestic violence is not just physical. It is mental as well as emotional. A man that abuses physically can be provoked by a woman who abuses emotionally. Is he wrong? Yes. Is she wrong? Yes.
In opening up the avenue for discussion about this topic, Smith created a firestorm. It is one that I hope will now lead to a discussion that needs to be had on a daily basis and not for just five minutes on ESPN.
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” ~Jimmy V
I had a full day yesterday. Jimmy V would be proud. I laugh daily. My mind is constantly bombarded with thoughts. However, I do not allow myself to be moved to tears on a daily basis. Mainly because I do not always allow myself time to really sit down and reflect on the things that would bring tears to my eyes. When you hear the word tears, most of us immediately equate them with sadness. Often, when I do cry, it is not because I am sad. Most times I cry out of thankfulness. Thankfulness for my relationship I have with GOD. Thankfulness for my family and friends. Thankfulness for the life I have been blessed to live. In a sense, every day I should be moved to tears because every day I have something to be thankful for.
As I watched my favorite awards show, the ESPYs, last night I was reminded how truly blessed I am every day I am above ground. I watched as athlete after athlete graced the stage to thank countless people who helped them achieve the success they are experiencing. However, despite all the fan voted awards that are given, the award I anticipate the most is the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.
March 4, 1993. The day Coach Jim Valvano delivered a speech that would change how many viewed life. I was nine years old and very much oblivious to the fact that one of the sports worlds most beloved personalities was fighting the battle of his life. As tumors laid rage on his body, Jimmy V issued a challenge to everyone. He only needed seven words, with three of them being repeated twice, to put many on a path to living a life of destiny: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” On that night, as Jimmy V stood giant-like and announced the formation of the V Foundation for Cancer Research, lives of people all across the country and world were being intertwined.
The late Coach Kay Yow. Kevin Everett. Don Meyer. George Karl. Anthony Robles. Eric LeGrand. Dick & Rick Hoyt. Stuart Scott. Some names are recognizable while others are not. What they all have in common is that they share the honor of being recognized with the Jimmy V Award. In 2007, I cried a river as I watched a woman whom I had the privilege to share words, hugs and gather pearls of wisdom from, Coach Yow, accept the award that beared the name of her late friend. I love hearing the stories of people who have overcome or are overcoming obstacles that stand in their way. They are no different than you and I.
Last night, as I watched Scott eloquently describe his fight against the c word, I was moved to tears. My day was complete. I watched as Scott beamed with joy over the fact that “Jack Bauer” presented him with his award. I was watched as Scott proudly talked about the support he has received from his employers and colleagues. I watched as Scott dropped the bombshell on us that he had just been released from a grueling seven day hospital stay three days earlier. Words cannot describe the amount of respect I have for this man. I watched as Scott laid out for us, firmly, his motivation for never giving up: his daughters. As he called for his daughter, Taylor, to join him on stage, I fell apart. Over 3,000 miles away I could feel the love between them as they embraced. As my eyes fell on my yellow bracelet on my arm, the same one that Scott wears regularly, I was reminded that we are all in this together.
Something was different about this year’s ESPYs. Maybe it was the fact that everyone’s Twitter handle associated with ESPN was changed to the V Foundation logo for the day. Maybe it was the fact that the ESPYs was honoring one of its most popular anchors. Or maybe its just the fact that as times goes on, I have become more in tune with what really tugs at my heart strings. From Scott’s moving speech where he told us how to beat cancer to US Veteran and hero, Jeff Sweeney, accepting the Pat Tillman Award for Service, the show was full of heroes who embody the spirit of never giving up.
As I rewound the broadcast to watch Scott’s speech again, I flashbacked to a scene that took place about seven years ago in Chapel Hill. I was invited to Late Night with Roy by a member of my extended family. In true Kassie fashion, I ventured over the enemy territory sporting North Carolina State red from almost head to toe. Scott was the host. In true Scott fashion, I was picked out of the crowd and the jokes began. After the event, I got to talk with Scott and he thanked me for participating and having fun with him. As we set to bid farewell, we posed for a picture and went our separate ways.
Back in the present, I once again looked down at my wrist. My yellow bracelet was shining brightly. The bracelet that links myself to Scott as well as others. My LIVESTRONG bracelet. The bracelet that has become a universal symbol for the fight against the c word. While I can not empathize with what Scott is experiencing, my life experiences unite us. My grandfather had it. My grandmother had it. Three times. My next door neighbor, who was like a grandmother to me, had it. My cousin had it. My friend Laura had it. My friend Trinita had it. My colleague Maria had it. My friend Celena just finished battling it. My friend Quincy is battling it. The names are countless. The number of people that have been effected are endless. The lives that have been changed are numerous.
Last night’s ESPYs shined a bright light on the community that surrounds those fighting the c word. As tweets scrolled across the bottom of the screen, including one from me, from people who are fighting or fight for others, I was reminded, once again, that we are all in this together. No one who battles the c word should have to battle alone. We should all fight together. We should all fight to ensure that generations to come never have to experience a life plagued by the disease. We should all fight to ensure that many more birthdays are experienced. We should all fight to ensure that each and every person who is fighting is held up by someone who is willing to fight with them and for them. We should all fight to ensure that Jimmy V’s word will forever reign…”Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” Actions speak louder than words. What do yours say about you?