Live not as though there were a thousand years ahead of you. Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours. (Marcus Aurelius)
I’m sure by now you’ve heard the news that veteran sportscaster Stuart Scott died yesterday at the age of 49 after a prolonged battle with cancer. As a young woman who grew up on SportsCenter, he was an influence of mine, and he is the second such person to have passed away from the disease in the last year. As I officially begin my 15th year in the business today, the gravity is not lost on me.
I was a SportsCenter junkie. This was not by design; growing up, I was terribly afraid to sleep at night without some sort of sound to keep me company, and so I would leave the TV on all night, tuned to ESPN where inevitably, the same SportsCenter would air five times in a row. I grew up on the broadcasts of Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, but the guys I really felt like were my contemporaries were Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen (who paid the best tribute). And I always had a tremendous amount of respect for not only the quality of their work, but for who they were.
Anyone complaining about the amount of attention given to a sportscaster doesn’t really know Stuart Scott or his importance to not just sportscasting, but journalism overall. What he did, what he brought to the table was groundbreaking, not just in terms of bringing a different perspective but Stuart unequivocally made it okay for us to be ourselves at the desk or behind the keyboard. He wasn’t the first to do that, but he did it completely and he made us feel like we knew him, even if we never did.
That is what I’ve always wanted to do. He was the type of reporter I’ve always wanted to be. I write as I speak, considering my articles as conversations with my audience. I’m not afraid to share my personal life with you by tweeting and writing blogs like this. I do that because I know I will probably never be the most successful writer, or the most popular, and certainly not the richest. But what I can give you that no one else can is being me; my perspective, my heart, my passion. And Stuart made that okay.
I wish there were more reporters like Stuart Scott. I wish we were less robots and more unafraid to just be. And I wish that we could live more by his example. In a business so often focused on spin, much of it negative, his outlook was always positive and you never heard of him treating anyone he worked with, with anything less than the utmost respect. He was a class act from beginning to end, and unfortunately we now have to learn from him in retrospect.
He was also the perfect example of the truism on which I have always maintained my career, for better or for worse. What we hear from Stuart’s colleagues, contemporaries and loved ones today is not statistics from his ESPN tenure. They speak of the person that he was. I judge myself solely by the person that I am, not by the clicks I get or how much money I make. Thinking that way has cost me a lot over the years. But respect and compassion mean more to me than anything else, and Stuart had an abundance of both. He did his job, he did it well, and that meant something. It meant a lot.
Some of you may know that I went through a brief skin cancer scare almost a year ago. Most of you may not; I kept it fairly quiet, not wanting to alarm anyone, but I carried around the fear that I was going to die for weeks. I still remember finally confiding in my friend Michael Trucco, because I needed to tell someone, to not be alone in dealing with it, and I knew I could trust Michael to be there for me. That was a few weeks; Stuart and countless others faced that fear for months and years. And he didn’t let it get the better of him; he kept going.
That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Regardless of my disability or my surgeries or anything else that my health throws at me, I just want to keep going. To hold my head high and be someone that matters. If I can be half the person that Stuart Scott was, I’ll have done my job. But I don’t know if I deserve to be called a hero.
Stuart Scott was a hero.
By the way, if you have a chance, read Around The Horn panelist Kate Fagan’s column on Stuart’s passing. She sums up a lot of what I’m feeling, what a lot of us are feeling, very well. And I hope that I did, too, that I do something that Stuart would be proud of.