This morning I was sitting at the nursery check-in desk at church about to start the change over from worship time to Bible class when I decided to do a quick check of Facebook. That’s when the sound went out of the room. There were plenty of people around me as the church was bustling with people moving to their own Bible classes, but my little piece of the world just stopped. It stopped because I saw these words: “Longtime ESPN anchor Stuart Scott dies at 49.” I wanted to look down and see some indication that it was not confirmed. That it was just a sick rumor, but unfortunately, the link to the article was from ESPN itself. They wouldn’t report something like that without it being true. And then I just felt empty. The whole world did.
I never met Stuart Scott, but he taught me more than he could ever possibly know. I started watching SportsCenter religiously when I went to college. It was the one constant program I could guarantee would be on when I woke up and when I went to bed. It got me ready for the day every morning, and told me everything I needed to know before I fell asleep every night. Stuart Scott was my anchor of choice. I didn’t know much about him when I first started watching SportsCenter. What I did know is I liked his style: his reporting, his fashion, his demeanor. He taught me so much about sports. If Michael Jordan taught me basketball and Wayne Gretzky taught me hockey and Cal Ripken, Jr. taught me baseball and Peyton Manning taught me football, Stuart Scott taught me how to watch them all. He taught me how to see sports. He became a part of me, a part of my life, a trusted friend from the TV screen.
I felt a little kinship to him, but I didn’t know why until my brother eventually told me he was a Carolina graduate, and that explained it all. We lovers of the Carolina Blue just know each other without even asking. I remember his love for his family. When talking about your personal life as part of a news broadcast was unheard of, Stuart didn’t care. He wanted to share all of himself with us viewers. Not just his love of sports, not just his love of the athletes, not just his love of catch phrases and hip hop prose, but his love of life and his love of the people in his life. He changed the rules and created a few all the while entertaining and informing us.
And then the man who had made us laugh and lifted us up needed us to make him laugh and lift him up. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 by accident through an emergency appendectomy, and thus began a seven-year daily fight for his life. I remember being devastated when I heard of his diagnosis, but so happy to hear it was a good prognosis. I felt like screaming “BOOYAH!” when he beat it the first time. I wanted to laugh when he was diagnosed a second…to laugh in the face of cancer and say, “Oh you didn’t get enough of a beat down from Stuart the first time around, you came back for more.” And I watched like all of us did. I watched him take treatment after treatment and then go workout the same day. Cancer would not get the best of him, he decreed. He would win the day. He fought for all of us, but most especially for his daughters…to be there for them…to show them the importance of their lives to him.
As the days and weeks and months came and went over the course of this 3rd and final bout with that atrocious, disgusting disease, he appeared on camera less and less. And I just thought he must have to fight harder this time. It’s taking up more of his time. He’s still going to beat it. He’s Stuart Scott. Cancer messed with the wrong guy! And even as his once broad frame had diminished to a gaunt figure by the time he accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at last year’s ESPYs, I still believed if anyone was going to beat this, Stuart would.
Today…when the sound went out of my little corner of the world. When the world became empty. When I felt so deeply for his beautiful daughters. When life was so obviously unfair. When trivial problems seemed pointless. When my heart weighed a thousand pounds.
No, Stuart is not the first person to ever have cancer, and no, Stuart will unfortunately not be the last taken from this world by it. But he used his public platform to show us what all cancer patients do daily: FIGHT! He was a face for them. He was a voice for them. He was a teacher for all of us. Rest in Peace, Stuart.
“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” ~ Orison Swett Marden