Been doing a lot of soul searching as we turned the calendar to 2015. Like most, family, health and happiness are at the top of my priority list, but as I grow older, goals, dreams and plans change to more short term as the gift of life ticks away and I pivot from the long term to what is left, and how to enjoy each and every day even more.
My zest for life is as strong as ever, so this isn't meant to be a maudlin sob story about the sands of time nearing the end of the hourglass. None of us knows when or how it will end. The loss of friends, family and colleagues happens to us all and we all deal with it as best we can. As we get older and see those who are in our age group - or even younger - taken away, one starts to appreciate the 60+ years of life and no longer takes for granted the summers, falls and the New Years we hope are left.
The death of my friend and colleague Stuart Scott wasn't a total shock because of his almost decade long fight against cancer. Those who kept track and saw the final 8 months of his battle just hoped somehow he'd kick it's ass again, just like he did several times before.
I've been extremely blessed in my life and career to have worked with some of the most influential and amazingly talented people in broadcasting history. My ESPN years from 1992 to 2000 certainly have afforded me the chance to not only work with, but grow with others of that era into a better broadcaster and person. Stuart Scott made me better. Seeing the tributes, memories and comments of people who were touched by Stu's work - especially by the millions who never even had to chance to meet him - the appreciation of his career, life and friendship really hit home even harder.
When Stuart came to ESPN from Orlando TV in 1993, ESPN 2 was born and I was working radio every weekend. ESPN gave me a segment called "Bogus" on that crazy SportsNight show on the "Deuce". Keith Olbermann, Suzy Kolber and Mitch Albom were the 3 original hosts with a cast of many solid contributors. Stuart was the first ever "SportsSmash" update person with Bill Pidto and Deb Kaufman. We wore crazy clothes and covered everything from the major sports to snowboarding, indoor soccer, kayaking, climbing sports, you name it!
Before Stu went over to Sportscenter on ESPN in 1996 and teamed up with Rich Eisen to form 1 of the 2 most imitated and iconic teams in Sports Anchor history, he transformed from "Smash" updates to hosting Sportsnight. I got the honor of co-hosting with him on some zany shows in 94 and 95. His style, and hip ability to make highlites special amazed me. When sharing the set on our college football and college basketball shows, my goal was to not botch the highlites as the video rolled while Stu dazzled the audience and me with the kind of free flowing swagger and hipness that set the stage for the next generation of young sports hosts.
Thankfully, I have found the videos of many of those shows which ESPN recorded on VHS for me from the G-5 satellite. They are posted on this page and You Tube. Had not seen these tapes in over a decade and decided to spend the weekend watching them to escape the funk while mourning his loss at the young age age of 49. The one episode which really broke me down like a baby was the Sweet 16 show in 1994 where we having fun talking about young players making an impact in the college basketball tournament. Stuart was showing me pictures of his newborn baby and first daughter Taelor. I realized she is now a 20 year old woman who saw her dad suffer and fight for so long, but left her and us way too soon.
There were other African Americans and minorities on local and national TV in the 90's, but no one had the impact or inspired so many in broadcasting or sports. I said on my podcast Monday night that, to me, Stuart Scott is the Jackie Robinson of TV sports anchors. He broke down the barriers so few were confident enough to attempt on the biggest stage. Despite some early resistance to accept his flair, I believe ESPN suits eventually saw a man who was impacting not just young people of all races, but someone who was revered by the very athletes he brilliantly described every night. Basketball players aspired to be like MIKE, generations of young broadcasters want to be like Stu and always will. Peace Out my brother!