Sundays tend to develop a pretty consistent routine: wake up, sift through garbage on Twitter, lay in bed with my dog until he’s licked my face enough to force me out of bed to let him out, eat a bowl of cereal, maybe a bagel, and then invest in some quality real estate on the sofa to watch football.
It’s a fairly lackluster series of events, but it’s serenity for a sports fan such as myself.
Last Sunday was different.
It started out as regular as any other: face licks, a little more giddiness to watch the Colts in the first round of the NFL Playoffs. But as I did the typically-casual scroll through Twitter, my emotions quickly changed.
It was a post by Lebron James, a tribute to sportscaster Stuart Scott, that immediately changed my plans for the morning. I didn’t even finish reading James’ post before I had my Internet browser open, checking ESPN.com and Deadspin.com to verify the news. Scott had passed after a lengthy — his third — battle with cancer.
Stuart Scott is the reason I like sports as much as I do, which is probably too much at times.
Scott began his time at ESPN at pretty much the exact time that my little, underdeveloped brain could wrap itself around the complexity of sports. All I wanted to do at that age was be cool. I listened to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and I worshipped Allen Iverson. Those things were cool, at least to me.
But coolest of all, was the man that kept me watching reruns of SportsCenter all day, everyday.
Stuart Scott spent almost 30 years describing athletes as “as cool as the other side of the pillow,” while, in fact, it was Scott that was cooler than the underside of a polar bear’s pillow. The guy talked about sports the way you talk about sports with your friends. He said what he wanted, how he wanted, but he never did it for show. He just loved sports, and he loved having fun.
Scott is the reason I am a sports reporter.
Since about the second grade, I knew what I was going to be when I grew up. Although my dream of someday sitting next to Scott on SportsCenter eventually faded, I knew, no matter what it was, I wanted to talk about sports for a living. He’s the reason I got a degree in telecommunications at Ball State. He’s the reason I moved to Sheridan to deliver the sports news to this community.
He’s the reason I love doing it.
When I found out his cancer was back, it broke my heart. When he barely had enough strength to walk on stage at the ESPYs last year to accept the Jimmy V Award, it broke my heart.
And then, Sunday, when I watched his old colleague and pal, Rich Eisen, deliver the news of his passing, it broke my heart.
Cancer sucks. Cancer ate away at Scott’s body. Cancer kept Scott from doing the thing he loved most in this world, other than his two daughters. But cancer never got the best of Scott.
He never wanted to know what stage of cancer he was in. As famous as Jim Valvano’s ESPYs speech was, Scott’s was just as powerful, claiming, “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.”
Scott beat cancer. Even in his weakest state, he kept smiling, kept hugging his daughters and kept belting out “booyahs” on the SportsCenter set, one that he helped build.
It’s hard for me to picture my life and the path I would have taken along the way without sports playing a significant role. Stuart Scott was the spark, in the truest sense of the word, that ignited that flame.
I decided to break my routine again Sunday night, as I turned my pillow over to the cool side before I went to sleep.
Booyah, Stu. Booyah.
Mike Pruden is the sports editor at The Sheridan Press.