Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Stuart Scott: Every Day He Fought

"When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live." – Stuart Scott

As an anchor and commentator for ESPN's SportsCenter, Stuart Scott became the face of his network. He was the most popular and recognized anchor of his generation, and arguably the hippest sports journalist ever. As lead host of the NBA on ABC and ESPN, and as a host of Monday Night Football on ESPN, Scott brought a unique spirit and style to each telecast.

Scott anchored his first SportsCenter with Craig Kilborn back in September 1996. He had a thick dark mustache, and "I wore my hair in a type of baby high-top fade, which was all the rage among young black men at the time; short on the sides, long on top." And there was Scott's big, boxy suits. "This is back in the day in the day when suits were boxy, with big shoulders. Now everything is Euro, slim-fit. Back in the day, big and baggy was cool," Scott wrote. Looking back at that clip in 2014, what he saw was this: "a young black man rocking the style of the day. But I also saw something else, something harder for the naked eye to make out. I saw a dude who had been given the freedom to let his voice fly."

Scott became known for infusing his reports with a blend of pop culture references, hip-hop slang, and exuberant phrases – Boo-yah! – that made him something of a pop culture icon in his own right.

Shortly before Scott died of cancer on January 4, 2015, he completed work on his memoir, Every Day I Fight, that is both a labor of love and love letter to life itself. Looking for something inspiring to read, I checked out Every Day I Fight from my local public library – and it has been my reading companion the past few weeks, and I've fought hard to put it down. I highly recommend it.

Stuart Scott's story is a very personal one, and page after page of Every Day I Fight  he bares his soul, sharing his intimate struggles to beat cancer and stay alive. As I read, I can hear Scott's familiar voice that I remember from his SportsCenter days.

In Every Day I Fight, written with journalist Larry Platt, Scott writes about illness and loss with relentless energy. His words are raw, honest and powerful. At times over the top, other times irresistibly sincere – just like his television personality – Scott had this to say for those who praised his fortitude once his cancer became public. "Trust me, I ain't courageous. I just don't want to die." The two simple reasons he didn't want to die: his daughters, Taelor and Sydni.

"I'd work out three or four times a week, but the most important workout was the one right after chemo. It was like I was proving a point: While you kick my butt, cancer, I'm gonna kick yours."

Scott was struck by appendiceal cancer in 2007, a rare disease. He fought cancer the same way that elite athletes train in pursuit of a championship – his desire to remain in control of his health, to fight for others who couldn't fight, and to inspire his daughters, who meant the world to him. Scott wanted to be there for Taelor and Sydni, now teenagers, "not simply as their dad, but as an immutable example of determination of courage."

Scott writes: "I needed to do that, not just to show my girls I was fighting for them, but also to show myself I had some control over the situation. 'Cause cancer wants to take control from you. You've got to very purposefully stand your ground. That's what going to the gym is to me. I decide, cancer. That's what going to work is I decide, cancer. That's what traveling all over the country and abroad is. I decide, cancer."

But let's keep this real, Scott wrote. "I'm forty-nine. There's a good chance I'm going to die a helluva lot earlier than I ever wanted to. There's a good chance I'm going to die soon. And I know it. I know it every moment of every day. And that reality is never not with me.

"So this book is a chronicle of my fight against cancer, but it's even more than that. It's really a memoir of a life well fought; in sports, the media, or the cancer ward, the one true thing I've learned is that life is hard but that there is redemption in the struggle."

Scott embraced life and changed lives. His friend and colleague Robin Roberts, herself once an ESPN SportsCenter anchor before ascending to host ABC's Good Morning America, wrote: "Stu's unshakable courage was inspirational. Cancer never defined him; it's not his life's story but rather a chapter in his life's story. You'll see in these beautifully written pages that he set a stellar example for all of us in so many aspects of life. Stu said when you're too tired to fight, rest and let someone else fight for you. My dear friend, you can rest now, and we will continue to fight for you."

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