Full of life doesn't mean the most gregarious one at the party. Full of life means someone who battled cancer, head on, three times.
Chris Berman, ESPN
While watching the coverage of the loss of Stuart Scott this morning on ESPN, the statement by Berman resonates in my mind. I had breakfast with Stuart and his girlfriend Kristin on the Sunday morning before Game 2 of last summer's NBA Finals and almost immediately realized I wasn't sharing a meal with the iconic, larger-than-life ESPN legend, but rather with a guy that just wanted to talk about his kids, his favorite movies and TV shows.
He wasn't gregarious or loud. He listened more than he spoke. He carried himself with remarkable grace and poise. And he changed me.
Several readers here have noted a difference in style and tone in my writing over the past year. That can partially be attributed to a conscious effort for more legitimate reporting and editorializing but the change, in large part, is due to advice that Stuart gave me last February. "Your words mean something," he said.
Of course his advice could be cast aside as cliche, but given the circumstances they have stuck with me and serve as the foundation for virtually everything I write. More importantly, his words and friendship have made me strive to be a better man. Things that I do, that all of us do, matter. Words and deeds mean something. And they live forever.
Last winter in an attempt to demonstrate the media's propensity to sensationalize events, I included Stuart in a story I wrote about the Marcus Smart incident at Texas Tech, never expecting the man to see it. But he did. I have no idea how, but he did. And he reached out to me.
We talked for about thirty minutes on a Wednesday night while he was on set in Bristol. The conversation was understandably uncomfortable for the first few minutes but became more pleasant as we found common ground. We talked honestly about race and perception; differences and Derek Jeter. And we talked about our kids. I later sent him a message offering to take him to dinner if the Spurs made the Finals (and while he was in town for ESPN's coverage) and he agreed. And though unbelievably busy, he kept his word and kept our date when we met for cereal and bacon on the River Walk in early June. Before Game 5 of the NBA Finals he introduced me to his daughter and we chatted for a few minutes. Before leaving he wished me a Happy Father's Day and we promised to get together again. It was the last time we ever spoke. I've prayed for Stuart every night since we met and tonight I'll pray for comfort for those saddened by his loss.
But Stuart Scott will live forever. Inside our minds and with the help of technology Stuart will always be here. "As cool as the other side of the pillow," will live forever. Remembering how he called me "brotha" and our shared appreciation for Rocky Balboa will live forever. And the love he had for his daughters and Kristin and the passionate way he approached his work and fought cancer so bravely will all live forever.
While struggling to type this I've received countless text messages and emails from friends and family expressing their sorrow. It almost feels silly because Stuart was a guy I barely knew. But because of his willingness to befriend a blogger like me, and perhaps with the help of angels pushing us toward one another, our paths briefly crossed. For that I am forever grateful.
In the middle of it all my boys play with their Batman cave and superhero action figures that Santa brought. And when the superhero inevitably defeats the bad guy, they always yell a celebratory "BOOYAH!"
And Stuart Scott lives on.