By Gino Blefari
My thoughts this week are less thoughts than they are a written tribute to someone I’ve forever admired and respected as a titan in the sports-reporting industry, a kind-hearted man who famously prized family above fortune and still rose to the status of a cherished icon in his field. If you haven’t guessed, I’m speaking of renowned sports commentator Stuart Scott, who tragically passed away several days ago at the age of 49, leaving behind a legacy of compassion and strength, and a message any leader can learn from: Even when faced with an opponent as merciless as cancer, there’s always an opportunity to fight.
In a touching speech delivered at the 2014 ESPY Awards ceremony, Stuart eulogized his own life, acknowledging his then 7-year-long battle against a rare form of cancer while also refusing to succumb to its malice. “When you die it does not mean that you lose to cancer,” he explained as he accepted the Jimmy V Award—named after the late basketball coach Jimmy Valvano—for sports broadcasting excellence. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” Later Stuart added, “Our life’s journey is really about the people that touch us.”
Well, touché, Mr. Scott.
I’ll count myself among those touched by Stuart’s sentiments, an avid sports fan who remembers Stuart’s impassioned “boo-ya!”s and near-lyrical descriptions of three-point shots and touchdowns. I also remember the infectious joy he brought to countless rivalry showdowns and playoff games, possessing a passion for all sports that nearly bubbled across my television screen. And even as he fought his disease, this joy never waned, making him the epitome of a true leader, a brave, valiant and confident fighter, and a sportscasting soldier who battled for victory until the bitter end.
So, what’s the message?
I’ll let Mr. Scott tell you in his words, once delivered on the ESPYs stage this past July, as he stood tall against the podium, inspiring millions of leaders listening to his every word. They watched this beloved longtime commentator, as they had done so many times before, a man facing death yet still able to speak with dignity and pride.
“Fighting is winning,” he said. “Every day, I fight.”