Stuart Scott. Wow, just typing that name.
I miss him.
In his not-nearly-long-enough life, he’s been a larger-than-life individual and father and brother and son and companion – and he’s been an exceptionally dear friend to me and to many others. The fact that he’s actually gone? That’s really, really difficult to try to process.
Much of the world knows who Stuart was: genuinely so inspirational, incredibly smart, talented, charismatic and, well, super cool. He worked hard, and his hard work paid off on such a giant world stage. So the world knew he was these things.
But there are also many things Stuart wasn’t.
He wasn’t afraid to be himself. He was so very much himself that you couldn’t help but be drawn to him. I couldn’t help but be drawn to him. He spoke directly to you – no artifice, no 86 layers of protection. You asked him a direct question, and he gave you a direct answer. If something bugged him, it wasn’t a secret. If he was crazy about something – well, it wasn’t a secret. I have always found that extraordinarily refreshing in a person, and it’s more rare than I would have ever imagined, to meet people who consciously live, openly, in such a very alive way.
In my experience, sometimes all the edges, boundaries and strategy of human interaction can be downright exhausting. Becoming friends with Stuart was the opposite of that: it was invigorating. And fun. And when it wasn’t fun, it was real. It made you feel like you’d gotten to truly connect with one more soul in the world who would matter to you for a lifetime.
He wasn’t daunted by criticism. Actually, over time, he was not only unphased by it, he would even get a kick out of it. He knew who he cared to listen to – and all the rest? Just noise. No other person I’ve ever met has taught me more about how to deal with random hate. I didn’t just take his advice, I studied it. I would joke with him that I channeled him when needed.
He owned random ugly feedback by treating it for what it was: useless noise, or sometimes entertainment for him. I was in awe of how flawlessly he managed it, and how that allowed him to simply create, to not worry about how what he created might be perceived – which, of course, was why he was able to showcase his talent so exceedingly well.
He wasn’t afraid to love. (And to love big.) There wasn’t a person who knew him who didn’t also know what his daughters meant to him. Heck, millions of people who didn’t know him know what his daughters meant to him. In a word? They were everything. His heartbeat, he’d said.
I hate that these two lost their father. I love that they knew how much he loved them. That we all did. It was actually hard to ask him a question about anything important without the answer somehow incorporating his love for his daughters. He was very clear on his main priority: these two girls.
But he was also so open and enormously loving with his friends. It wasn’t difficult for him to say I love you, and when he said it to you, you knew he meant it.
He once told me I was in his boat. He explained, when you’re in his boat, you’re in it forever. What that meant was that if there was catastrophe, if the floodwaters rise, you have room in his boat. That you can know he’s got you. But here’s what I also learned about Stuart after meeting his family, every one of his siblings – Susan, Stephen and Synthia – his gorgeous daughters Taelor and Sydni, many of his friends and co-workers, too; after meaningful conversations with his girlfriend, Kristin, who was incredibly there for him through the latter part of this illness, and for whom he felt so much love and gratitude. I learned this: Stuart Scott had built a pretty large boat. I never questioned how much Stuart cared. He really cared about a lot of people very, very much.
He wasn’t shy about expression. The man was a writer. He researched and wrote and wrote and wrote for so many things at ESPN. For Sportscenter, of course, but also for so many programs and spots and magazines and yes, even twitter. He loved the medium and all the mini conversations. He wrote spoken word slow jams that he’d perform with such polish. I remember this one he did for Michael Jordan, my husband and I nervously watching, hoping he’d get through it all because the delivery mattered. And he did. Of course he did. Flawlessly.
In this day and age, when you are friends with someone who lives far away, between visits and phone calls, much of your casual conversation is through text. I loved Stuart’s texts because they reflected his voice perfectly – so much life and enthusiasm and attitude in his words with liberal use of exclamation points!!! and ALL CAPS and PASSION, PASSION, PASSION.
I was asked to re-share this conversation I had with Stuart, my second time interviewing him but my first time sitting down with him for Adorama TV. You can see that passion here, you can see his heart, you can hear how his mind works and why he inspired so many – and why is loss is so greatly felt:
One of my favorite parts of that talk? “It sounds like you need a hug.” Say the nastiest thing you can think of to say to him, and he’s going to respond, “It sounds like you need a hug.”
When his sister, Susan, who I’m fortunate to say has also become a dear friend over time (don’t know what’s in that Scott water) called me Sunday morning to say that Stuart had died, I felt complete and utter shock.That may seem a bit odd given the state of his health, given our conversations and how plainly rough it’d all become. More, I think, than most would guess (another testament to how extraordinary his will and energy were).
Of course he was very ill. Of course this was always a possibility, increasingly so over the last few months. But when every fiber of your being doesn’t want a piece of news to be true, it doesn’t make sense when you hear it.
It is a shock. And it feels incredibly wrong. Terribly unfair. Or, as my 9 year-old daughter said, after I told her about Stuart, “Oh, mom, but that’s not fair one bit.” No. No, it’s not.
Of all the conversations I had with Stuart Scott, probably my all time favorite was this past summer. I was returning home from New York and had gotten my first taste of what real online troll hate felt like. All anonymous, of course. I sat down in a plastic airport chair and opened up twitter and saw one of his posts. He often wrote lovely things about people he cared about, and I was fortunate enough to hear some very kind things directed at me that way. So I texted him, and here’s that exchange, already stored away to be saved forever:
Me: Hey there – leaving NYC & just saw your tweet. Had my first, full-on tear-apart, major hatefest towards me on social media. What a weird thing. If you feel like you’re being channeled, you are.
Stuart: Awww .. you’re incredibly amazing … I miss you … as for twitter hate, it’s funny, let it be funny, let it remain funny. It speaks everything about the people spewing it and NOTHING about you.
This was lovely, and very Stuart, so I did appreciate it. But I also still felt pretty sad and not really as above it all as I was trying to be. I knew I’d get there but I just didn’t feel it at the moment, so I simply wrote back:
Me: I hear you : )
And then I put my phone away and slumped down a bit farther in my seat.
About a minute later, my phone buzzed again.
Stuart: At the end of all that stuff I said in the previous text … all that “real good mature advice” stuff … at the end of the day, bottom line, F*&# dem punk a$$ bi&*#^ wipes!!!!! (Except, of course, he censored nothing.)
And THAT was Stuart. Right there. His follow up message back to me, that was him. HE was REAL. HE was GOOD. HE was MATURE – and he had your back with some seriously silly swagger. And I LOVED that about him. I loved his grit and his laugh and his caring and his attitude and his energy and his heart. These random candids from nights out show a lot of that. His laughter, his movement, his energy, his fight, his right-thereness. If there seem to be so many words for Stuart Scott, it’s because there was so much to Stuart Scott:
I haven’t really stopped actively hurting since Susan called me. I wince thinking of her even having to make those calls. I am glad that he is out of pain, of course. And yet here we all are, still loving him.
There are tears everywhere around the world for this man. Worldwide grief for the loss of him. Makes sense, though. Turns out that a man who, in his words, beat cancer by how he lived, why he lived, and the manner in which he lived will do that.
I have my friend Sally Sargood to thank for taking this photo one night when we were all out in New York. Just a shot during a fun dinner with friends and lots of laughter, but a shot of us together. I had brought out my friends, he had brought his, and we all met everyone and just … were together. There wasn’t enough of that.
I will truly miss you for the rest of my life, Stuart. Thank you for you.