I recently watched a video of ESPN’s anchor Stuart Scott accepting the 2014 Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPY Awards, for his ongoing inspirational on-going fight against cancer. I was moved by his positive attitude, determination and his will to live.
The award is named for James “Jimmy V” Valvano, a college basketball coach and broadcaster who is best known for winning an NCAA Championship, and for giving an inspirational speech at the 1993 ESPYs. Just eight weeks later, Valvano died of adenocarcinoma (form of non-small lung cancer) at the age of 47. That same year, Scott joined ESPN and launched what would become a two-decade career as a sports journalist, commentator and anchor. As a young promising journalist, he changed the tone and language of sports broadcasting, making it more true to the source points with a “boo-ya” and a courageous quip from the hood in almost every sportscast.
On April 2, 2002, Scott was injured in the New York Jets mini-camp while doing a special for ESPN. He was hit in the face with a football and underwent eye surgery that night. Because of the accident, he’s blind in his left eye and has ptosis, or drooping of the eyelid.
Emergency Appendectomy and Cancer
Five years later while covering a Pittsburgh Steelers-Miami Dolphins Monday Night Football game on November 26, 2007, he became ill and had an emergency appendectomy. The surgery discovered a malignancy that required an additional surgery to remove possible cancerous tissue. He returned a month later and continued on-air broadcasting during recommended preventive chemotherapy. ESPN President George Bodenheimer gave statements offering the network’s full support. But in 2011 it was announced that Scott was once again battling cancer and in early 2012 the disease enter remission. Unfortunately he was again diagnosed with cancer on January 14, 2013.
ESPY Award’s 2014
During the awards presentation for the ESPY’s, Doug Ulman, President and CEO of the Livestrong Foundation, praised Scott in a video feature.
“There are a lot of people that see [Scott] as a beacon of light, and something that they can relate to,” Ulman said. “…I hear from people every day. He’s on TV and he’s doing what he loves. They take strength from the fact that he has not been paralyzed by his illness and that he has decided to live life on his own terms.”
When it was Stuart Scott’s turn to talk after receiving the award from actor Kiefer Sutherland you could hear a pin drop. He thanked his family and colleagues for their support. He reflected on the words of Jim Valvano said 21 years ago, the most poignant seven words ever uttered in any speech anywhere: ‘Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.’ Those great people didn’t. Coach Valvano didn’t. So to be honored with this, I now have a responsibility to also not ever give up. I’m not special. I just listened to what the man said.
Scott also talked about how difficult it is to suffer with a disease like cancer. In fact, prior to the show, he underwent four surgeries in the span of seven days. Scott wasn’t even sure if he was going to survive. But with the help of his medical staff, his family, his friends and his fans, he made it to the awards ceremony. And that’s when he realized the whole battle is “not a solo venture.”
“When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you lived, why you lived and in the manner in which you lived,” Scott said. “So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.”
Living for his Daughters
Scott says he fights against cancer for his two daughters.
“The most important thing I do is I’m a dad,” Scott said.
Scott’s oldest daughter, Taelor, was 12 when he was first diagnosed in 2007 and is now a 19-year-old college freshman. His younger daughter, Sydni, was 8 when Scott was first diagnosed and is now a 14-year-old who loves to sing.
“I want to walk them down the aisle,” he said. “There are a lot of great upstanding reasons why, because I’m their dad. I want to share that moment with them.”
“There are a couple of reasons that are just selfish and competitive, because I don’t want no other dude doing it,” he said. “That’s my job. That’s my role. I want them to call me when they’re 26-years-old and they want a condo that they can’t really afford but I want them to call me and say, ‘Dad can you give me a loan?,’ because I want to say yes.”
“That’s really what I’ve always wanted and needed with them for them is to be a dad for a long time, as long as they need a father,” Scott said.