“Cancer can kill you, but it can also make you the man you always wanted to be.”
In “Every Day I Fight,” ESPN anchor Stuart Scott’s posthumous memoir, his voice is as distinctive and memorable as it ever was on-air. But this time the much-loved sportscaster’s play-by-play is a narration of his seven-year battle with cancer that ended with his death Jan. 4.
Written with Larry Platt, the memoir is both the story of a brash young man who took heat for being first to bring a hip-hop vibe to sports broadcasting and that of a 49-year-old father whose devotion to his two daughters only deepened throughout his illness.
“That’s what cancer does: It makes everything profound. It also makes everything urgent,” he wrote.
Scott, the son of a federal postal inspector and a school aide, joined ESPN2 in 1993, moving up to take the chair next to Craig Kilborn on “SportsCenter” in 1996. His look, “rocking the style of the day” with a baby high-top fade, signaled Scott was about to bring something entirely new to the show.
“Cool as the other side of the pillow.”
“Just call him butter ’cause he’s on a roll.”
GQ called him the “hip-hop Howard Cosell,” but there was also a backlash against his rap-inspired catch phrases. Some critics bashed his “urban-speak,” and he got hate mail from viewers. But Scott refused to dial it back, even appearing in music videos with rappers LL Cool J and Luke.
“I brought the in-your-face attitude of the music I came up on — hip hop — to ‘SportsCenter.’ That wasn’t a planned thing; it was just who I was. Yeah, I’m young, I’m African-American, and I’m telling you about this game like I’m talking trash with my boys back home.”
Other critics said he soft-balled questions with athletes, acting more a friend than a reporter. And the case was he had personal relationships with stars like Michael Jordan (a pal from his days at the University of North Carolina), Tiger Woods and LeBron James, among others.
But “gotcha” journalism just wasn’t his game.
“I’m interested in explaining, not judging,” he wrote. “The rapport I have with athletes comes not from slapping hands with them but having played sports . . . . I saw my role as droppin’ knowledge.”
Indeed, Scott first displayed the incredible tenacity he met cancer with on the football field, continuing to play though an eye disease coupled with sports-related injuries resultin in 18 surgeries throughout his life. In 2012, for instance, his eyeball split open after he took a football in the face on the field with the New York Jets.
He was every bit as determined about getting back to life, and work, after every bout of cancer, no matter how debilitating the treatment.
“If I’m too weak to work, I’m too weak to live,” he wrote.
Scott was in Pittsburgh preparing to co-host a “Monday Night Football” matchup in November 2007 when he got the diagnosis. Stomach pains sent him to the hospital, where he had an emergency appendectomy. Expecting to be quickly released, he was surprised when a doctor showed up at his bedside and said there were complications.
“You have cancer,” he was told.
Scott recalled his first thoughts as being, “I’m going to die” and “I won’t be here for my daughters.”
Taelor and Sydney were 12 and 8 at the time. Though Scott was divorced from their mother, Kim, he was a very involved father, sneaking into their rooms at night just to watch them sleep. Even if time was of the essence, Scott insisted surgery had to wait until he made it back to Connecticut to tell his daughters in person.
Cancer of the appendix is a rare disease with no symptoms. Scott read the statistics on the Web and came to a decision. He told his doctor after that first surgery that the one thing he didn’t want to know was his prognosis. He had no interest in how long anyone else thought he had to live.
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Peter Schrager: ‘Next Good Morning Football Host Has Massive Shoes To Fill’
“I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it.”
This week, Good Morning Football ended up winning a Sports Emmy for the best daily studio show. It is a show that has turned into part most football fans’ morning routines. However, there will be new people on the panel eventually with the departures of Nate Burleson and Kay Adams.
This week, one of those left, Peter Schrager, was on The Pat McAfee Show. He did not have a name for McAfee that would fill the role Adams leaves behind and he isn’t going to interfere in the process of the executives picking the next host.
“I would think that there is going to be a long line of people who will want that,” he said. “Those are massive shoes to fill. I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it. But, for now, I trust the executives to hire someone who is going to take care of that hosting job.”
As for Burleson’s seat, the show has used a number of ex-players to fill-in. Schrager likes it that way because he can learn many different stories each week:
“Nate and I can finish each other’s sentences. Now, you have a guy I don’t know the story this player is going to tell. I don’t know where he’s going to take it and I think it’s kind of cool for us.”
Last summer, Schrager hosted The Flying Coach podcast on The Ringer with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. Unfortunately, there will be no season 2 of that show this summer. That doesn’t mean there won’t be another season of the podcast in the future though.
“I won’t do it without McVay. I begged him. He’s just out….He’s getting married this offseason. He’s got his honeymoon. He’s like, we’ll pick it up another offseason. I’m upset. I love doing it. All these new coaches, Sean and I would have had a good time with it and we talked about it, but it’s his decision and he’s saying no and I totally get it. He’s really good at it and he liked it. He’ll have opportunities and you see some of these numbers that these guys are getting. Trust me, he’s aware.”
Shan & RJ: ‘Inside The NBA Was Trying To Prevent A Riot Last Night’
“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?”
Things were very far from normal on Thursday night on the set of Inside the NBA. During the postgame show, Warriors fans threw objects at Charles Barkley as TNT was broadcasting live outside of the Chase Center in San Francisco.
Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Shan and RJ discussed the scene and said things felt out of the ordinary long before anything was even thrown.
“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?” Shan Shariff said. “That’s what happened yesterday on Inside the NBA both in the pregame and the postgame.”
Barkley had been picking on Warriors fans calling them annoying and describing San Francisco as having “dirty ass streets full of homeless people” throughout the series.
Shariff said even in the pregame show, it seemed that the Inside the NBA crew was wary of the crowd gathered behind them.
“It felt like yesterday instead of having fun and cutting loose, it felt like they were trying to prevent a riot.”
After a rolled-up t-shirt struck Barkley, he got up and acted as if he was going to throw a ceramic coffee mug into the crowd. Shariff said it was clear that Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith thought Barkley was about to be involved in an altercation of some sort.
RJ Choppy disagreed though. His immediate thought in seeing the video was that Barkley was just taking his ribbing of the crowd to the next level like a WWE superstar might.
“I think he knew the wrestling role, but I don’t think the other guys did,” Choppy said.
Sean and RJ expounded on the wrestling comparison, saying that he had a specific event in mind. He compared the way the crowd treated Barkley on Thursday night to how the crowd at ECW’s One Night Stand in 2006 treated John Cena. Cena and security may have thought they knew what was coming, but it was clear when fans started throwing chairs at the WWE champ that their ire was more serious than anticipated.
There can be peace for the time being. TNT’s NBA season ends at the conclusion of the Western Conference Finals. It will be interesting to see if this animosity returns in the 2022-23 season.
Don La Greca: ‘Howie Rose Was The Only Sports Talk Host As Passionate About Hockey As Me’
“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose.”
Don LaGreca has been working on Rangers radio broadcasts since 2005, and has served as the backup play-by-play announcer for the last few seasons, filling in for Kenny Albert when he is unable to be on the call. Because of Albert’s responsibilities in calling national playoff games on television amid the new media rights agreement between the league and its partners (ESPN and Turner Sports), La Greca has called more Rangers games of late, and received positive reviews.
Yesterday on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York, Kay mentioned the compliments callers have been giving La Greca for his ability to call hockey games, some of whom credit him for introducing them to the sport.
“The one thing hockey is is underexposed,” said La Greca. “Because you hear a lot of people say, ‘Boy, I didn’t realize how much fun this sport is; how great it is to go to a game,’ because a lot of us don’t grow up around it.”
La Greca realizes that he is in a unique position being the co-host of a sports radio show and an NHL play-by-play announcer, giving him a responsibility to communicate and opine on the game of hockey to his listening audience at large. He considers himself the second person to have such a distinction – the pioneer of which, while he may no longer be calling hockey games, still frequently discusses the sport on Twitter.
“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose,” said La Greca. “And Howie Rose has been out of the sports radio game for 25 years.”
Rose was with WFAN from its launch on July 1, 1987 as its weekday nighttime host. Additionally, he served in the same role as La Greca, backing up Kenny Albert’s father Marv on Rangers radio broadcasts – where, in 1994, he delivered the illustrious call of Stephane Matteau’s game-winning, double-overtime goal in game 7 that sent the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. One year later, Rose left WFAN to begin calling games for the NHL’s New York Islanders on Sportschannel, and did not host a sports radio show during his time as a lead hockey play-by-play announcer.
While there are other sports radio hosts in the New York marketplace that exhibit a passion for hockey such as Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, La Greca is the only one who actively calls the games – akin to how Michael Kay is the only active New York sports radio host who regularly calls professional baseball.
“You don’t have somebody who is as close to the sport as I am to have this kind of forum, so maybe there are a few people like, ‘Hey, I’m a fan of Don. I really don’t like hockey, but he calls a few games so let me listen,’ and it kind of opened a door that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened” said La Greca. “….I don’t think it’s anything that I’m doing. It’s just an opportunity that I have, and it is humbling and it’s pretty cool to hear and I hope those people stick with the sport.”