They used to write in, the knuckleheads, and try and bust his chops.
They'd bust on his lazy eye…or try to take him down a notch by noting that he'd sit on a fence too often, not make that hard call and take a side.
The haters, I guess you call them today, never got under the thick skin of Stuart Scott when I'd call his cell, and inform him it was time to do his online chat with his rooters and non-rooters, who'd ask him about this college basketball game, or that sports star busted for this infraction or another…or what he had for breakfast.
Over the course of the couple of years I facilitated the chat, from the then-office of ESPN The Magazine in NYC, because we'd run some of the best questions and answers in a column called “Stuart Scott's Two Way” in the Mag. So every couple weeks, I'd gather and pick questions from the pack of queries we'd get over the span of time since the last chat…and in all those years, I do not recall anyone getting under the skin of Stu.
I thought back to this frame of time, which spanned maybe 2006 to mid 2011, when the suits declared it time for all to gather at the mothership in Bristol, to save money on rent and, I don't know, follow McKinsey style wisdom, or whatever. Basically, I'd look forward to the time spent with Stuart, over the phone, not because he was particularly illuminating as a chatter, or dropped wisdom nuggets with much frequency, or what have you…but more so because he impressed me as a human being.
I could have really cared less about Duke basketball, or 99% of the stuff people wrote in about. My beat was and is boxing, though I'd cherry pick fight questions to Stu now and again.
Hey, I guess now it can be told, I might have once or twice dropped in my own question, such as 'Who do you think is to blame for the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight not happening?, under the nom de fake “Tommy from Arlington, Mass,” or something, if and when the query box was on the light side.
Yes, fair to say the questions and the answers weren't a heavy draw for me. The man's optimism, his exceedingly sunny disposition, and his attitude as he weathered storms like a split from his missus, and then his public fight with cancer, were what made him special to me.
I'd try and sway him from that mindset, sort of play that devil's advocate, stir the pot, manufacture some drama, when a ninny would write in with maybe a lazy eye comment.
Now, Stu wasn't always the ultra cheerful and uncommonly upbeat dude you saw on SportsCenter, not with me, anyway. Maybe he'd been traveling too much, and was burnt out from the road, and was missing his girls, then a teen and a preteen. He was never curt with me, but that “on” switch wasn't energizing him as much on some days then others. So a back and forth might go something like this:
“Stu, you wanna hammer this deebag from Texas?”
“What's he saying, Woodsy,” Stu would ask, with a chuckle.
“Eh, made a crack about your eye.” Stu would chuckle…pause…“Uh, should I? I don't know….Maybe the guys' girlfriend just broke up with him or something…Eh, should I? Naw, we let it go. Let's do another one…”
I'd frown, the devil in me unsated, and I'd fire him a query about the latest basketball game I knew nothing about. Yep, he'd often hop onto a fence, and see both sides of an issue, and veer away from any sort of journalistic skepticism and fact finding and spin-free analysis, and right towards the lane of kindness and decency and not making waves. That niceness, as niceness often is, wasn't appreciated by all; stop kissing asses, someone would invariably post to me, the moderator, during the chat. But that wasn't Stuart's way. He was not put on this earth to make those sort of waves. But there is no shortage of folks willing to do that. I now fully realize, on this day I learned that my man Stuart died, the cancer which he battled with the zest and fury of the very best fighters we'd sometimes talk about, in the worlds of pugilism, and MMA, which he practiced, even when chemo left him at less than fifty percent of energy, what his role was on this earth.
You too, I bet, now fully understand, if you check Twitter, or turn to ESPN's SportsCenter, the immensity of the legacy Stuart Scott, born in 1965, died in 2015, to live on forevermore, what the man's imprint will be.
Great God, the strength he imparted in people. The courage he helped instill in poor souls pondering their imminent fate, when the chemo and the radiation and the pills and the prayers ran their course, and fate's ugly, bony hand loomed just over head, readying to pluck another good one from our midst. That legacy kicks ass on the legacy of all those sports titans people wrote in to talk about. I have no problem saying that, shouting it to the rafters, where the retired jerseys wave in the wind. Michael Jordan, sorry; Tom Brady, not even close; pick your All-Star and I will tell you no dice, your man or woman didn't and will not leave behind what Stuart Scott did.
Some tears are forming as I type this, because I'm sitting next to my girls, ages 4 1/2 and 7 1/2, on the sofa of our Brooklyn apartment. They have no idea, they are watching Tom and Jerry, and eating frozen peas out of a bag, even though they are not supposed to eat on the couch. LOL. I just about always find myself thinking about my girls when I'd think about Stuart, because we'd always chat about them, his Taelor and Sydni, my Annabelle and Juliette, ask the other how they were doing, when we shot the shit for a minute or two before the chat barrage commenced.
I last interacted with Stu on Nov. 11. I'd seen a Tweet which referenced him being in hospice. I have the record of texts between us from March 12 onward, after I'd told him I was thinking of him, rooting for him, hoping he'd be able to get off the canvas yet again, and pull off a Hail Mary upset win.
“Thank you brotha, means a lot,” he wrote to me March 12. “Handle yo bizness out there…Take care of those lil angels.” You see that? He'd steer it away from himself, from a pity or self pity zone, and back at me. That is a real skill, that is an attribute a thousand times more laudable than a dead-on jumper from 20 feet, or the ability to fire a fastball at 95 MPH. On Aug. 15, I checked in again, saying hi, sending good vibes, as I'm not a prayer guy. He answered: “Hey brotha. A buddy sent me this for this shit I'm goin thru…Works for any battle…”For now, lie in the bushes and rest. Gain strength. When the time is right, we'll rise up and kill them all.”
LOL, I like the ferocity of that saying, the candid recognition that many of us see life as much battle as anything else. “Take care of your kids,” he ended with.
On Nov. 11, I told him I was thinking of him. That's all..I didn't want to pry, ask for an update. “Thanks brotha. Take care of those 2 adorable kids, brotha. Thanks for the HOLLA.”
“You got a full helping and then some on your plate,” I responded, “and then some! And along the way, you are lifting countless folks up, to help them face their trials. #PROPS,” I texted.
“Thanks Bruh…Means a ton!!“
Two exclamations points…a communication of heartfelt and intense goodwill, from a man who had every reason to be morose, or indulging in meditative isolation…and that was it.
Today, I got the word, news I didn't want delivered.
Brotha Stu, the world is down one great dude today. The sting of the loss will linger for a spell…but the gargantuan nature of the positivity you spread around so selflessly, and the salve you provided to people facing the darkness of terminal illness, those things will linger far longer…
You made me a better man, just a bit, and I thank you, and I will miss you.
Follow Woods on Twitter. https://twitter.com/Woodsy1069