Stuart Scott

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.

Stuart Scott, Tamara Lackey

We had been talking for some time over a drink before heading out to dinner to meet up with friends.  As we walked out to get a cab, I stopped him in front of this cool-looking background to get his portrait. I remember how comfortable he was with himself. How at ease he was just being himself, and how much that came through in this portrait. I love that he loved this photograph.

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.

Stuart Scott, Tamara Lackey

This was just a casual shot taken at our house. Stuart and his family were all over, and the girls were playing Wii with our kids, much silliness – and I casually scootched these three closer together. Later, his girlfriend Kristin surprised him with a large canvas of this for Christmas.

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:

Stuart Scott, Tamara Lackey

Stuart Scott, Tamara Lackey Stuart Scott, Charles Barkley, Jay Harris, ESPN karaoke

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. Stuart Scott, Tamara Lackey

22 responses to “Stuart Scott”

  1. Jackie says:

    I did not know him, or of him, really, but based on your words of him, I wish I had. He is the kind of person I aspire to be. And reading your words brought tears to my eyes thinking of those people in my life that make such a difference like he did in yours.

  2. Dane Sanders says:

    You are a gift. I love this tribute to Stuart’s life. You love so big… just like him! I also know how much of an encouragement you were to him along the way. He had you in his boat to receive too. He was better because of you in the same way that you are better because of him. And the rest of us are all the benefactors. Somehow, in the end, love always wins.

  3. This is a beautiful tribute to him, Tamara. The world all feels the loss of him passing, and of course more so his dear friends and family. Thinking of you all at this time. xoxo

  4. Jennifer says:

    This is beautiful. Although I only watched him on TV, you made me feel as though I have known him all my life. Everything you hear and read about him makes you stop and think about your own life. Life is way too short. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Lori L says:

    Tamara, I am so sorry for you and your families loss! I did not know Stuart Scott, but how I wished I had. I saw his ESPYN award speech and it doesn’t take much to recognize an amazing man. On the other side of that is your beautiful, touching tribute that only proves that he was not just talk, but walked the walk. As he said it was all about people. What a gift to have known someone so real. I’m sorry he is gone so soon. My heart aches for his girls and for your loss of a friend. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into the life of a remarkable man. I loved the pictures you captured of him. It seems like so much more that you captured. They are treasures! Warmly, Lori

  6. Oh honey. Oh you beautiful, dear, angel of love. I wish I could carry some of your hurt. Even only for a moment. I wish I could erase the anguish from his sweet daughters, but to erase the anguish would be to erase all that beauty you shared above. And what a tragedy that would be. What a man. I’m showering all who knew him in love and light and fervent prayer. (What a phenomenal tribute; I love you.)

  7. Stevenlackey says:

    Only someone who embodies as much wonderful variety and authenticity could immediately appreciate and beautifully articulate so much about a truly inspiring and *human* being.

    Your writing is as gorgeous as your photography, and I am sure Stuart is mighty proud to have you describe him so well – smiling above.

    Thank you for sharing as you do sweetheart. 

    I love you – so very much.

  8. Sarah Wood says:

    I need to start by saying, I NEVER post on blogs, EVER. Funny, because I always seem to have something to say 🙂 I have to tell you how much your post moved me, how much the life of Stuart Scott has moved me. Last night I stayed up watching the ESPN special dedicated to Stuart Scott. I laughed, I cried. I didn’t even know him and yet I felt like I had been sitting in his living room!!! When I was in college, if you saw one of his broadcast, called him and left him a message (at ESPN) disagreeing with something he said on air, he would call you back and yell at you! HA! I lived with aspiring sports journalists, so you can imagine the entertainment!

    Last night as I watched and listened to stories about his journey, his mark in life, his love, his passion, his zest for life…I wish I had known him. I wish I knew 100 of him. In 49 years he made a bigger dent, left a larger mark on hearts, on his space in the world than most people will do in lifetime! Maybe that is why we only had 49 years of him.

    Thank you for sharing this. REALLY, THANK YOU!!! The story of his life and of his impact, it inspires me to be better, love deeper, live wide open. I do have to tell you, I do not follow many photographers. There is no good reason, I beat to my own drum and background noise throws me off key (grin). I follow you, watch your teachings, listen to your words, adore your realism’s because many of the words that you used to describe Stuart Scott, the larger than life figure, the inspirational figure, the smart charismatic personality, the no 86 layers of protection… you are also sharing those characteristics with the world. I hope, from a girl in Florida, that brings you some comfort as you grieve. You were blessed to have known such an inspirational man and HE was blessed to have known you. May you and your family find peace and comfort in the upcoming days and weeks.

  9. Damien says:

    I’ve heard many stories over the past few days of Stuart’s life, and the most inspiring to me has been his love for his daughters. I have two little ones and I strive everyday to make sure I make their lives my number one priority. There’s nothing more satisfying than teaching them new things in life and seeing their accomplishments, as Stuart said of his daughters first goal, “…it’s better than anything in the world.” Ha, I love it! Thanks so much for taking the time to share these stories and post these videos!!

  10. Brian Harris says:

    Tamara, what a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person. I’m so glad Sara was with you that night in NYC and got to meet him. He made an impression on her that we’ve discussed and thought about a lot since then, and especially lately with my dad battling cancer. Of course, I also appreciated the 2:30 AM phone call I got that night. I distinctly remember being startled awake, relieved to see Sara’s name on the caller ID and then hearing some guy say: “Hey Brian, don’t worry about some guy calling you from Sara’s phone, this is Stuart from ESPN, just wanted to let you know everything is fine with Sara, she sings great karaoke, you guys must practice harmonizing at home!” Hilarious. One of the good guys. So sorry for your loss, but so glad you are in his boat. The world’s a better place because of him, and his spirit will live on.

  11. This is an incredibly beautiful tribute, Tamara. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into the life of a man who could love so well.

  12. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Right on, right on, so right on. Thank you Tamara. You captured Stu’s essence. Stu was my high school classmate, my football teammate and captain, and friend. We in Winston-Salem knew he was destined for greatness. He was as genuine then as he was throughout his career and life.

    I am in possession of a an email exchange with Stu from 1997 that I printed out and saved (and I am so glad I did that). I was responding to a piece he had written on about the thrill of still playing flag football and hearkening back to his high school days. We caught each other up on what had been going on in our lives over the last 15 years. I shared that I had a new 1 yr-old daughter that had me wrapped around her finger, and he replied “whatever you love … keep at it….most of all … take care of that little girl ….I have a 2-and-a-half year old daughter….my heart … so I know how that feels”.

    He concluded his note by musing about a developmentally challenged adult who used to hang around our high school practice field and was our biggest fan: “remember Mitt … the old guy who always hung around … he’s probably gone on … to that great stadium in the sky about now … take care”.

    I pulled out this old email printout on Jan. 4 when I saw the news online and watched Hannah Storm on ESPN state “Stuart did not lose to cancer. We lost Stuart”

    This week I’ve been thinking about one of my favorite Sportscenter highlight catch phrases of his: “The Lawd said you got to rise up” Indeed I believe he did, and has.

  13. Samone says:

    This absolutely beautiful. I still can’t believe he’s gone. God bless you.

  14. So sorry for your loss Tamara. Stuart was truly such a special, inspiring and uplifting person. Thanks for sharing his wonderful story, his spirit will live on !

  15. Thanks for discussing Stuart Scott – Tamara Lackey Blog.

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