Stuart Scott was, by his own words, cooler than the other side of the pillow. Not that he would ever act like it.
Months before he stood on the stage at the 2014 ESPY Awards to receive the Jimmy V Award for his perseverance in the face of cancer, Scott was at a much smaller award show. In spirit, that is.
It was the second-annual Rammy Awards, hosted in UNC’s Memorial Hall and filled to the brim with athletes from all of UNC’s 28 varsity sports outfitted in tuxes and dresses in lieu of jerseys and pads. Minutes into the show, the lights in the auditorium dimmed and Scott appeared, projected onto the screen as he always was — larger than life.
He wished he could be in the room, he said, but he had an episode of SportsCenter to host later because, after seven years of fighting, his cancer had given up trying to keep the man from his routine.
“It’s only my job,” he joked.
Another Chapel Hill alumnus then joined Scott on the screen — his boss.
ESPN president John Skipper, class of 1978, placed a hefty glass trophy in Scott’s hands. The first award of the night.
“This Rammy is presented in honor of your courage, your positive spirit and your commitment to excellence in all that you do,” he said.
“On behalf of everyone gathered in Chapel Hill’s Memorial Hall tonight to celebrate another outstanding year of academic and athletic accomplishment, thank you for making all of us so proud to be Tar Heels.”
Scott made us proud in that ESPY award speech — one that people rightfully remember as one of the finer moments in television history. Proud to be Tar Heels and so much more.
Scott had a gift for expressing the inexpressible, which he shared with us that night in lessons he learned through his fight, but could be applied universally.
“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer,” Scott said that night. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
But it was the speech at Memorial Hall, in front of a much smaller, more select audience just months before that showcased Scott’s natural talent in a way that hit close to home — defining something so many have failed to put in words.
“Here’s the coolest thing about being a Tar Heel,” began the 1987 alumnus.
“It’s not just a degree, it’s not just cheering for the teams once you graduate. Being a North Carolina alum means it is something in your heart, it’s something in your soul, it’s something you carry with you for the rest of your life. And whenever you run into someone and they say, ‘Hey, I graduated from North Carolina,’ immediately there’s a bond there. There’s something that lets you know this person has something in their heart that I recognize, that I’m a part of. Being a Tar Heel alum is like being family.”
If that were the case, Scott was the cool older brother of our family. The one we all aspired to be, the one who seemed better than we were, but who never let us think that. The one we learned so much from.
“Every day I am reminded that our life's journey is really about the people who touch us,” Scott once said.
The Tar Heel family is a large one, and today we lost a beloved member of our family. Regardless of how each of us claim relation to the family, we all share one common sentiment. Each of us understands that our life's journeys are better because, one way or another, Scott touched us. I have no award to give him for that, but I can say what we all are thinking.
Thank you, Stu.
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