In 1993, a 28-year-old anchorman appeared on ESPN2. He had a high-top fade and a bottomless well of self-confidence. The latter was important. How else was Stuart Scott going to drag ESPN into the 21st century?
Five years after his death from cancer, it’s easy to forget just how much of sports television Scott helped unlock. So let’s remember. When Scott got to ESPN, Chris Berman, Dan Patrick, and Keith Olbermann had already made the SportsCenter anchor into a swaggering comic newsman, a coiner of phrases, a pop-culture figure. Scott took the crucial next step. At a company that was hip without being especially diverse, he recast the SportsCenter anchor in his own image.
Scott was proof that a SportsCenter anchor could talk about what interested them, no matter what they looked like. Scott reused bits of slang he’d heard growing up in North Carolina (“boo-yah!”). He traded Dan and Keith’s wryness for Boomer’s boundless sports love. To the SportsCenter reference bible, Scott added Shakespeare, Southern Baptist preachers (“The Lord said you got to rise up!”), and Pookie and Nuck-Nuck.
Working at a moment when black culture was becoming mass culture, Scott got fierce pushback. In one of many withering reviews, a columnist compared his work to a WB Network show. Some of Scott’s ESPN coworkers were bewildered. Once, Luther Campbell asked Scott to appear in a music video, and Scott brought a copy of the song lyrics to an executive. Spotting the phrase “big willie party,” the executive said, “That’s not any kind of a contest, is it?”
“Mid- to late ’90s, I’m in high school,” said Michael Smith, who later hosted the 6 p.m. SportsCenter. “When you see somebody that looks and sounds a lot like you, or a lot like the people you know and look up to, the message is not just: You can do this. The message is: You can do this in your authentic way and be yourself.”
After Scott had won that argument, he got sick with appendiceal cancer. For the next seven years, he poured his self-confidence into a different figure: the cancer warrior. Scott sweated through post-chemo workouts and gave a rousing speech at the ESPYs. Inside, he admitted, he was terrified. Cancer was going to take him away from his teenage daughters, Taelor and Sydni.
“I hate fucking cancer,” he said a few days before his death in 2015. “I need more time with them. I need more time.”
This oral history of Stuart Scott’s life has been drawn from original interviews with his daughters and siblings, his partner, his friends, and his ESPN colleagues. (The interviews have been edited and condensed.) It shows a guy, whether sick or healthy, who was certain he could figure things out. After Scott arrived in Bristol in 1993, he didn’t find his voice by imitating current anchors. “I didn’t relate to the guy reading me the scores,” Scott wrote in his memoir, Every Day I Fight. “I related to the guys doing the scoring.” It was just one more thing that made him different.
Chris Berman, ESPN anchor: At Super Bowl XXV, the famous one with the Giants and Bills, he came up to me. He was doing TV in Orlando. He said, “I hope to be working with you at your network someday.” I looked him in the eye and I said, “We will save you a seat.”
Kenny Mayne, ESPN anchor: I remember distinctly the first time I met him. I walked into this old barn of a studio. Stuart sees me. He takes a script paper and wads it up and throws it across the room. It hits me. I pick it up and I threw it right back at him. It just broke the ice. Oh, he threw it at me, I threw it at you. Now we’re boys.
Vince Doria, former ESPN executive: He was hired to be part of the update crew on ESPN2, primarily on a show called SportsNight, which was the flagship show of the network.
Keith Olbermann, ESPN anchor: For all the hype about creative and original, the show was dead weight on all of our shoulders. Programmed to within an inch of its life. No latitude, no style, even if you walked in with an established approach.
Mayne: Keith Olbermann was the original anchor with Suzy Kolber. Keith went back to be on SportsCenter with Dan Patrick [in 1994]. Stuart got to be the next host.
Suzy Kolber, ESPN anchor: The show found its identity once Stuart was sitting next to me. We had fun and dialed in on the tone of the show.
Mark Gross, ESPN executive: People would ask me about him here all the time. “What’s the deal with that guy?” I’m like, “He’s a good guy. He knows his stuff and he’s fun to be around.”
Scott Van Pelt, ESPN anchor: People always use these code words like “urban.” He was black.
Jemele Hill, former ESPN anchor: The first thing that jumped out was the vernacular. Because Stuart Scott said the same things that me and my friends said—or, frankly, that a lot of black people said.
Kobe Bryant, former NBA player: Dude, I’d watch him quote a Nas verse or Biggie verse during a highlight. I’m like, Wait, what? Oh. OK. All right. This is what we’re doing.
Luther Campbell, hip-hop artist: I thought I was the only one getting it. But when you’d go to the barbershop, everybody else was getting it, too. They were like, Man, this dude is cool as hell!
Kolber: When SportsNight went away, they moved me over to SportsCenter. Stuart was kind of put on the shelf. Like, “What are we going to do with him?”
Bill Pidto, former ESPN anchor: Some of us were getting cracks on SportsCenter. Stuart wasn’t doing anything. It was like, oh man, what is going on here?
Rece Davis, ESPN anchor: One night, after we’d done a 2 a.m. SportsCenter together, he asked me, “How many have you done?” I said, “I don’t count them. I have no idea.” He said, “That was my 13th.” He was having trouble getting into the rotation, which seems absurd now.
Michael Smith, former ESPN anchor: I’m sure he’s somewhere laughing at how universally beloved he is now. So many people want to be a part of the Stuart Scott legacy and claim to have been supporters of Stu when they were never that. It’s like they were the opposite.
Scott was born in Chicago in 1965 and spent his early life on the South Side. In 1972, he and his family moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, shortly after the city started a school busing program. As a kid, Scott was called racist names but said he never felt much in the way of insecurity, thanks to his parents, Ray and Jackie. In a lot of ways, Scott was raised to thrive in worlds he didn’t totally belong to.
Susan Scott, sister: When I was two and a half, my parents gave me the greatest gift in the world: my sister Synthia. Another year and a half later, Stephen came along and I dropped Synthia like a hot potato. Then, oh my God, Stuart came along. He was my person. I could tell him things I never told another living soul.
Stephen Scott, brother: In 1972, we moved from Chicago to North Carolina. We moved into an all-white neighborhood. Our mom was an educator, so we had proper diction. For a while there, we didn’t quite fit in with black people because they were a little suspicious. And at that point, we didn’t quite fit in with white people. I think it allowed us to figure out who we were not based on an outsider’s view of who you should be.
Susan Scott: We would hear, “Oh, y’all are so articulate.” It’s so much code for black people. One of the things that Mother tells us, she and my dad agreed that the king’s English was going to be the currency of the land in our house.
Fred Tindal, friend and college roommate: I thought Stuart would either play football in the NFL or become a movie star. He loved musicals. He used to make me sit and watch all kinds of musicals. And I hated musicals.
Michael Eaves, ESPN anchor: You’d just say “West Side Story” and you’d sit there and listen to him talk about it for a half-hour. Jersey Boys? He loved all that stuff.
Andrew Copeland, guitarist from Sister Hazel: He was a music fan, period. It didn’t matter the genre or artist. There were multiple times at multiple venues that Stu would get up and sing songs with us. The guy didn’t have the best voice in the world, but he had no problem getting onstage and belting it out.
Jeff Gravley, former WRAL anchor and friend: My wife was a news photographer. She worked with Stuart. They would be walking through an airport or mall and he would fall down. Just to get people’s reactions. He was a complete nut.
Gus Ramsey, former ESPN producer: We went to go see the movie Renaissance Man in the theater. We get in and the trailers are already playing. Stu yells, “Ahhh!” and he does like five somersaults just rolling down the aisle.
Tindal: Stuart had a lisp when he was in high school. He worked day and night on different therapies. I would wake up every morning to this boombox in the dorm, with him saying, “How, now, wow, pow.” Whatever lesson he was taking to get rid of the lisp.
Synthia Kearney, sister: My mother at one point took him to a speech therapist. The lady came back and told her, “I can’t really help you with him right now.” My mother said, “What do you mean?” She says, “He sees this problem of people not understanding him as the listener’s problem. It’s not his problem.”
As a high school wide receiver in Winston-Salem, Scott was good enough to get scholarship offers. Only two cornea transplants—the first of several eye surgeries Scott had during his lifetime—prevented him from trying to walk on at the University of North Carolina. But even as a SportsCenter anchor, Scott carried himself like a wide receiver—and believed he still might become one. It wasn’t for nothing that his favorite movie was Rocky.
Charles Barkley, former NBA player: I think he felt like he was a player.
Van Pelt: He would tell me he could run a 4.6 40. He wasn’t lying. It’s like a Costanza lie. It’s not a lie if you believe it.
Merril Hoge, former ESPN analyst: He talked me into playing flag football one day. He’s got eye black on. Wrist bands. He’s spatted up. I thought we were going to come out and throw the ball around a little bit.
Jay Harris, ESPN anchor: This brother comes in with goggles, a bandanna, gloves, and compression pants. We were like, “Dude, we’re playing the Bristol Police Department. What the hell is wrong with you?”
Taelor Scott, daughter: He didn’t let his small children win games.
Sydni Scott, daughter: Never. Not one.
Taelor Scott: If one of us was driving in my mom’s car and one of us was driving in my dad’s car, he’d be like, “I’m going to take a different way. We’re going to get there before your mom and sister.”
Rich Eisen, NFL Network anchor: He was going on assignment to Jets minicamp for a story on what it was like to try out to be a wide receiver. He told me he was going to make the Jets. I’m like, “Make the Jets?” He looked at me and he goes, “I’m going to make the Jets.”
LaDainian Tomlinson, former NFL player: He was dead serious. At the Pro Bowl, Stuart grabbed Drew Brees and I. He said, “You guys are my friends. I need y’all to go out to a field. Drew, I want you to throw to me. LT, I want you to cover me. I’m going to run routes.”
Mary Frances Bonvini, former ESPN videotape librarian: It burned him that a lot of athletes would say to him, “You’re talking about sports because you can’t do it yourself.” When they let him go to minicamp, he was like, “Watch this.”
Leslie Wymer, ESPN producer: He was at Jets practice and he was working with this Jugs machine. A football went through his hands and hit him in the eye. He said to me, “My eye exploded and was on my chest.”
Eisen: He literally had two substandard eyes at that point.
Stephen Scott: I asked him one time, “If you had made the cut …” He goes, “I would’ve quit ESPN in a second.”
Scott figured ESPN executives kept him on the Deuce for one reason: They thought he was a mere “catchphrase guy.” In August 1997, Scott got a chance to prove them wrong when he was paired with Rich Eisen on SportsCenter’s 2 a.m. edition.
The Scott who beamed out of the TV in the wee hours—and, crucially, on repeats that ran all morning—was way bigger than boo-yah. Scott labored over his copy so that it attained the quality of extemporaneous speech—so that it sounded like it wasn’t written at all. His catchphrases—“Just call him butter cause he’s on a roll,” “Peace!”—allowed him to turn a series of plays into a mini story of triumph and humiliation. (He anticipated in-game tweeting by a decade.) Moreover, when you listened to Scott deliver a highlight, you realized he’d solved the thorniest problem of sports TV. He sounded like himself.
Eisen: We were never told we were a team. We just assumed it because every time we sat down in a meeting room—oh, there’s Stuart. Oh, there’s Rich.
Rob Guijarro, ESPN producer: It’s 2:30 in the morning Eastern time. No matter how you adjust your body clock, it’s still 2:30 in the morning. In breaks, he was always cranking himself up. He would sing.
Eisen: He would see the reverence I had for Dan and Keith. He was like, “I understand they’re really good. But we’re better than them. We’re talking to a different audience, a younger audience.”
Pidto: The tradeoff for doing the overnight was that you were on all morning. When a young kid got up and ate his breakfast back in that era, he saw Stu Scott every day.
Bryant: It was a ritual. I’d get up, I’d turn it on, I’d go to school. Normally with highlights, the action itself was entertaining, but what the commentators were saying was some really boring shit. They weren’t saying boo-yah or cooler than the other side of the pillow. They weren’t making it fun or entertaining for the viewer—in this case, me. I was 12, 13 years old. I just loved it.
Hoge: I started to pick his brain one day. He said, “Merril, here’s how I do it. When that camera comes on to me, it is my show. That’s how I think.”
Susan Scott: He said, “Susan, when I sit down next to them, yeah, that’s my partner. But I am there to fuck them up because it’s my show. I’m going to be the baddest one sitting on the set.”
Eisen: He would jump into my highlights. I would have to figure out: Do I say, “Hey, man, I don’t do that to you. Please don’t do that to me.” Or do I risk stunting our chemistry? I was going through that mental exercise and at times being consumed by it. I don’t think he was thinking that at all. He was just being Stuart. This is him and this is his shot and this is what he’s going to do.
Davis: He and I did the Olympic bombing. We were on from 1:30 a.m. until I want to say noon. I really believe that that night changed the way Stuart was perceived. Before then, he was perceived as a really good showman. After that, he was perceived as a great showman who could also handle things that carry a certain gravitas.
Laura Okmin, Fox reporter and friend: I love the catchphrases. My dog’s name is Boo-yah. But it used to disappoint me greatly when it was just all about “boo-yah” and all about “the other side of the pillow.” Stuart was such a fucking great writer.
Sage Steele, ESPN anchor: In the business, you know if someone is reading a highlight shot sheet or doing their thing and telling their own story with it. That’s what he did. It was obvious to me long before I met him.
Steve Levy, ESPN anchor: I have never worked with anyone who was better without a teleprompter. He could do a 45-second lead-in perfectly. That happened one time. We’re in Miami at the Super Bowl and the prompter goes black. He never fumbled his words. Listen, without a teleprompter, half the people in our industry wouldn’t be able to work, OK?
Taelor Scott: We couldn’t watch an interview without him critiquing the interviewer.
Sydni Scott: He’d be like, “No, no. That’s not the question to ask.”
Harris: I did one show with Stuart. It was like watching a master class. First of all, the preparation. He would take a shot sheet and go through it with a fine-tooth comb, taking out anything that’s extraneous, adding quotes, adding research nuggets, adding whichever particular catchphrase that he thought fit the moment best. I watched that up close and it was mesmerizing because it was poetry.
Smith: This dude did spoken word on SportsCenter. Come on, now. Spoken word.
Ramsey: He did a Warriors highlight as a poetry jam. For him to take a game that ended maybe two to three hours prior and write a poem to execute a game highlight is ridiculous. That’s nuts.
Hill: Stuart had certain phrases that became part of the lexicon. I mean, everybody knows “boo-yah.”
Tindal: Mr. Gilbert—or Mr. G, as we called him—lived down the street [in Winston-Salem]. He was blind. One time, Mr. Gilbert said, “Hey, Stu. Did you hear that thunderstorm last night? It was awful. It went crack crack crack crack crack crack … boo-yow!” Me and Stuart just busted out laughing. The spelling morphed into boo-yah, but it’s boo-yow.
Bryant: “Cooler than the other side of the pillow.” That’s my favorite. That shit’s smooth, man.
Tomlinson: I just used to love when I would make a move on somebody and he’d say, “LT, that ain’t right.”
Davis: Everybody in that era of SportsCenter was looking for the next great catchphrase, and sometimes you would pull a groin trying to do it. The thing that always stood out to be about Stuart is that was always within his personality.
Cole Wright, NFL Network anchor: I don’t remember who the reference was aimed at. But he said this person was “more hyped up than the Wu-Tang Clan on steroids.” For me, that resonated.
Eaves: I felt like somebody I knew was doing sports.
Levy: The only disagreement we had came in a public setting, and I was a little embarrassed. We did a big media run-up to the first show on the new SportsCenter set. Somebody must have asked about Stuart’s style. I said, “You know, Stuart took a chance here, right?” Stuart jumped in and said, “Steve, that’s not true. There was no risk. There was no approach. There was no trying to be different. My style is who I am.”
Scott Organ, friend: What helped him be successful was he was just himself. There was never going to be a day where he didn’t have the persona tuned up.
Don Bell, KYW anchor and former ESPN anchor: I said something on my résumé tape and he said, “Why you speaking like that? That’s not how you talk. Speak the way you would normally speak.”
Smith: African Americans throughout the history of this country have been told that we needed to conform, to assimilate. That we needed to be less street, be less hip-hop, be less hood. Just be less. We had to be less of ourselves in order to make the majority feel comfortable. For Stuart to come along and be every bit as good and professional, as sharp, as polished as any broadcaster doing it, but yet still be able to be as authentic and connected and representative of the culture as he was—it was just incredible.
Eisen: Some people thought he was fake on the air, that he would be doing a persona. To this day, if anybody thinks that, that makes me irate. Because he was just genuine.
Jay Jennings, WRAL photographer and friend: It’s almost as if you were watching him discover who he was on the set in front of millions of people on SportsCenter every night.
Michael Irvin, NFL Network analyst: I did Monday Night Countdown with Stu. When guys do highlights, sometimes I want to jump in and do color. I never felt the need, the desire, to jump in with Stu. I used to say, “Don’t you mess up this Picasso he is painting! Don’t you mess it up by putting your paintbrush on the canvas!”
Bryant: I’d be curious to see if his boss at the time was like, “Hey, Stuart, you need to dial that shit back.” Or if he was he like, “All right, go ahead and run with it.” Because I can’t imagine them being like, “Yeah. This is awesome.” I’m sure he had to have gotten some fucking pushback from somewhere.
Scott got pushback from everywhere. It was the late ’90s. When an institution like ESPN changed its house voice, even slightly, a certain segment of the population lost its mind.
Scott got picked on by sportswriters. Viewers left voice mails calling him the N-word. What confused Scott was the pushback he got from a handful of coworkers. It’s as if they were so locked into a particular style of SportsCenter that they couldn’t figure out what he was trying to do.
Mark Gross, ESPN executive: People didn’t know what to make of him when he first started here. … The company’s only, what, 13, 14 years old? We’d never heard “boo-yah.”
Ramsey: I’m in the control room and I’m hearing people make comments. I’m seeing people roll their eyes. Sometimes I would say something and sometimes I would just put it in the back pocket.
Eisen: I made a Seinfeld reference. This is ’97 or ’98. We go to commercial break. He looks at me and he says, “What was that?” I’m like, “That’s from Seinfeld.” He goes, “Brothers don’t watch Seinfeld.” By that he meant: Around here, your Seinfeld reference is lauded and appreciated. The references I’m making and what I’m doing around here, people are asking, “Why are you doing it?” That was the subtext.
Bonvini: I don’t remember exactly which executive it was. But I remember standing in the hallway with [Stuart] and the executive was telling him, “I don’t understand what you’re doing and I don’t understand what you’re trying to express. I don’t even really understand some of the words you’re saying.”
Bell: Now, the lines are blurred. There’s been enough appropriation where black culture has permeated just about everything that we see in terms of entertainment and beyond. Then, some of the lines were still very much clearly defined. You keep that hip-hop talk over there, you know?
John Skipper, former ESPN executive: You’ll find that everybody will tell you they were on the side of encouraging Stuart to do what he did. Half of ’em are lying.
Susan Scott: Norby [Williamson] wrote him up. He challenged his scripts. It was awful. People really don’t know how awful it was. … Stuart was desperately frustrated.
Norby Williamson, ESPN executive: Stuart Scott is a top-five on-air talent in ESPN history and I was honored and grateful to call him a friend and colleague. … We challenged each other, encouraged each other, and learned from each other. Like millions of sports fans, I miss him.
Stephen Scott: I don’t know if Stuart was hurt as much as saying, “If Berman can do it his way, and Dan Patrick can do it his way, this is my way. This is just a different way. It’s not better or worse.”
Tindal: He came out to me and said, “I get people might not like it. But I’m not doing anything wrong but being myself. I can’t go on air and be anybody else but me.”
Gerry Matalon, former ESPN executive: In his deepest moments—at least the ones he shared with me—he pondered, Why do they not like me? What am I doing that is so wrong that people speak unwell of me—even folks that are working with me?
John Wildhack, former ESPN executive: Some people said, “We need him to conform to us.” No, no, no. It’s the other way around.
Susan Scott: I literally sent [phone] scripts to my friends throughout media all over the country. Every week, a different script with a phone number for ESPN’s communications line saying some version of, “I’m crazy about Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen.” … I did it for about seven months. The system had to be made to work for him.
Ultimately, Scott followed the game plan drawn up by Berman, Patrick, and Olbermann and other anchors who’d gotten blowback from executives. Scott kept the suits at bay, won over the audience, and rendered his skeptics irrelevant. But, meanwhile, Scott came up with an ingenious strategy. He kept track of how many stats other SportsCenter anchors used in their highlights. Scott made sure he used at least one more. In his highlights, his stats became as gaudy as his catchphrases. If Scott was going to be judged differently, he’d show he had done more homework than anyone else.
Van Pelt: It was the terror of Stuart. He would be like, “How many multi-home-run games did Jed Lowrie have against the Reds?” You’re like, “How the fuck am I supposed to find that out in this commercial break?”
Ramsey: His highlight read on Kobe’s 81-point game—it’s about a two-ish minute highlight, and in there he has 14 or 15 different pieces of information. He’s the only anchor at ESPN that I ever felt like you could tell to scale back [the research] a little bit.
Mayne: I think he sometimes did it almost like—as they call it these days—trolling.
Kolber: Somewhere along the way, it clicked. Everybody got it. This not only works, it’s off the charts.
Stephen Scott: It wasn’t so much “I won.” It was like, “I was right.”
Davis: It opened eyes to the fact that there’s an entire audience out there that wasn’t just raised on Animal House references.
Mayne: You don’t always get it. Well, that’s on you as a consumer to figure out what the fuck the guy meant, right? Look it up.
By 2008, Scott had won a near-total victory. Other than Berman, he’d become the de facto face of ESPN, hosting the 11 p.m. SportsCenter and the Monday Night pregame and handing out the trophy at the end of the NBA Finals. Barack Obama told him, “We’ve spent a lot of nights together in hotel rooms, you and I.”
Campbell: It was like, I discovered some shit here. I got to get this dude in a video. Because I know he is going to be out of the stratosphere and he ain’t going to want to do my video.
Barkley: We looked at him as one of us. There’s not many reporters that we look at like, Oh, he’s one of us.
Taelor Scott: He would tell my mom, “Sit her in front of the TV when my show comes on.” She told me one day—I was like 2 or 3—that I said, “I’m tired of this. Can we watch someone else’s daddy?”
Kearney: All these other broadcasters started almost emulating him, trying to be more like him. At first it was, No, we don’t like your style. Now, all of a sudden, everyone’s trying to use his style.
Levy: With the exception of Chris Berman, maybe, Stuart Scott would be the most recognizable face, name, and voice in the grand history of ESPN. You might even get into an argument on the Berman thing.
Hill: He was bringing in an entirely new audience too. This is not to say that before Stuart Scott black people didn’t watch ESPN. It’s to say that because of the popularity of Stuart Scott, he brought in a huge number of black people who didn’t look at ESPN like a cool product or that weren’t really checking for it.
Eisen: It’s the ’98 NBA All-Star Game in Madison Square Garden. We’re doing the 11 o’clock SportsCenter and we decided, “OK, let’s go to New York afterward.” It’s one in the morning. We’re walking west between the Lincoln Tunnel and Madison Square Garden in the West Thirties. It was Elvis entering the building. Somebody goes, “Oh my God, Stuart Scott! I love you! You’re amazing!” Then turns to me and says, “And … the white guy. I love you!” Stuart could not stop laughing. The white guy. He fucking loved it.
If Scott was part jock, he also had a disarming ability to access his emotions. That side of him came out when he talked about his daughters, Taelor and Sydni. In 2007, Scott was devastated that he and his ex-wife Kim’s divorce had shaken their sense of security. “It’s the worst feeling in the world to feel unable to protect your child from hurt and fear,” he wrote. “You want to make it all better, but you can’t.”
Kolber: It was like a running joke. He was always saying to me, “When are you going to have a baby?”
Taelor Scott: He was really into having daughters. When I was 2, he was like, “This is the song we’re going to dance to at your wedding.”
Sydni Scott: He used to talk about how excited he was for the time, hypothetically in the future, when we first brought a boy home. He said he would wear a wife-beater to answer the door.
Taelor Scott: We both had glasses and braces. No one was talking to us. We were like, “I’ll take your word for it.”
Kearney: Sydni’s an athlete, like he was. He loved that part about her. Taelor, she’s a dancer, but she’s also very cerebral. He loved her intellect. They’d have little private inside jokes.
Chris LaPlaca, ESPN executive: I was coaching youth soccer. Taelor ended up on my team. He said, “Listen, I don’t know if she’s really into sports. Can you help her out?” First game, I have her at left forward. She scores a goal. I turned around and Stu was nowhere to be found. He was in the woods. He was crying he was so happy.
Organ: Three of us were at Chili’s. Another mom saw us and made a comment like, “Oh, you’re babysitting the kids.” It really upset him. We didn’t see ourselves as an occasional parental figure who might take the kids off mom’s hands for a couple hours.
Sydni Scott: There was never a time he was like, “I’ll tell you this when you’re older.” He told it to us then. Maybe we got it, maybe we didn’t. But it means that now, going forward in our lives, we have everything that he could have wanted to teach us.
Susan Scott: Stuart was always an emotional little person. He was always in touch with his feelings and always wanted to talk about his feelings. I would guess that’s part of what freed him just to be himself.
Deedee Hagner, friend: Because he was on SportsCenter at 11, he would call at 12. There was nothing that was off-limits. I considered him my best guy friend. But, oddly enough, it was very much like a female relationship. Does that make sense?
Kristin Spodobalski, girlfriend: I remember talking about him shortly after his passing. I said, “I hope I’ll find love again. But I’ll never find someone that will ask me seven times why I hugged them at the top of the stairs but not at the bottom.”
On November 26, 2007, Scott was in Pittsburgh to host Monday Night Countdown. He felt a pain in his stomach—an odd sensation that made him feel like he had to go to the bathroom. Scott checked himself into a hospital. For the next seven years, the face Scott showed the world was one of almost unwavering bravado. “Fuck cancer,” one of his T-shirts said. But in Pittsburgh, the first sensation Scott felt was fear. “I was scared as hell, man,” he said later. “I’m going to die. Cancer’s going to kill me.”
Kolber: I was already at the stadium and I was preparing for my hit on the pregame show. I was told I was not tossing to Stuart. He had been rushed to the hospital.
Skipper: He had been diagnosed with appendicitis. They’d taken his appendix. They did a biopsy.
Brian Gallagher, friend: One o’clock the next afternoon he called me, still groggy. That’s when he said, “They found cancer.” It was like, Oh shit.
Wymer: When he called to tell me he was sick, he was my emergency contact. If something bad happened to me, they were going to call him.
Susan Scott: What struck me about [his reaction] was his sheer panic. Here’s a guy who kept it together in the face of all kinds of struggles, right? He calls and he is manically hysterical. I let him rail for about a minute and a half. Then I said, “Stuart, this is ridiculous. When you’re 90 and I’m 97, I’ll deliver your eulogy.”
Organ: Something that I found very interesting about the way he handled his diagnosis was he said, “I don’t need to know all the details.” I asked him about it, and he shared with me, “I don’t want to hear a guess about what it might be.” I think part of what really helped him was he purposefully chose not to look for bad news or numbers.
Taelor Scott: How do you tell your kids you have cancer? Everyone knows what cancer is. Cancer kills people.
Sydni Scott: I remember being in the family room at mom’s house. Honestly, that might’ve been a time when he said it came back.
Taelor Scott: I was 12. … I feel so, so bad for him in that moment. Because if his role is as a protector, that has to be the greatest blow. To say: “I’m fallible in this way and the future is uncertain.”
Okmin: The girls. It was always about the girls.
Gallagher: He wanted to see his daughters get married. He wanted to see his daughters live, have babies, and he becomes a grandfather. God, he would have been the best grandfather.
Organ: His fight, his battle, and the energy he brought to it—I think he was just trying to show them how much he loved them.
Taelor Scott: It was your parents that told you there’s no monster under the bed. Then, you have to step into that role for them, except the monster is real. It was a very abrupt coming of age.
When he started cancer treatment, Scott felt he had one big advantage. It was the same irrational physical confidence that let him think he could make the Jets. After a four- or five-hour chemo session, Scott would head to the gym with Brian Gallagher, bench-press 225 pounds, and snap off 100 push-ups. He later got into P90X and MMA. During workouts, Scott actually talked to his cancer, trying to dominate it like he once had fellow anchors on the set of SportsCenter. He wasn’t just venting frustration. He was trying to reestablish control over his life.
Barkley: I’d send him a text: “Yo, man. What are you doing?” “Oh, I’m on my way to boxing.” I’m like, “Damn, dude.”
Stephen Scott: It was his eff-you to cancer. He said, “I feel like shit anyway.”
Darin Reisler, MMA trainer: He started working out with me when he was in remission the first time. Whenever we would train, he’d say, “OK, what’s the detail I’m missing out on? Where are my hips supposed to be at? Is my center of gravity right?” Every move was as detailed as a golf swing. He was an athlete. Just a straight athlete.
Hill: He did a podcast with me and Mike. He wanted to give Mike a demonstration about what MMA was like. Mike was not—let’s just say he was not working out regularly. I was like, “When an older black man says they want to demonstrate something on you, your answer should be no.” Mike didn’t listen, and Stuart put a move on Mike. He turned red and he tapped out.
Steele: The one time I was actually there and witnessed him getting chemo, he finished up and he’s like, “OK, I’m going to do P90X.” I’m like, “Are you insane?” He’s like, “They just put this shit in my veins. I got to get it out. I got to sweat it out.”
Gallagher: He would immediately leave the treatment and hit golf balls. Wherever he was. Just drop a golf ball and swing to say, “I got this.”
Steele: I was like, “Good lord, your six-pack. That’s not even right.” He was flexing with his scars everywhere. He even showed my kids that, the scars from his surgeries.
Reifert: He had a chemo port in his chest. Doing mixed martial arts with a chemo port is, I’m assuming, not something a doctor is going to tell you you should do. We were as careful as we could be with it, but you’re still rolling around on the ground trying to choke people.
Organ: We didn’t talk about cancer a lot. I think he really appreciated me coming over and watching a UFC fight or coming over and playing board games. Talking about anything but cancer. Not coming over with puppy dog eyes.
Hill: He didn’t want to burden people with his problems. I don’t know if he understood that none of us would have ever considered that a burden.
Okmin: He would call and constantly ask about me. When I would try to turn it to him and to cancer, he wouldn’t go there. The agreement we came up with was, he was allowed to ask me questions for a certain amount of time. But we didn’t hang up until I got one question and one follow-up. That was the negotiation.
In November 2010, doctors removed three new cancerous tumors from Scott’s stomach. But even when his PET scans came back clean, Scott rarely enjoyed a truly cancer-free moment. “Every little cramp, pain, and twinge triggers the thought: Is that cancer?” he wrote. Yet less than a month after his diagnosis, Scott was back hosting SportsCenter, pairing stats with catchphrases. He remained there into the final year of his life, when he hosted the show 46 times. “If I’m too weak to work,” Scott noted, “I’m admitting that I’m too weak to live.”
Van Pelt: Even ill, he didn’t arrive unprepared to be Stuart Scott on television. It was like his superpower. That red light would come on and all of a sudden he was the big Luigi.
Levy: Not all SportsCenters are created equal, right? There’s the big Sunday-night show at 11. And then there’s Tuesday night after a terrible college basketball game. That’s where Stuart pumped it up the most. He treated those lesser shows as big shows. I really think that inspired other people to do the same thing.
Hoge: I understand why he did it. One of the things that can spiral you out mentally is not just the wait of it. It’s having no purpose. And having a purpose matters in that process.
Hannah Storm, ESPN anchor: When I think of him, I don’t think of him as being sick. The image in your mind is that smile of his, the jokes, the one-liners, the stories.
Stephen Scott: Cancer wasn’t who he was. It was just something that he had. His thinking was, Cancer is going to have to work around what I do. I’m not going to make what I do work around cancer.
Van Pelt: After a show, we’d always say, “Hey, Stu. How’s your fake cancer?” Because it’s easier to make jokes and not address it. But we also had some talks, real talks, late at night in the hall. That’s what I miss, the part that was just me and him talking about his girls. We’d get deep. We talked about relationships, we talked about loss, we talked about kids. Do I miss sitting out there and yammering about sports? Not as much as I miss 1:30 in the morning.
Matalon: Folks were frustrated that he wasn’t working in the newsroom. He goes, “I don’t want to frustrate people. But a lot of times, when I’m in my office prepping for the show, I’m taking a nap so I have energy for the show.” I said, “Really? Where are you napping in your office?” He goes, “I nap on the floor.” I asked him, “Would you be bothered if I looked into getting you a futon?” Years later, I had one put in John Saunders’s office as well.
In July 2012, Scott walked into a restaurant in West Hartford and saw Kristin Spodobalski, who worked at an insurance company. He was 46; she was 25. “A young, beautiful woman with a kind face and an outgoing, cheery disposition,” he wrote. They began a relationship that would last the rest of his life.
Spodobalski: It was his birthday weekend. He asked me for my number. I’m like, “Don’t you want a piece of paper and pen or your cellphone, maybe?” He’s like, “No, I’ll remember it like I remember jersey numbers.” I said my phone number and he started telling me what jersey numbers it was, like that meant something to me. Later, he texted me and said, “Oh ye of little faith.”
Gallagher: When they traveled, you could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices. It was pure love. Watching them holding hands—it was the way love should be. I hadn’t seen him feel that loved in a long time. A real long time.
Spodobalski: We always had to be matching. I’m saying, every day. If he’s going to wear jeans and a gray sweater, then I’ve got to find jeans and a gray sweater. … We had a basketball tournament once. It was me and Stuart against my sister and my dad. We went to Dick’s and we got LeBron’s sneakers and Nike everything gear.
Stephen Scott: I adore Kristin. I told her, “You have a big brother for life.”
Steele: Kristin is one of my heroes for what she did every single day. She doesn’t get the credit she deserves. She is an angel.
Five months after Scott and Spodobalski started dating, doctors found a tumor on Scott’s prostate. He started receiving chemo again.
Gallagher: They had to have that tough talk. She’s a young woman. Do you really want to be around for me when I get sick?
Spodobalski: He would always say, “Go be 25.” In his mind, a normal 25-year-old is out at a club drinking and partying and enjoying their friends. I was like, “You’re crazy if you think I’m going anywhere else. I’m not going to run from the man that I love.” That never crossed my mind.
Okmin: For so many years, he was about, “This is who I am, take me or leave me.” What cancer did to him was he asked the people he cared about, “Am I giving you what you need?” That’s a big change. I just had never seen him more vulnerable, ever.
Steele: I have a picture—I saw it yesterday—of the day we moved out of our house in Canton, Connecticut. He and Kristin came over. My son Nicholas—he was 10—had to say goodbye to his best friend across the street. He was sobbing. Stuart could hardly walk, but he walked over and he’s like, “I got it.” He put his arm around Nicholas and sat with him for 20 minutes. In pain, as he’s dying, he took care of my boy. That’s imprinted in my brain forever.
Spodobalski: We sort of made a pact to live, whatever that meant, on a daily basis. If we had the opportunity to travel, we traveled. We went to Puerto Rico—Dorado Beach. We would go to Laguna Beach, or take Sydni on vacation. We went to Hawaii. When we went to Rome, it was after a Monday Night game. We left directly from there to Rome in the morning. We hired a tour guide and we did all of Rome in three days.
Taelor Scott: When your time is limited, I think that that makes the things that you do—you focus on them so much more.
Spodobalski: We went to Florida. We got his closest friends together. We had two rules for the five days that we were together. No one was to speak of cancer, period. And we were supposed to drink a lot of great wine.
Doug Ulman, former CEO of the Livestrong Foundation: At breakfast the first morning we were there, he did his trip-on-the-carpet joke. He falls down, gets up, and says, “Oh my God, look at this seam in the carpet! You could really hurt somebody!” The hostess in the hotel restaurant, she was mortified. And he doesn’t tell her!
Reisler: At one point in time, he was asked, “Do you ever ask yourself Why me?” His response without hesitation was, “I have two girls that I love. I have a wonderful job that I love getting up for every day. Why not me? I’m about due.” He was dying when he said that, and I’m sure part of him knew that.
Spodobalski: He wanted to continue working. He wanted to be able to do that with the comfort of having not only myself by his side, but for me to have all of the history and the medical knowledge in case something happens so that we were ready to take charge at any point. So I wrote my letter of resignation [from her job]. I don’t regret a second of it.
Van Pelt: In breaks, he used to sit back, arms folded, eyes closed. It was sort of Zen.
Levy: I don’t think he was sleeping. But I was concerned. So when the guy in my ear would say, “Back in 30,” I’d give him a little tap on the hand. Bam. He was right back like Stuart Scott.
Barkley: You know how you call a guy to cheer him up and then, by the time the conversation’s over, you’re like, “Is anything wrong with that dude?” I never saw the dude in a bad mood.
Roy Williams, University of North Carolina basketball coach: I called him periodically just to touch base. I said, “How you doing?” He said, “OK, OK. I’m fightin’ it. How’s your team?” He wanted to talk about the Tar Heels.
Spodobalski: If we woke up and it was a good day, then maybe cancer was way, way at the back of the stadium. If we woke up and there was pain or a stomachache, then maybe cancer was sitting in the orchestra that day. We lived with it as it showed up.
Tindal: One time I said, “Man, Stuart, I wish there was some way we could take half of your cancer and just give it to me.” He goes, “I wouldn’t let you do it. I got it.”
Ulman: There’s a text from late July 2014. I said, “Just checking in. How you doing today?” He wrote back: “Hey, brother. Truth? I’m tired. Exhausted. Probably depressed for the first time in my life. In pain. Starting radiation Thursday. I’m beat to hell.”
During the last few years of Scott’s life, something amazing was happening at ESPN. A new group of anchors had come into the network. Some were black, some were white; there were men and women. These anchors had watched Scott’s rise and, now, found themselves working with the elbow room he helped create for them. Just like ESPN had a Dan and Keith generation, now it had a Stu generation.
Bell: I remember using some of those catchphrases in the high school cafeteria. It became part of the culture. It became part of your regular vernacular. To see him do it at the level he did it, it gave you hope. It actually planted a seed in my head.
Harris: There’s a guy that looks like me—that was my first thought. My second thought was, Hey, I just said that yesterday with my buddies.
Smith: He normalized it. He normalized seeing an unapologetic, authentic African American man in a high-profile position on television.
Hill: When we had His & Hers, Stuart used to leave messages and text us all the time. He said, “They’re going to try to change you. Don’t change.” He warned us. He told us we were about to go through something we didn’t even see coming. He was right about all of it.
Steele: He would tell me things like, “Look at you. You’re talented. You can do this and this and this. You’ve got to believe in yourself.” I didn’t. Stuart Scott believed in me long before I believed in myself.
Okmin: Every time we talked about me being a woman, he would always say to me, “Stop it. You’re not great for a woman sports broadcaster. You’re a great sports broadcaster.”
Steele: “You do you.” We heard him say that. “You do you.”
Harris: And: “Don’t think that everyone’s going to like it, because they’re not. Because a lot of people didn’t and don’t like me.”
Smith: Stuart wasn’t just an inspiration for black people. Stuart was an inspiration for anybody who just wanted to be themselves. We like to say, “Scott Van Pelt can come to the cookout.” Scott is very much a product of Stuart.
Van Pelt: I looked at him and I figured, If I’m going to fail, I’d rather fail being me than being some version of Dan or Keith or some person that came before me.
Smith: A lot of what I’ve tried to do in terms of fusing sports and entertainment, it was all inspired by Stu. But inspired in ways that you don’t even really know because that’s just how you saw it done. I was raised on “boo-yah.” I was raised on “cool as the other side of the pillow.” That was normal for me to hear in a sports conversation. So why would I be anything other than myself? Why would I have any fear?
In July 2014, Scott found it funny that ESPN was giving him the Jimmy V Award. At the ESPYs six years earlier, Scott had handed out the award as a model cancer fighter. Now, just standing onstage seemed almost impossible. Scott’s life was becoming a maze of hospital stays. The week before the speech, a clinical trial led to four surgeries and kidney failure. As he began his speech on July 16, Scott’s friends and family listened closely, because it was clear that Scott was telling them something he hadn’t said out loud.
Steele: We’re at the Finals in San Antonio and he’s like, “Can you be there in July for it?” I was like, “I know I have summer League in Vegas.” He’s like, “I don’t think I’ve ever really told you I need you for something. I need you there for that.”
Skipper: We debated internally about whether we could give it to somebody who worked for the company. The consensus became, who could be unhappy with this? The second thing was, we had a high level of awareness that if we don’t do it this year, we will never be able to do it.
Stephen Scott: There had been times that week before when it was like, will he make it through the week? We weren’t really sure he would be going until that Sunday when he flew out.
Spodobalski: If it weren’t for ESPN, we probably wouldn’t have. They chartered one of the Disney planes just for us. I needed him to have a bed. We were able to actually rest and lay down. He was still bandaged up in order to be on stage.
Okmin: He let me throw a party to just let us celebrate him and love on him. We sat outside and he let Kristin put a blanket over him, and he sat with the blanket. He wouldn’t have done that before. It was the first time I saw just how tired he was, and he wasn’t fighting it. He couldn’t muscle through that.
Storm: Then he gets onstage and delivers this incredible, incredible, iconic speech.
Steele: “When you’re weak, have somebody else fight for you.” That’s when it hit me that he knew. That’s what he’s trying to tell me. This is my goodbye.
Eaves: As much as I hated to admit to myself, it was a goodbye speech.
Okmin: The night after, I looked at my husband—who was my boyfriend at the time—and said, “He just wrote his eulogy.” We all knew how sick he was. But I don’t think I understood it until that night.
Kolber: I don’t think a lot of people realize the ESPYs speech—which he ended, “Have a great rest of your life”—was the last time he was seen on TV. That took so much out of him. I’m not sure his body ever really recovered after that.
In seven years battling cancer, Scott had had 58 chemotherapy treatments and more than a half-dozen surgeries; his colon had been resected; he had a wound VAC. In September, he began a 75-day hospital stay in New York.
Spodobalski: September 12th to the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I came with flip-flops and left with borrowed winter coats and earmuffs.
Gallagher: He couldn’t be there for Syd’s first soccer game. It was killing him. I refused not to let him see it. I FaceTimed the whole game to him. He said, “It’s the greatest day I’ve ever had in the hospital.” Syd had a freaking hat trick.
Taelor Scott: I was in school in New York, so I reduced my class load at the time so I could go down and see him in the hospital. I got to really ask him any questions uninterrupted. That was very valuable. I hadn’t spent time like that with him since I’d gone to college. That’s something I am very grateful for.
Gallagher: They came to visit him. He always bounced up. It was like an adrenaline rush to him. He protected them by showing how strong he was.
Okmin: You know what else he was doing? He was taking on [Twitter] trolls. He’d be lying there in the hospital bed and he’d be taking them on.
Gallagher: He was just about to be released. We watched one of Syd’s games. He said, “You OK?” I said, “I’m good.” And he fell asleep holding my hand. It was the most comforting thing.
Kolber: The last season [of Monday Night Countdown], I was always waiting for him to come back. I always said I was filling in for him. That’s how I started every show: “Sitting in for Stuart Scott …” Because it was his show. It was still his show.
Tindal: We were outside throwing the football around one day. He said, “Hey, man. I think I’ve got one more left in me.” I said, “One more what?” He goes, “I want to run a pattern. Hit me.” He ran a perfect route. Of course, I overthrew him. He just sat on the curb. I walked over there, picked him up, and walked him back inside.
Susan Scott: About five days before Thanksgiving, he called and said, “What if you and Synthia and Stephen and I spend Thanksgiving together here?”
Kearney: He wasn’t giving up the fight by any means, but I do think that he knew a natural progression was happening. He knew this might be one of the last times that we would see each other.
Stephen Scott: He said to me, “I’m tired. And I’m tired of being tired.”
Hagner: In true Stuart fashion, his biggest thing was, “I’m not going to know how Homeland ends.” Like, really, dude? You’ll know. You can find out. Honestly, I haven’t been able to watch Homeland since then. So I don’t know how it ends, either.
Van Pelt: One night, I went home and sent him a text. I said, “I have no idea why I feel you should know this, but I just want you to know that I’m praying for you and I’m thinking of you.” The next morning I get this long text and it said, ‘You have no idea what a gift this is. I had a procedure this morning and I was skirred. We do feel that shit from wherever away. I can feel people praying for me. I can feel the love for me and that really matters. But this was a gift. I needed this.”
Kolber: I woke up and I said to my daughter, “There’s only one thing I want to do today. Let’s go see Stuart.” We drove up to his house. Kristin answered the door and said, “He’s asleep.” I said to her, “I just want to be here.” I was just so glad I had been there, because two weeks later he was gone.
Tindal: He called me up in December 2014. Actually, Kristin did. She said, “Fred, if you want to see Stuart alive, you need to come now. He wants you and Laura Okmin.”
Okmin: I lost my mom when I was younger. If I pass away tomorrow, everybody will say, “Oh, her mom’s there waiting for her. There’ll be some peace in that.” Because his parents were still alive, I said to him, “I don’t know who’s waiting for you.” He said, “I was going to ask you about this. Do you think your mom will know what I look like?”
Ramsey: I remember Suzy Kolber telling me right before Stu died that he was going home for Christmas. Because I was so confident he was going to be OK, I thought, Oh, that’s great. He’s doing well enough to go home. It never occurred to me that he was going home to spend one last Christmas with his daughters.
Sydni Scott: Usually, Christmastime was when he was running around the house with the cape made of tinsel or something. He was very tired. He participated in the gift exchange. He wanted a hat and gloves.
Taelor Scott: Chemo made him very sensitive to cold.
Sydni Scott: We hadn’t been able to get it. So my mom printed out this little picture of it. She was like, “It’s been ordered. It’ll come.” I think he sort of had the understanding that there was a chance that he wasn’t going to be able to get that gift in the end.
Gallagher: It was New Year’s Eve. We went over and we were watching football. He had just had lunch with Taelor. It was a beautiful lunch.
Taelor Scott: It was in the morning, and I was like, “I would like a crepe with ice cream.” He’s like, “Yes!” I think it’s a little bit sad, that Yes. Because parenting is No. Parenting is, “There are things that you are supposed to do. Ice cream is not breakfast.”
Gallagher: It’s the first time I saw him break down. He was like, “I fucking hate cancer. I need more time with them. I need more time.”
Spodobalski: Toward the end, we would be in the house. No matter where I was, or no matter where he was, I’d just hear, “Babe?” I’d say, “Yeah, babe?” He’d just say, “Love you.”
Scott died on January 4, 2015. It’s probably as close as a sportscaster’s death will ever come to being an affair of state. Barack Obama issued a statement. The NFL observed a moment of silence before playoff game games. Michael Jordan and Ludacris chipped in tributes; a newspaper used Scott’s catchphrases for its sports-page headlines; a mural was painted in Los Angeles.
Van Pelt: I came in that night and did a show with Steve Levy. I remember we walked off the set and we left a chair lit for Stuart. An empty chair for a guy that filled it and filled the studio. It just felt impossible that that energy didn’t exist in human form. Impossible to me. I don’t know what people believe but I refused to think that whatever was behind that energy, that just went poof and was gone.
Gross: Tiger showed up at his funeral. I was like, “Wow, Tiger Woods is here.”
Harris: There was an opportunity to view his body. We did not stay in the room very long because that body was not Stuart. Everything that we’re talking about is Stuart. Everything that continues on is Stuart. That was just a shell in a nice suit.
Smith: Let’s not even get it twisted. The way Stuart left us, that also adds to a lot of people viewing him differently than those same people might have in life. But regardless, I’m happy he’s getting his flowers.
Berman: Stu, he was in our blood. All of us. Whether on the air or whether you were behind the scenes. ESPN lost a friend. We lost a friend and someone we came to love because of his uniqueness.
Eisen: I see Dan and Keith get back together. I see other people who used to be on ESPN and they go back. I’d kill to do another show with him. That would be amazing. But my partner’s gone.
Tindal: I’m not finished grieving. I don’t have another best friend. I don’t have that turn-to guy. I called Stephen a couple nights ago, just because it was the closest thing I had. I said, “Stephen, I just miss Stuart so much.”
Spodobalski: There aren’t very many people that lose their significant other at 27. … I have since started working for a caregiver’s concierge. I never tell people who my partner was, but some of them know who I am before I walk in. I always tell them, share my story. I actually share it on a daily basis.
Okmin: When someone dies, people say, “When you need them, you can find them. You have their voice in your head.” The hardest thing with Stuart is I can’t do that. Because I never knew what he was going to say. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate having someone in my life that was that authentic, that real, that you can’t even conjure up what they would say.
Steele: I talk to him a lot. I just—I hope he’s proud. That’s all. I’m pretty sure he would be. I just want him to be proud that I’ve done it the way he said I should, which is to be me.
Van Pelt: I don’t want to get overwrought. But Taelor and Sydni—you see them grow up to be these amazing women and it just sucks so fucking bad that they won’t have him and that he doesn’t get to see that.
Taelor Scott: It feels like it cheapens every accomplishment because the person who would have cared the most and cheered you the most isn’t there. All the colors in the world are desaturated a little bit.
Sydni Scott: There are definitely times when I miss him in a way that is a very overwhelming sadness. But I think there are also times when it’s like, This would’ve been so funny. It can also be this very simple thing like, I really wish I could let you listen to this song because I think you’d like it a lot. It’s something that can be as simple as that.
Spodobalski: I think about him in my quiet moments. On days like today where I’m just replaying every single that happened the day before he passed away. When I eat really crispy bacon and Belgian waffles. When I think of love and all its complexities. When I have the most in-depth, soul-searching conversations. I think about him every time my stomach hurts. When do I think about him? All the time.