With yesterday’s passing of one of ESPN’s most polarizing and well loved analysts and commentators, the sports world wept. That continued into today, with various sports shows including “Around The Horn” and “SVP & Russillo” featuring touching tributes from anyone who knew him. At one point, during the “Countdown To Kickoff” on Sunday, the show opened up the phone lines to callers who shared their random stories about him. People as common as I, not public figures but private citizens, sharing their thoughts and their stories about how he influenced them or how he treated them when we ran into them walking down the street on various occasions. All of these were amazing stories and they testify to the character of the man.
As I lay here tonight, I imagine where he is now. I imagine him meeting God. I don’t say when because where he is, I don’t believe time matters anymore. I believe God has the power to work all things at the same time, and so for Stuart, he probably doesn’t think anything of time all. He probably shouldn’t either, I mean he’s getting ready to meet the creator of the universe. Somehow though, I bet he’s still got on that black suit with the purple handkerchief that he wore to the 2014 ESPY’s, and somehow I believe he’s still walking up to the gates at least looking like he owns the place, even though he’s smart enough to know what he’s about to encounter and actually is feeling quite humble inside. But by all accounts, the man never let his composure get away from him in this lifetime, not when the lights were on him, even when he worked in a physically weakened state. All accounts from his peers say that even if he drifted off right before the red light of the television camera came one, once that thing was on, he was fresher than any 20-year-old basketball player. So I like to imagine that as he walks in through the beautiful, dark oak doors of heaven, God’s happy to see him come in with all the swagger he had during his lifetime. That was one of God’s gifts to the man, so of course he doesn’t get stripped of it just because he’s in heaven now. If anything, he’s got even more of it now that he’s there.
Stuart walks in, and after a conversation God forgives him for his sins. Again, I don’t use time references here about whether this is a short conversation or a long one, because time is irrelevant where he is. An entire early lifetime could all happen at once there. By all accounts though, Stuart lived a life full of love; for what he did, for himself, for his peers in the journalism world, for the athletes he wrote, talked and spoke about, and above all for his two daughters, and God sees that. So after a conversation, and after he is forgiven, God and Stuart go about their other worldly stuff. God introduces him to those who influenced him, introduces him to family he loved but maybe never got to know like he wanted, and gives him his rank among the angels and what that entails. Stuart accepts all of these, graciously and humbly, but most of all he sheds tears as he finally meets those he wanted to love but never got the chance to know enough in his youth. Those he didn’t get a chance to apologize too perhaps, or those he wishes he had said “I love you” to but never could because of freak accidents or what not. We all have those, Stuart was human so he probably did too. But where he is is, it’s all amended. Every wrong is righted, every wound is healed, and every friendship a person ever wanted is now theirs, with all eternity to begin it.
After some time though, God summons Stuart. Stuart has been, by God’s establishment, mentally diverted from thinking about earth until now, but when Stuart shows up, God freezes earthly time and shows him all that’s happened in the last 36 hours. First, He shows Stuart that his daughters are going to be okay, that even though they grieve God shows Stuart a glimpse of the future so that he sees them find happiness and sees the positive influence he had on them. Then He brings Stuart’s focus, his worry about his daughters now relieved, to the rest of us, and He shows Stuart all of these tributes. He shows the poetic messages of Scott Van Pelt, Tony Reali and so many others, the tears behind closed doors of random sports fans and grown men around the country who grew up watching him, and the memorable way the seat at last night’s SportsCenter was left open in memory of him. The God turns to Stuart and says something.
“You see? You made the world so much of a better place. You worked hard and you endured a lot; only you and I know truly how much. But look at what you did. I put you on that earth to do something, sure, but more importantly I put you there to inspire. Look at the good you inspired. I’m proud of you.” 🙂
And as for all of us, dear world:
The way we’ve honored this man should make us proud too. We’ve done well by him. I’m proud of us. 🙂