Were there any dry eyes in the house last night, July 16, after the first openly gay football star, Michael Sam, and cancer-stricken ESPN anchor, Stuart Scott, poured out their hearts in emotional, highly courageous speeches at the ESPY Awards? Hooray for Stuart and Michael for not being afraid to reveal their most personal struggles in order to inspire others.
Stuart Scott and Michael Sam both brought the ESPYs audience to its feet, by speaking with eloquent candor about their life struggles. Scott, 48, a dad of two daughters, has been battling for his life against a deadly form of appendiceal cancer since 2007. Michael, 24, had fought his way out of a childhood of poverty and dysfunction, using football as his anchor, to become the captain of the University of Missouri football team. Then, just before the NFL draft began this year, he risked his chances of ever having a NFL career by making the brave decision to come out as gay.
Stuart Scott & Michael Sam: Showed Courage at ESPYs With Battle Against Cancer & Coming Out
Stuart was awarded the Jimmy V Perserverance Award, named after the legendary college basketball coach, Jim Valvano, who died of bone cancer 21 years ago in 1993. Michael received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, given in memory of the great Arthur Ashe, the first prominent African American tennis player and anti-apartheid activist who died of AIDS in 1992. And these two men deserved their honors in every way.
Stuart revealed that he shockingly had just been in the hospital before the ESPYs for 10 days, had undergone four operations, and suffered kidney and liver failure. “I didn’t even know if I could make it here. I couldn’t fight,” he confessed. “But the doctors and nurses could, the people I loved and my friends and family, they could.”
Stuart shared the motto he’s used to fuel the fight for his life: “The most poignant seven words ever –‘ don’t give up, don’t ever give up!'”
It’s a philosophy that anyone and everyone should use — we all have struggles in our lives. But for cancer victims, Stuart had very specific inspiration: “Even if you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer.”
Now listen to his wise words: “You beat cancer by how you live, while you live, and in the manner in which you live. So live. Live. And fight like hell.”
Stuart has been taking his own advice and fighting like hell to live. He loves his job as a charismatic ESPN anchor for SportsCenter, he loves keeping himself in fit, fighting shape using cross-training workouts, but most of all, he told the audience that he is fighting like hell to be a dad to his two daughters, Sydni, 19, and Taelor, 14.
“I can’t ever give up because I can’t leave my daughters. I love you girls more than I will ever be able to express. You are my heartbeat,” he spoke out. Heartbreakingly, he has spoken often in the past about his intense determination to live so that he can be there for his girls:
“That’s really what I’ve always wanted and need with them, for them, is to be a dad for a long time, for as long as they need a father.
Michael Sam & Stuart Scott At ESPYs: Inspiring Others With Their Examples Of True Courage
Michael Sam, like Stuart Scott, hasn’t just been living for himself. His decision to go public as a gay-and-proud football player wasn’t just made to be honest and to quash rumors. He also felt strongly about standing up for others who might not have his advantages.
“The way I see it, my responsibility, at this moment in history, is to stand up for everyone out there who wants nothing but to be themselves openly. [...] It’s amazing to think that by doing what we can, we can all touch, change, and even save lives.”
Michael already possibly saved a life. He was asked to speak to a young woman who had considered committing suicide because she was gay and couldn’t face revealing the truth about her sexuality, to her family. “When we spoke, she had told me she would never consider killing herself again, and that somehow my example helped her” he confessed in his incredibly moving speech.
Michael’s battle for acceptance as an openly gay man, a defensive end, in the NFL (and, yes, it did appear to have hurt his draft chances, though he was picked up by the St. Louis Rams in the 7th round) was not his first major life battle.
His whole life has been a an enormous challenge, as one of eight children raised by a single mom. Two of his brothers are dead already, one from a gun shot wound, two others are in jail, and one of his sisters died as a baby.
Football was his savior, propelling him through high school in the small town of Hitchcock, Texas, and into the University of Missouri. He is extremely proud to be the first member of his family to go to, and graduate, from college. He has said that he endured so much family tragedy in the past that “telling the world [he's] gay is nothing compared to that.”
Not that coming out has been the least bit easy for Michael. He told the crowd that he has felt like he’s been living in “a massive storm.” After all, macho sports culture hasn’t exactly been historically warm and welcoming to athletes courageous enough to come out.
Michael’s pro-football career, one he desperately wanted and needed, could have ended with his announcement. Yet he went ahead and bravely chose to be honest and chose to try and set an example for other men and women hiding their true sexuality. For that reason, he absolutely deserved the ESPYs honor he received.
He kept himself grounded during the storm by heeding words of wisdom from Arthur Ashe: “Start where are, use what you have, and do what you can.” Michael used his physical talents and mental strength to learn from his football mentors. He used football to get him out of small-town Texas and into college. And now he’s using his position as a role model to inspire others to live honestly.
He’s using what he has and doing what he can. Stuart Scott is refusing to give up and is fighting like hell to live. Everyone can find inspiration and motivation from these two heroes!
Don’t you agree, HollywoodLifers? Are Stuart Scott and Michael Sam incredible examples of courage? Let me know!
– Bonnie Fuller
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