There are few things that have my undying allegiance and love. My faith, my family and my alma mater basically sums it up. Recently my school has endured the loss of two great figures. Stuart Scott and Dean Smith were memorable in their own regard and will forever be missed for the impressions they left and the advancements they achieved.
While I never met Stuart, listening to him talk on campus about his time as an undergrad and his personal story as a journalist was inspiring. He seemed so humble and down to earth and now that I look back on that day he seemed to be in awe of his own success. He never let his battle with cancer define him. The outpouring of love and support that he received upon his passing was overwhelming. He was a man who is known for pushing the envelope at ESPN and being the first voice that many African-Americans related to. One of the last memories he left before he passed was his inspiring acceptance speech at the 2014 ESPYs about not giving up. These are words that we should all hear and take to heart. They remind you to uphold a better perspective on your personal situation and to try to find joy even when you’re down.
I had the great fortune of meeting Dean Smith during my undergrad years when I was a waitress at a private on campus restaurant (yes, Carolina is boogie). It was a slow lunch day and the managers decided to put me on a VIP table that afternoon. [I should explain that this restaurant is basically where people who are financially comfortable (as you have to pay monthly membership dues to eat at this restaurant – haha I can’t make this stuff up!) stop to eat when they find themselves on campus.] I had a great time. It was fun talking to this older gentleman who loved the Arnold Palmer’s that I made and the light banter I had with the table. I had no idea I met or served Dean Smith. In my simple logic I thought I was serving a dean at the school who had the last name ‘Smith’. I failed to realize that this was a man who had a stadium named after him a few feet away. I failed to realize that I was not only serving a legendary coach, but I was also serving his former assistant coach who made it big and a former UNC turned NBA player that played under him (I learned all of this after they left and the rest of the staff filled me in). I just thought I was serving an adorable older gentleman and a potential former basketball player (I at least guessed that – the dude was massive). I can’t help it that I grew up in Alabama and football was still the only sport on my mind – oops!
That interaction just attested to the character that so many people have spoken of when reflecting on their memories of this man. He had a way of making you feel like his equal and as if he knew you. He had an interest in my Carolina experience and I am grateful I met him. Many memories during my four years come and go, but this is one of those special moments I will always hold dear because it was so unexpected. In hindsight I realize how special that hour was and in hindsight I am grateful I didn’t know who he was because I would have DEFINITELY ruined it in some way, shape or fashion.
As I think about these two men, I think about the latest episode I watched of House of Cards (Season 1 Episode 13) where Claire asks her husband Frank when they die, “what do we leave behind?” That is a question that I’m sure many people ponder from time to time and a question that we can all hopefully answer with time. These two men made a huge impact on modern-day sports and media, but left lasting impressions on the Carolina community. These two men will forever be missed and remembered by Carolina, and I am proud to be associated with an institution that remembers and honors men like these.
Song of the Day: What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong