Last night, ESPN broadcast the 2014 ESPYs, the award show it ingeniously made up in 1993 that has become part money grab, part sincere celebration of sport, and part excuse to get tons of athletes and celebrities in the same room for some light-hearted fun (the Drake v. Blake skit is one for the ages). And while ESPY audiences still have to endure hackneyed monologues by the likes of Aubrey “Drake” Graham, because of the unique nature of the event, there have actually been some truly touching moments that have taken place in years past (someone somewhere is currently watching Jimmy Valvano’s speech from the 1993 ESPYs and claiming that they just have really bad allergies).
And last night was no exception.
In between finding out that the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks won Best Team and that LeBron James hadn’t published his essay in a timely enough manner for ESPN to take away Best NBA Athlete from Kevin Durant, there were two amazing speeches given; one by Michael Sam who won the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, and one by Stuart Scott who has been privately fighting cancer for seven years and who was honored with the Jimmy V Award.
Sam could barely get through his speech without breaking down himself, but he made sure his message was heard:
“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
And Scott, the most eloquent man to consistently use the phrase “Booyah,” was celebrated for his remarkable, unrelenting fight against cancer.
We learned that Scott had spent a full week in the hospital with liver complications, kidney failure, and four surgeries in the span of about a week. We were reminded that “this whole fight, this journey thing is not a solo venture; this is something that requires support.” But more importantly, Scott was given his own “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up” moment:
“When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live. So live. Live. Fight like hell.”
The concept of professional sports is one of the preposterous things about our society when you really start to nitpick it, but it’s simultaneously one of the last forum where we can see true emotional theater take place. Beyond all the debates about Richard Sherman’s mouth and LeBron James’ Decisions, it’s moments like these that help keep sports lovers hearts beating. This is why we don’t give up on it, and why we never will.
By the way, once you’re done wiping away the tears after that Stuart Scott speech and you feel the need to do something to help, you can donate to The V Foundation here.