It’s a sad day today in the professional sports world as Craig Sager lost his battle with leukemia. Despite being a mere sideline reporter, Sager was influential to me in terms of a being a career man who maintained a work-life balance (and phenomenal work ethic) while pursuing his passion. He was probably most known for his absurd fashion sense, but I admired him for his earnestness, persistence, and diligence. He put a lot of work into his craft, becoming quite possibly the most fearless reporter to ever grace a basketball court. Even the most consistently irritated coach in the world, Gregg Popovich, considered Sager a friend and colleague.
Stars would poke fun at his wacky outfits, but athletes enjoyed being interviewed by Sager. They always consented – no matter the time or situation – and they would seemingly answer with more grace and poise than how they would if they were under other circumstances. The way that Sager could look (ridiculous) and act (happy-go-lucky, constantly smiling) while commanding respect from millionaire athletes, fuming coaches, and competitive colleagues, was nothing short of impressive. After two stem cell transplants and three bone marrow transplants – and bald, sick, and tired – Sager went back to work.
I fell in love with Sager during his ESPY speech this year (on winning the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance) where he, sick as all hell and fighting back tears, told the world he was going to beat cancer or die trying. But more importantly, that he would continue to live his life, his way, on his terms, in the face of great adversity. It’s hard not to respect someone for that. Sager was truly proof that it’s not the suit that makes the man, but the man that makes the suit. Rest in peace.
“I always see the glass half full, I see the beauty in others, and I see hope for tomorrow. If we don’t have hope and faith, we have nothing. I have the greatest appreciation for life, so I will never give up. I will never give in. I will continue to keep fighting. I will suck the marrow out of life, as life sucks the marrow out of me. I will continue to live my life full of love, and full of fun. It’s the only way I know how.”