Always Die in 3’s?

January05/ 2015

We started it 7-8 years ago – the “Celebrities Always Die in Three’s” game.  Celebrities DO indeed “die in 3’s”.  No one knows why.  Sometimes, of course, more than 3…. Sometimes less than 3 at a time.  Sometime 3.

The trick to this macabre socio-cultural parlour game is (1) Who is “a celebrity” and (2) how long a period of time is measured between the first and the third reported passing.   Duke Snider NOT counting was a travesty.  “Little Jimmy” Dickens might not count (he should).   “Ellie Mae Clampett” and Stuart Scott will count.

BREAKING NEWS:  (11:00 AM Tues)…. The Official “Chizik Investigation” is underway.   “We don’t want another John Blake Mess” quotes a high-ranking UNC official. …. LINK.

“We” are Blondie and I and her brothers’ families.   The rules are fluid.  Someone dies and one of us emails the rest to ask “does _____ count?”  The age range of our group spans about 25 years which is how Duke Snider “didn’t count”.   I think Slim Whitman did count.   Whether “a 11120379Kardashian” would count will say a lot about the perilous state of American culture.   Mario Cuomo did count.   Sports and political partisanship is not suppose to be a factor.   How many Andy Warhol minutes the deceased had earned in his/her field of endeavor is the determinant.

I met Stuart Scott in passing dozens of times in the late 90s / early 2000s.   That period was the golden era of celebrity golf tournaments.   I was involved in the production and staging of these events across the country from The Bob Hope in Palm Springs to The Jimmy V and 100+ others of much lesser renown.

A qualifying question for the “prestige” of an event was the “which one” factor.   You get a copy of the pairing sheet and peruse the members of each fivesome.   If you have to ask which one is the celebrity? more than six times you are not at “a biggie”.   Do enough of these events and one becomes a trivia expert in the category of obscure soap opera actors.  I swear The Guiding Light was “the cradle” of obscure celebrity golfers.

In the top tier of these events there was a traveling squad of celebrities “on the circuit”.   Stuart Scott was a regular I would run into 4-5 times a year.   Kevin “Hercules” Sorbo and former Panther tight end Wesley Walls were others who immediately come to mind.   We would run into one another in the hospitality suites and/or on the putting greens and compare “this one” to assorted other events and ask “you gonna be at _______ next month?”   Bill “Goldberg” the NWA wrestler was a personal favorite of mine.   Goldberg and “Hercules” were, likely still are, great guys as are 90% of the guys “on the circuit”.

Do a dozen of these events and you’ve done’em all.  Do over 100 and you forget where you are.   HINT:  NEVER use the local DJ at the local “rock station” as your 1st Tee announcer.   They think they are the reason for the show and blabber waaaay too much trying to be cute.   I have a long list of other “rules” but this is suppose to be sortof about Stuart Scott.

You all know that Stuart Scott passed away yesterday after an extended well-publicized bout with cancer.   Most of you also know that Stuart was a UNC alum from the late 80s.  I can’t eulogize Stuart Scott because my contact with him was way too superficial.   He was genuinely friendly and able to “work a crowd” with the well-practiced casual professionalism one would expect from someone in the broadcasting biz.  His crowd repartee was not contrived.  That’s not always the case.

A number of his Sportscenter teammates did these events – Chris Berman, Dan Patrick, Kenny Maine, et al.   They were all adept at socializing with the paying customers and spectators.

I could draw comparisons between Stuart Scott and Jimmy V but mentioning “Jimmy V” to this audience is like that old vaudeville skit “Niagara Falls…. slowly I turned….” I would rather not endure that today.   Both were famous sports celebrities with ties to this area who left us too early. Both taken away by a terrible disease that pays no mind to its random victims’ age, fame, wealth, power, potential etc.

I see those commercials for St Jude’s Hospital and get a lump in my throat.   Children and their families fighting to not be taken away from this life before they even have a chance to achieve fame or just to live a full life.

Stuart Scott reported sports with a tongue-in-cheek irreverance.   His eulogizers are referring to his “hip hop” style and all his catch phrases.   He was a pioneer for African-American sports reporters.

I am convinced that 93% of one-liners that coaches use when smoozing with Fat Cats were actually “invented” by Wake Forest’s Peahead Walker back in the 40-50s.   Stuart Scott and Chris Berman added dozens of phrases to the lexicon of sports conversation.

When the current wave of eulogies and rememberances of Stuart Scott subside, and they will within 72 hours, what will be left as Stuart Scott’s enduring legacy will be his catch phrases.  As a word merchant myself, I think that is very cool.

For all the differences that separate us in ever-increasing numbers of way, Death and Dying is the constant that affects us all.

A line I often leave in my silly talks to civic clubs is:

 “So you think your team’s win or loss was a Big Deal, huh?  So you are all revved up for the upcoming Big Game, huh?  How Big a Deal will all that be if you get a call right now that a biopsy for you or a loved-one came back positive?  …… or as a parent you get a call at 2 AM that your son/daughter has been in a bad traffic accident?” ….. Huh?”

Being a sports fan is an easy entertaining escape from the realities of Life….. be those realities in relationships, occupational, or health.   Sports is “just games”.

The “E” in ESPN stands for Entertainment.
Stuart Scott’s Life and his Death remind us of that.


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