Cool as the other side of the pillow

Published 12:05 pm Sunday, January 11, 2015

I lost two friends, and ironically, I lost them exactly one month apart.

Stuart Scott you know about, and more – much more – on him later in this missive.

But Stuart’s passing made me also remember fellow sportswriter Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. Bryan was one of the nicest guys you’d ever want meet.  I first met him at a journalists’ convention, and later when we were both covering a Carolina Panthers’ football game.  As we were walking into what was then called Ericsson Stadium, where two huge stone statues of ferocious-looking Panthers – the four-legged kind – stand like sentries guarding a chateau, he turned to me and remarked, “Don’t they look like something out of ‘The Exorcist’, Damien’s bodyguards or something”?  I smiled, and nodded in agreement, but that was so Bryan: tripping over something the rest of us take for granted.

Bryan died Dec. 4 at age 59 of – what else? – cancer. I’m all too familiar with that disease. It claimed both my parents.  The painful reality of cancer is that you know the day will come when you must say goodbye to somebody you love and usually when you aren’t ready to let go.

Like Stuart, Bryan was black, he was a pioneer, and he was my hero.

Stuart Scott died on Jan. 4, one month after Bryan.

Stuart and I had a bond because we were both Tar Heels. Another Tar Heel friend recalled some of the best of Stuart Scott etched indelibly in memory, just a few of the best were:

– Yelling at security and telling them to let me and my coworkers on to the Sportscenter set on South Beach during Super Bowl week in 2010…

– Telling no less than Michael Jordan himself that “we ain’t playing cards with you no more” because his bank was too big during the annual golf trip to Hilton Head before the Bulls’ training camp…

– Saying “who me” (and meaning it) when someone asked him for an autograph at the Michael Jordan Golf Tourney in Greenville (always a fav!)…

– Just being a good dude…

When I was in television sports back in Wilmington, Stuart sent me an audition tape.  Sadly, our company wasn’t hiring at the time, but I told Stuart I would keep him in mind and if he ever needed a reference he could call on me.

Years later, some co-workers interviewed Stuart in Myrtle Beach during Hootie & the Blowfish’s annual “Monday After the Masters” Golf Tournament. When they told him they were from the TV station in Wilmington, Stuart told them about the time I “turned him down for a job” (not exactly how it happened, but….).  Then he laughed and asked about me.

When I returned to the Roanoke-Chowan area several years ago I called Stuart because I was contemplating a “career-move.” I’m glad I took his advice to keep going, because that’s why you’re reading this story.

Stuart had a brilliant “I Have A Dream” moment. It was when he received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at last year’s ESPYS.  Just like Jim Valvano that night, you wonder how the man could even stand up, much less make it onto a stage, yet there they both were seizing the moment and becoming empowered by the love of the audience for not just showing up, but showing their courage.  When he appeared on that same stage as Coach V, Stuart owned the moment while he was subtly telling us goodbye. Coach V’s toss-off was “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” Stuart’s was “Have a great rest of your night, have a great rest of your life.”

He made a lot of those crazy catch phrases that a lot of people didn’t understand.  Sometimes I understood the phrases, I just didn’t understand why he was exposing them to so broad audience who didn’t.  Silly me, not realizing that’s how the world becomes enlightened.  Wow, you mean it’s not flat after all!?!

I even used one of those catch phrases just a week ago: “Call them butter, because they’re on a roll”.  And shame on me, I didn’t even give Stuart credit.

I’ll miss the Boo-Yows, the “Cool as the other side of the pillow”; I’ll miss “De Lawd said to Rise Up”, and I’ll even miss Pookie & Ray-Ray.

But more than that, I’m gonna miss my friend.  I’m gonna miss both of them.

 Gene Motley is a Staff Writer with Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.