Just be a father first. Just Be Dad.

by Jeff Jenkins

“You win at life by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live!”
– Stuart Scott

I wish I could lay claim to the quote above. When I heard it this weekend while watching SportsCenter, it reverberated in my soul. What inspirational words to live by, work by and most importantly, parent by.

Just Be Dad 01-09It was taken from a speech given recently by Stuart Scott while accepting the 2014 Jimmy V Perseverance Award during the July 16, 2014 ESPY Award show. Watch it here.

As most of you are aware by now, Scott, an ESPN anchor for nearly 22 years, passed away this past weekend after a battle with cancer. By all accounts from his friends, peers and family, his fight against the disease was heroic. But more importantly, he lived life with a gusto and bravado that was second to none—prior to and since his cancer diagnosis in 2007. As I watched ESPN on Sunday and heard personal reflections from his colleagues, I couldn’t help noticing a common theme among the testimonies: He was a father first.

Admittedly, I can’t speak to his character, parenting skills or any other personal attributes first-hand, so I’ll simply pass along the thoughts of those who knew him best. Scott Van Pelt, another ESPN anchor, colleague and friend of Stuart’s, gave an amazing testimony to Stuart’s love for his kids:

“He would always talk about ‘em – cause they’re his heart. So much pride. The love’s beyond; any parent would understand it. But his was just so profound and evident and he was just so willing to share it—in ways [that] might be embarrassing to his daughters, but he didn’t give a … you know!? Sydni and Taelor, he was going to be proud of them and talk about them—and he did! And um, it breaks my freakin’ heart in half, man. [emphasis added]”

I love how Michael Wilbon, co-host of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, reflected on his friendship with Stuart and some fathering advice that Stuart gave him about Just Being Dad:

“You have to believe what I’m about to tell you. You have to enjoy all the stuff you think you’re going to hate about becoming a dad. Enjoy giving him a bath. Enjoy changing his stinky diapers. Enjoy getting peed on. Enjoy him drooling on your favorite tie just as you’re about to walk out of the house to go on the air. Enjoy all of it. Be a hands-on dad. Enjoy it when he spills stuff all over you and when you get a pair of feet in your back when you haven’t had any sleep.”

Wilbon went on to say that, to this day, that’s the most memorable counsel he has received on fatherhood, and he still gives the same advice from Stuart to newly expecting dads.

Enough said, right? “Can I get a witness from the congregation!?” (Had to throw it out there…)

While Stuart Scott was my favorite sports anchor for his witty one-liners like “It’s your world, kid. The rest of us just payin’ rent,” or my personal favorite “Cool as the other side of the pillow,” I am inspired as a father by the way he lived his life and loved his daughters. One of the excerpts from his Espy Awards speech that truly resonated with me was,

“The best thing I’ve done—the best thing I will ever do, is be a dad to Taelor and Sydni.
It’s true. I can’t ever give up, because I can’t leave my daughters…”

If you’re reading this and you have a pulse, I know that reaches you as it did me.

When you’re gone, what do you want your friends and family to say about you as a father?

I want to encourage you, dad, no matter where you are on your fathering journey, to be present in your kids’ lives in the same way Stuart was for his kids. I’m sure he wasn’t perfect, but while he was a witty anchor to his fans, he was always a father first.

There are no perfect dads.  There’s no secret formula.


Download our FREE Tools for the Journey resource Five Tips for Dads Who Travel.

I and the NCF team express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Stuart Scott. May God comfort you all.

Jeff JenkinsJeff Jenkins is a friend and former staff member of the National Center for Fathering. He and his wife, Kelley, were married in 2003. Jeff’s #1 passion in life is being a dad to his two amazing kids. Every day Jeff fills dual roles as his daughter’s Prince Charming and his son’s Superhero.

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There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.