Craig Sager passed away today at the age of 65 after a long bout with cancer.
I don’t think Craig Sager needs any introduction to someone who finds themselves reading these words. He was the voice of the NBA on TNT sidelines, a beloved figure in the sports community, and someone who attacked life with positivity and love. Cancer plays no favorites, and today he sadly passed away.
It’s a weird feeling, losing someone in your life that you never met. Craig did not know me, nor did I know him personally, but the world (and our connections in it) often times stretch farther than the physical state.
I’ve been reading this a lot today. You should too. It is an old article from 2014 written by Jake when we were both students at Springfield College. I don’t know if he knows this, but after that article was posted I found myself texting him for what might have been the first time. We were not close friends, barely had spoken, and I didn’t even really like Phillip Seymour Hoffman. For some reason I felt a connection to that article, and told him about it. The inability to describe how you are supposed to feel when someone ‘in’ your life passes away that you never met is something I think my fragile and dramatic emotional state needed an explanation on. It’s confusing, but necessary.
…we never had the chance to meet these people but once they’re gone they’re no more or no less alive to us than they were while living… -Jake 2014
Reopening it today made me realize that the same thing applied to me when Craig Sager passed away and it hit my timeline on twitter. A sudden wave of grief and sadness that wasn’t really explicable to anyone in my vicinity at the time. Am I okay? Yea sure, I didn’t know him.
It was completely bizarre to me. How was I supposed to feel about it? I had no idea and that was making me upset. – Jake 2014
Working in sports means that most of what you do gets repetitive and becomes annoying. Who wants to write 45 articles on Ryan Lochte in Brazil or speculate about Tony Romo for a month? Getting into this business was supposed to become an outlet for expression through the concept of sports, not condensing emotionless takes into one hundred words or less. It becomes mundane, saturated, and boring after a while.
Now, tell me one time you looked at Craig Sager and thought he was boring, repetitive, or annoying? The camera would pan to him, and with the biggest smile you have seen since your little brother on Christmas he was there ready to update you on the recent cramp LeBron James suffered as if he was in charge of consumer morale and not sideline updates.
By all accounts he was the same way off the court. There are stories from every member of the NBA community about a time that Sager made their day better. He famously kicked out multiple nurses from his room at the hospital for not being happy enough. He wore suits with bright colors just to get you to smile.
Positivity, which he proved is contagious as any virus, seemed to radiate off of his skin with an infectious nature that no real world issue could vaccinate.
When his time finally came, he fought some more. When the time FINALLY came, he fought more. Today, he did not lose, he simply passed into the next place to brighten up the day of those he contacted there.
So how are we supposed to feel about all of it. There really isn’t a culminating answer to that, because obviously everyone processes news a different way. When you don’t know somebody, you can not claim to be depressed or leave work early. You can’t sulk around and go get too drunk at a bar because of your loss.
But what you can do is understand that the world is seldom blessed with people who smile so genuinely. When there are problems that exist in the lives of every single breathing person, the people that change the world do all they can to seek out love. Craig Sager was able to approach each day with the goal in mind that he could leave every individual happier than they were before his interaction.
That was what made his job so special. He was in charge of collecting information from athletes to benefit the viewing audience within a span of a minute at most, from men currently in the midst of performing a highly demanding task. No easy task at all, but the minute a player or coach came into contact with Craig, that light went on, and they saw him smile as if he was about to crack up laughing as he asked the first question regardless of subject, they smiled in return.
Look at every single player or coach in the images above alongside Sager. Smiles. Happiness. The brink of laughter.
So yea, none of us knew Craig Sager like those in his immediate circle did. We don’t mourn his loss the way we would some of them surely are. But he matter to us.
He mattered to me.
In a place and time where cynicism sells, controversy sparks revenue, and people walk around with their face to the sidewalk, Sager was rich in a form of currency that isn’t accepted in most places. He will not live on with us to face whatever is next in our lives, and the nature of his work does not allow us to go back and watch him extensively perform his craft, but his message is one that will never become outdated.
I will end with this.
Jake talked a lot in the piece I linked to earlier (also here) about the idea of dying a second death. When you pass away and then your name passes away afterwards. You cease to exist past a few generations of spoken word memories, and then what? Then, well, I don’t know. That’s sort of why this site exists.
In the case of Craig Sager, I just hope he accomplished whatever it was he set out for. He won’t be dying the second death anytime soon.
Thank you, Craig. Rest in Peace.