In the medical field; and in life; you see so many amazingly brave and kind people battling diseases. Their courage is never seen or talked about. They worry about their families and are selfless in their battle. People in the news also have those battles. Some choose to fight them publicly; some privately.
For Craig Sager he somewhat had no choice. In today’s hyper sensitive society which judges anything that is seen or done; especially on television; Craig Sager was seen all the time. For him though he wanted to show that you can fight things with strength. determination and with a sense of humor. He knew every move he did would be watched but that he would always just be himself. Little did anyone know how much this would touch people.
Craig Sager was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2014 and it was obvious that he was not going to be working the 2014 NBA playoffs. The severity of the disease and the diagnosis hit the NBA and Turner television family hard. Without treatment he had 3 to 6 months to live. Even with treatment this form of cancer was very aggressive and the long term prognosis was not good.
While his father was out, in a moving scene Craig’s son Craig Jr. interviewed the surly coach of the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich. His nastiness to reporters is of legend. During the interview Gregg was very kind and showed a lot of love to Craig Jr. but he added that he would rather have Sr. there instead.
Along the way #sagerstrong began to pop up on Twitter. People would see news stories of Sager in his extremely upbeat battle with the disease. He was positive even through the worst of times. He had an amazing 3 bone marrow transplants and went through chemotherapy along the way.
His daughter Kacy didn’t seem too pleased with her dad at one time on Twitter. In the middle of an 8 day chemotherapy session Craig drove 3 hours to do the Oklahoma Thunder-San Antonio Spurs game after a treatment.
“My dad is in the middle of 8 days of chemo, drove 3.5 hours from HOU to SA to work this game, driving back in the am. Absurd. Meanwhile my roommate called out of work because she feels like crap”
The whole NBA community was pulling for Craig. During the playoffs that he missed, for one day the entire Turner team dressed in crazy suits like Craig. Many even from other networks did it. It was an amazing show of support to a man that was battling so hard.
Charles Barkley had hip replacement surgery and was told he could not fly for a while. When he heard Craig’s wife Stacy had a cold and could no longer be in the room with Craig, Charles hopped on a plane and visited. “Craig Sager is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. You go to visit him to cheer him up and his attitude is so upbeat he cheers you up”.
Craigs shining moment was his story and then speech about fighting cancer at the Espy’s, the annual award ceremony ESPN does. He was given the Jimmy V award in honor of former North Carolina St. coach Jim Valvano who passed away of cancer. The Jimmy V foundation has raised millions for cancer research.
His appreciation to the Turner broadcasting team for helping him to keep working was one of the first things he talked about. In a day when corporations seem to have no morals, character or heart, he appreciated their amazing support.
Craig talked about living with passion and having fun. Fighting it with a great attitude and fire and how that attitude can help the way you act.
When Craig first started he took a lot of ribbing. Some didn’t take him seriously due to his crazy suits. But in time people realized he was real. He was fun, kind, hard working and loyal. He loved life and loved and appreciated people. He took his job seriously and loved the NBA and the whole experience. He loved the hustle and bustle of his job but he never took himself too seriously.
In reality what we loved about Craig Sager is he was how we wanted our athletes and our news people to be. In a day with so many scandals, arrogance, pettiness and dysfunctional actions, we loved that Craig was kind, caring and full of fun. He was vulnerable and humble and kind in a way that made us feel connected to him. An everyman.
Craig was given a terrible sentence and he battled an amazing 2 years. I’m sure the doctors didn’t expect him to last that long but Craig did it in a way that inspired millions. Our family like all of yours, has probably been through the pains of cancer. I’ve sat with patients as they died. I’ve sat with loved ones as they took their last breath. The torturous battle that is sometimes seen in cancer is a battle that so many have endured.
But in the end it’s not how people die that matters; it’s how they lived. How we fight the battles and how we touch others doing it. We’ve seen the tragedies but we’ve also seen the courage and triumph. The passionate battles and the perseverance through treatment and adversity. The amazing human spirit that is seen in people that never get the publicity or the attention during their quiet battles.
Reporters give tribute to Craig Sager
To all of you battling, I pray for you deeply and hope that one day they will find better treatments which lead to finding cures. And for loved ones and those with cancer, I say one thing. Stay Sager Strong and live with all you have no matter how long the time.