If we had more people like John Saunders, we wouldn’t have this violence and the hate. John was about one word. Love.
The news hit sports media, particularly those at ESPN, like a ton of bricks.
One of the most respected and beloved anchors in the business had suddenly died. The cause of death was’t given. There was no need. John Saunders was gone.
When someone famous dies, people naturally take to social media to share their reactions. Or, in the case of me, I read others’ reactions. Not in some kind of morbid way. But, rather, to understand the person.
How people react to someone’s death says a lot about the person. What kind of person were they? What did they do for others? Positive stories. Negative stories. Funny stories. Special moments. Are people feeling the loss? Or, is it simply “RIP”.
I always want to know what makes people tick. Who are they?
Be present. Love them first and last and through whatever comes in the middle.
~Scott Van Pelt (on Saunders’ parental advice to him)
As I began to read through various tweets, I began to get an understanding of a man I’d never met. Oh sure, I’d see Saunders every week on my tv or streaming device during college football season, but I had no idea who he was. Most of us never will know who the people are on the inside when the lights are off.
ESPN’ers and non-ESPN’ers spoke of a kind, genuine, helpful soul. Yet, he was a professional. Saunders wasn’t one for big-timing people or pushing his own personal agenda to the masses. He was skillful, according to many. But, there was one word that kept echoing through my mind as I read all of the messages.
John Saunders was respected by his peers. John Saunders was also respectful of his peers.
And, by all accounts, he was respectful of people in general.
Young students, take this from John Saunders:
1) Be nice to everyone
2) Laugh and have fun (it's sports!)
3) Don't make rage an act. Mean it
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) August 10, 2016
Respect is a lost characteristic today. Far too often in today’s social media world, it’s become about being right and setting people straight when their opinion differs from ours. If they’re wrong, or they tell us we (God forbid) are wrong, it’s our duty, no OUR RIGHT to tell them as much.
Yes, that is sarcasm. Hard to tell in written word, isn’t it?
That mindset, however justified in some cases, hinders dialogue. It hinders our ability to not only listen, but evaluate what someone is actually trying to say. Why are they saying what they are saying? What has shaped their thinking? Why do they believe what they believe? Who are they?
I try to ask myself those questions when I read some of the so-called discourse and conversations that take place on social media. I used to get involved, but it seems (my perspective) that most people don’t want to hear an opposing viewpoint. They don’t want to listen. They simply want to speak.
And that’s what social media has done. It’s given people a voice. But, somewhere along the way, the voice has become paramount. When that happens, respect is lost.
See, if we don’t have respect for one another, it makes it hard to listen. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are different levels of respect. The kind of respect that I am talking about is respecting the fact that we are all human beings. I may not agree with you, but I am (trying to get to this place consistently where I am) willing to listen to you with respect because you are a human being.
I (try to) value what you have to say because I value you as a human being. A human life who is just as worthy as me of being heard. No person is too big or small. We all start out the same as a human life, so why should we disrespect each other?
That’s my take away from what was said about John Saunders. He had respect for people. It didn’t matter if they were a new intern or a seasoned broadcast veteran, a waitress at a restaurant or a national politician, a college student or a tenured professor – he respected you as a human being.
Saunders made time for you as often as he could. He knew who he was and strived to help you find out who you were too – a key element in this sports media industry we work in.
All I can say is that there are a lot of people on tv who have their own agenda. They’re in it for themselves. But, his main message last Friday at NABJ, was he wanted and accepted the role of being a mentor.
Our country, our world is changing at a rapid pace. Some good, some not. Many fret over where we are at and want change now. If we truly want change, it begins and ends with respect.
Want to help out this generation and the next? Be someone that respects self and others. Be one that respects opposing viewpoints. Be one that respectfully dialogues. Be one that respects human life no matter what. Be one that teaches our children to do the same.
Like it or not, we’re all in this together. Let’s work together, despite our differences, to build a better world for us and the next generations. Respect should be the cornerstone of our foundation.
And when our days are gone from this earth, may the words spoken about us be like those said about John Saunders this past week.
That we exemplified love and above all else, respect.