If I’ve figured one thing out during all a years I’ve worked in journalism, it is that those who are a best during what they do frequency need to be told, or tell others, usually how good they are.
They usually know.
John Saunders, who died unexpected and shockingly Wednesday during a age of 61, was one of those people.
Saunders worked during ESPN for 30 years. He could do anything and all well, either it was play-by-play; hosting pre-and postgame shows or hosting, ”The Sports Reporters.” His operation was remarkable. He was as skilful during doing a WNBA and a NHL as he was college football or basketball.
Hockey competence have been his best sport. A Canadian, he had grown adult personification a game, and his eyes always illuminated adult when a theme arose.
Saunders was a man each researcher wanted to work with for dual reasons. First, his ego was such that he had no problem environment adult his analysts to be a stars of a broadcast, lobbing questions that done those he worked with sound smart. Second, he was a fun to be around.
Saunders was a conflicting of someone who thinks being on TV creates we unequivocally important. Everyone else was critical to him and we felt that a notation we walked into a room with him.
I worked with John for dual years on “The Sports Reporters.” He had been asked to do a impossible: reinstate Dick Schaap after Dick’s genocide in 2001. Schaap was “The Sports Reporters” — a rest of us who did a uncover frequently in those days were planets encircling his sun.
And yet, Saunders done it work. Why? Because he never attempted to be Schaap. He never felt a need to put his possess symbol on a show. He was calm to be himself: smart, funny, prepared. Schaap’s shutting essays were singular since he could legitimately dump Muhammad Ali, Bob Knight and Billy Crystal into a one-minute explanation though sounding like he was name-dropping. John never did that: He usually gave we 60 seconds of insight.
What’s more, John never felt a need to infer he was a smartest man on a set. He was a indicate ensure who done everybody better.
The final time we spent extended time with John was a small some-more than a year ago when we was researching, “The Legends Club.” John had turn one of Jim Valvano’s closest friends when they worked together during ESPN, both in-studio and while doing games together on a road.
I called John and explained a devise and pronounced I’d be happy to accommodate him someplace nearby where he lived in Westchester.
“When are we going to be in New York next?” he asked. “I’ll come to city and accommodate you.”
Typical John: Making it easy for a other guy.
We met during a west side deli since John was never one to go to some upscale place where he competence be recognized. For dual hours, he talked about Valvano, whom he had come to consider of as an comparison brother.
Twice, he pennyless down. The initial time was describing his initial sanatorium revisit with Valvano in 1992. After initial being diagnosed with cancer in Jun 1992, Valvano was being treated during Sloan-Kettering. When Saunders went to see him, he was repelled by how diseased Valvano looked, and it strike him tough that Valvano hadn’t been joking when he had pronounced to him on a phone, “I consider I’m going to die.”
“You have to remember: Jim joked about everything,” John pronounced that day. “I remember when he pronounced that to me we said, ‘Jim, don’t fun around about this; it’s not funny.’
“He said, ‘John, I’m not joking.’ When we saw him that day, we knew he’d been serious. It usually ravaged me. But while we was there Pam [Valvano’s wife] and a girls [Valvano had 3 daughters] were also there and a feeling a 4 of them so clearly had for him unequivocally desirous me.
“I’d been debating with my mother about carrying a second child. we wasn’t certain we could hoop a second one during that point. On a approach home, we pulled off a road, called my mother and said, ‘I’ve altered my mind. we consider we should have another child. She said, ‘I’m blissful we feel that approach since I’m pregnant.’”
The Saunders named their daughter Jenna Tianna Vanessa Saunders. The initials—JTV—were not coincidental. They were a same as Valvano’s: James Thomas Valvano.
The second time John pennyless down was articulate about a final time he’d seen Valvano, in Duke hospital, not prolonged before he died.
“The whole time, all Jim talked about was a ‘V Foundation,’” he said. “He had a whole devise laid out. He told me we had to assistance Mike [Krzyzewski] in each approach possible. Then he started articulate about Mike and began to cry. That’s when we began to cry too.”
He cried again that day.
Today, a lot of people are crying.
The news of his genocide is stunning. Different people will lay in his several chairs during ESPN, though nothing of them will reinstate him.
The word that was oft-repeated by those who knew and worked with him was simple: “John? He’s usually a best.”
He was as good as it gets. And never once did he feel a need to tell anyone.