Rich's Blog: The Courage of Robin Roberts

I'm not a big ESPY's guy. If it weren't for the Gamecocks Jadeveon Clowney up for Play of the Year (which he won), I would have been buried in our archives watching 2012 high school football highlights getting ready for our Zone Media Day next week. While waiting to watch the Outback Bowl hit for 1,000th time, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award was presented to Robin Roberts. It's been well documented that the Good Morning America anchor has overcome breast cancer and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and has become an inspiration for the bone marrow transplant cause. Millions of viewers have been rooting for Roberts as she has been very public in sharing her struggles and triumphs over something so scary. Everyone has learned firsthand what an inspiration Robin Roberts is and why she was the perfect choice for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. It just happens to be that Roberts inspired me many years ago when she was in perfect health.

Even in the minor leagues of sportscasting, if you've been doing it long enough, you'll have interactions with athletes and colleagues in the national spotlight. During my time in Bangor, I told the story of a small town girl who captured the fascination of a state by staying home and starring for the University of Maine women's basketball team. Cindy Blodgett led the nation in scoring and became a first round WNBA Draft pick. Her head coach was Joanne Palombo-McCallie, who is now one of the biggest names in college basketball as the head coach at Duke. I was nearly complete with my first documentary telling the story of the Maine basketball legend. The last piece of the puzzle was to go to Cleveland and show the hometown hero playing in the pros.

Robin Roberts was calling the Cleveland Rockers game for ESPN on the night I arrived. Two hours before tipoff, I approached her to see if I could ask her a few questions about Blodgett. I had arranged to talk to Cindy after the game, but nothing else was set up. It would have been so easy for Roberts to give me the brush off. After all, she's got a national broadcast to prepare for, and Cindy Blodgett was not a household name beyond the Maine border. Roberts not only agreed to talk with me, but she showed why she's one of the best in the business. It took me about 20 seconds to realize that she did her homework and then some. She broke down Blodgett like she had been covering her for as long as I had. She talked about the adjustment from small college basketball to the WNBA and the challenges she would face. I was hoping for a good sound bite or two and she gave me enough to do an entire separate feature for a future sportscast. As if that wasn't enough, she called over her color analyst. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Aueriemma, with Robin setting the table, sat down and gave me another great interview. It was like Robin Roberts put herself in my shoes and saw a small town sportscaster in the big arena and was thinking of how she could make my story better. Take my word - not everyone in television has that kind of selflessness and kindness.

I've been very lucky to have strong influences in my career. I was able to soak knowledge and wisdom on a daily basis from ESPN's Steve Levy and WNBC's Bruce Beck. It was only twenty minutes, but the time
I spent with Robin Roberts had a lasting impression on me as well. It inspired me to try and give a helping hand to any young broadcaster who has reached out to me for advice or help no matter how busy the day gets.

I don't know if our paths will ever cross again, so just in case I can't personally say thank you, the next best thing is to share Robin Roberts Courage Award speech from the ESPY's. Sometimes, one brief interaction can have a lasting impact. I've already had that impact from Robin Roberts and if you watch this video you can have that same feeling.

Click HERE to watch Robin Roberts ESPYs speech