2016 has not been very kind to many sports fans this year. We have lost guys like NBA Hall Of Famer Nate Thurmond, NFL defensive guru Buddy Ryan, women’s basketball great Pat Summitt and more recently Dennis Green. All four of those famous athletes and coaches meant a lot to a lot of people and will be missed. But Wednesday’s news of a passing hit many in a different way. ESPN’s John Saunders was born in Canada and was a hockey player growing up. He was hired on at ESPN back in 1986. And despite all the personalities that were on that network over the years, he always held his own and was one of the best on that network. But who would have thought that he would be leaving the earth on Wednesday? Saunders passed away at the age of 61. Plenty were shocked that he passed away and it seemingly came out of the middle of nowhere. But even though he is not here anymore, he is leaving behind a body of work that will make sure he is never forgotten.
Saunders was never the loudest guy on any set he was on. But with every word he spoke on television, he delivered it with conviction, purpose, and an even-keeled tone. He never seemed to duck any issues that may have made people feel uncomfortable when talking about them. But instead of making people feel uncomfortable, he put what he had to say into powerful yet calculated speeches that touched exactly the right chords while getting his message across at the same time. And not only did he do this but he would strike that correct chord on pretty much anything that he wanted to address. Saunders was legendary on just that bit alone. And many loved him for what all he brought to The Sports Reporters show. There have been many to come and go over the years at ESPN, but he definitely helped turn Outside the Lines into a must-see television show.
But not only was Saunders purposeful and strong with his speeches, but he was very versatile. Saunders covered any and everything from hockey to college football to basketball while he was at ESPN. Over the years, he was on NFL coverage, college football coverage and he also did basketball coverage as well. In every single assignment he had, he did an excellent job. He was knowledgeable about every single sport and from what is known about him, he took pride in that. That versatility helped him be one of the most valuable people at ESPN over his time there. And that also allowed him to be able to reach different audiences and connect with them. That ability to connect across different audiences is something that many do not have, but Saunders did it with ease and he also did it with class.
I never met John Saunders in real life, but from the things said about him, I wish I could have. Plenty were on television and radio speaking about him and his impact towards their lives. And although I did not know him, I felt he made an impact on me with his professionalism on television, the way he used his platform to address things and the way he was so versatile in the things he did. And for that, he will surely be missed. He was a great example for a lot of people that aspire to cover sports. And he will definitely be missed. Rest In Paradise John Saunders. You may be gone, but your impact will be forever.
The General Mike Patton is an up-and-coming writer from Nashville, TN who brings a fresh and non-biased opinion about sports. From his radio experience in Nashville to his time as a sports writer for Free’s World, the website for radio personality and former co-host of BET’s 106 and Park Free (www.freesworld.com), The General is definitely one you want to get to know in the sports world. You can catch his work on SPORTSAWAKENING.COM. Mike grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bulls and Chicago Cubs, and remains a passionate sports fan who expresses intelligent opinions.
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