Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Employees at ESPN usually make headlines in one of two ways: saying something
dumb or doing something even dumber. See Stephen A. Smith, Steve Phillips, Sean
Salisbury, Dana Jacobsen, Tony Kornheiser, Hannah Storm, Jalen Rose, Ray Lewis,
and of course, the not-so-lovely and foul-mouth reporter, Britt McHenry.

ESPN is not only the world-wide leader in sports, but boorish behavior as well, and
they certainly earned both reputations.

However, when I read about the return of Shelly Smith to the network, it felt like a big
stick of deodorant wiped out a bit of the stench created by the inappropriate comments
and behavior of the aforementioned crew in Bristol. For those who are still employed
there, anyway.

Smith, a longtime reporter who covers stories for ESPN on the west coast, took a leave
of absence six months ago to battle breast cancer. After months of radiation treatment
Smith was back on the air and cancer-free. She fought a courageous battle that so many
others have lost and was back working the job she loved.

But there was something missing in Smith's return: her long flowing red hair. It was
gone, every single strand of it. The radiation treatments made the red mane, which had
been Smith's most recognizable feature, disappear.

Smith showed up for her appearance on "NFL Live" straight bald. No wig, no short cut,
or even a little stubble. Smith was as bald as Kojak and boy, did it look beautiful

Oh, sure, Smith isn't the first celebrity to appear on television without her hair. Joan
Lunden was on the "Today" show and the cover of "People" magazine all bald and
proud. ABC's Robin Roberts lost her hair to cancer treatments as well. But this was
something different. Smith was not reporting on herself but someone else. She was
just doing her job and she didn't  care one iota of how she looked without her hair.

She looked fabulous to me.

The bald head was her badge of courage and a message to all of us that cancer, which
has a pretty powerful record, can indeed, be beaten. Smith's bald head is also a statement
that her talent and performance is far more important than the drop-dead gorgeous looks
that enables a woman to get a sideline job on a network to ask a coach, "What adjustments
do you have to make at halftime?"

Seeing Smith back on television gave ESPN something it desperately needed after the bad
PR it received from McHenry's episode of "Brittany gone wild." This was a feel good
story not orchestrated or sensationalized.

Thank you, Shelley Smith, you are a courageous and brave soul.

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