Ron Seibel

Cancer’s cruel arm grabs another familiar figure

In this Aug. 31, 2016, file photo, NBA Hall of Fame member and TNT colleague Charles Barkley, left, poses with longtime NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager while visiting Sager at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Sager, famous for his flashy suits and probing questions, has died after a batter with cancer, Turner Sports announced Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. He was 65.
In this Aug. 31, 2016, file photo, NBA Hall of Fame member and TNT colleague Charles Barkley, left, poses with longtime NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager while visiting Sager at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Sager, famous for his flashy suits and probing questions, has died after a batter with cancer, Turner Sports announced Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. He was 65. AP

“Cancer sucks.”

An acquaintance of mine was fond of posting that meme on social media as her father fought the disease. It’s a disease that zaps the life out of not only the person suffering from it, but also zaps the people who care for that person, as well.

Cancer has struck many people who I know and knew. A neighbor a year or two older than myself from my childhood days survived a battle with childhood leukemia. Coworkers through the years have fought cancer, as well.

The number of people I’ve known who have died from cancer? Too many to count.

And now we lost Craig Sager, one of the most personable figures in sports at any level, to leukemia. He died Thursday at 65.

Sager not only fought leukemia, but he did so in the public eye. He and his family kept us posted as to how he was doing through his long battle, as he went through bone marrow transplants and other procedures to try to overcome the disease.

You can’t choose to become a leukemia patient. There are no lifestyle factors, unlike the tie between smoking and lung cancer, that make a diagnosis more likely. It’s more or less pure luck ... and not good luck, at that.

Sager, however, didn’t quit. He fought to return to the sidelines, keeping the positive demeanor he has sported through the years in front of the camera. He kept wearing those flashy suits that were his trademark. He kept receiving visitors, even when things weren’t the greatest.

There are plenty of people who can tell Sager stories. TNT’s broadcast crew likely will be able to fill more than one broadcast with those tales. He had respect around the NBA, and the league lost one of its greatest ambassadors with his passing.

I never had the chance to work or cross paths with Sager in person. His son, Craig Jr., the managing editor of Score Atlanta, is quite active in the Georgia high school sports scene and brings many of the same qualities to his job that his father brought to pro basketball fans and to his earlier work with CNN and Turner Sports.

That meme my acquaintance liked to post is correct. Cancer does suck. Every attempt to find a cure is worth our while.

Sager put up one of the strongest, bravest fights I’ve ever seen from a cancer patient. But, to borrow from “The Shawshank Redemption,” he wanted to get busy living, and he wasn’t about to get busy dying.

Or, to quote the Twitter post of his daughter, Kacy: “If my dad was right and time really is how you live your life, then that (SOB) outlived us all.”

Ron Seibel: 478-744-4222, @RonSeibel

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