Friday, July 25, 2008

In Memory: Scott MacPherson Stapleton

The world lost a great one yesterday.  Scott, a future ambassador, if not a professor, but definitely an academic, did not die a slow death from some disease.  Nope, he was feeling the rush of riding a motorcycle, taking in the beauty of a Turkish country road, and enjoying the company of his best friend who was along for the ride.  Without knowing much detail except that he was hit head-on by a car, I choose to think that Scott felt nothing but exhilaration and adrenaline right before his death; something that he and I sought after and shared so many times when we trained, skied, or raced together.  What makes Scott's death so tragic is that he was only 25 years-old.  And as if that wasn't cruel enough, Scott's death comes only four years after the death of his best friend, Ben.  I have known these boys since they were fifteen years-old and never would I ever imagine that two of them would go before me. As I sit and write this, I look at a picture on my TV and am sickened by the fact that two of the four boys I coached and befriended have died.  I have a very special bond with these boys as they were my first, last, and only high school triathlon team that I've ever coached.  They are probably the closest things to children that I will ever know as I feel personally responsible for each of them. As triathletes, we all know how much time we spend with each other training and racing, and amazing bonds are formed.  Two stories stand out in particular about Scottie.  Throughout his high school days, Scott was a pretty good runner, swimmer and triathlete but he never made that leap to being truly hardcore--as defined by training/racing so hard that you would piss blood, pass out, or end up in the med tent [I know, not the most healthy of criteria].  In fact, during any major duel between Scott and I, I always knew that I had the mental edge and that Scott would break first.  The first summer that Scott came home from college, he and I went on a ride.  Sure enough, like we've done so many times, we slowly built the effort of the ride so that on the last hill climb, he and I were duking it out. I had been in this position many times with Scott and knew that if I could just keep pushing the pace, Scott would eventually break and I would drop him.  So I began my attacks and with each one, Scott hung on.  After 4-5 attacks, and Scott still there, I soon realized that he had discovered something about himself while in college.  I gave it one last attack, everything I had and Scott not only hung on, but he responded by attacking me back, something I was not prepared for and he dropped me like a bad habit.  Scott had made that leap to the next level and I was so proud of him.  The second memorable moment occurred when Scott and I had lunch a year after he graduated from Georgetown.  Being that I've known Scott since he was 15, I had a tendency to talk down to him and to boss him around a bit.  Scott was now a man, all 6'6" of him and armed with all the knowledge that comes with graduating from an Ivy League school.  Scott was not going to take my talking down to him and he demanded that I treat him with respect if he and I were going to continue with our relationship.  He quickly reminded me that he is no longer a kid and that to his credit, not only was he an adult, but a very educated and successful adult. Once again, like he did on the bike ride, Scott put me in my place.  Unlike the bike ride where I fought tooth and nail to prevent, I happily acquiesced this time around. Scott, thank you for all the fun times and the great memories [like XTERRA, that story will never get old].  I love you man.


Adrianna Smyth said...

Great words Kiet - I wasn't around yet to know Scott, but I can feel your loss, and love for him. Peace.

BreeWee said...

Glad I could make you laugh, sounds like you may have needed it... so so sorry about Scott. Oh man, too bad, but you have amazing memories and memories don't die.

Hope your training is going well! Smiles!!!