When Stephen A. Smith came to Fairfield to speak at the Quick Center on February 5th, he never failed to make the audience laugh. But at the same time, he made his message abundantly clear: You have to work for what you want.

Smith opened his speech with a joke about his “First Take” cohost Skip Bayless, whom he infamously doesn’t agree with on the show.

Joking aside, Smith went right in to make it abundantly clear that what he was going to show of his personality on stage was exactly what you see on air.

“What you see on TV is not a mirage … I understand that I get on some of your nerves,” Smith said to the crowd, referencing his reputation for being a big personality and delving into controversial topics.

“There are times where you have to be incredibly sensitive to things that are going on … You have to be responsible. But at the same time, I don’t think it has to be at the expense of authenticity as it pertains to your emotions, your feelings, your beliefs,” Smith said in an interview with The Mirror.

Along with the controversy that Smith is known for he articulated that it coincides with the opinions the viewers have about him.

“If you don’t like me you’re going to attack me … I can’t leave myself vulnerable to attack,” said Smith in his speech.
However, Smith also stated that he doesn’t particularly care if people like him. That’s not why he signed up to be a journalist, although it is essentially part of the job description.

Smith said in his speech that much of his life he had to work for what he wanted.

He relayed a story in which he was kept back in his elementary school years, and had to work during the summer to be able to advance to the next grade.

He also told a personal story about being bullied as a child, because of being held back in class. Smith recalled that the kids were particularly cruel.

“I remember every person who laughed at me and for the last 37 years it has served as my motivation,” Smith said.

He went on to name every kid that laughed at him when he was a child, showing the audience the reality of what bullying can do to people.

This drive and working mentality has allowed him to excel in the sports journalism field, something that not many people get to experience.

“I get to go back to ESPN, be on SportsCenter, then fly to Miami … I worked for that. I earned it. But I like my life,” Smith said.

He went on to explain all of the perks to his job, which he earned after years of hard work and determination.
“I think my wardrobe is quite nice. In fact this is actually my worst outfit,” Smith said showing his sense of humor and gesturing to his suit.

Smith’s style as he talked was unique and captivating.

He talked about serious topics, such as the Penn State scandal and left the audience at rapt attention and silent. Then at other points in his speech, he would use his sense of humor to get his point across to the audience.

“Everyone was very interested in what he had to say. But at the same time people were having a good laugh,” said Hrvoje Glavan ’15.

One of the moments that got the most laughs from the student body was a story he told about his mother. He said that he found out two days after she had gone on vacation that she was gone. When he called her she said she figured he would find out when the bill came to him for the vacation.

It was time for the son to start paying for the mother.

Along similar lines, one of the biggest things Smith wanted the students to understand was that they have to be ready to accept help, but not let it get in the way of you competitive spirit.

He said, “You have to understand that help can come from anywhere. You just have to have your eyes open … and your heart open to receive it.”

The next point he made though was that you still have to be ready to stand on your own two feet, because that is what is going to get you a job, and help you excel in said job.

Furthermore, while help is natural and often needed, competition is what really sets the great apart from the good.

Smith stated that he has a mind set that these people around him, these people that he considers to be the best, are going to slip up someday. When they do, he’s going to be ready to take their place.

For Smith, the most important thing is to be prepared and to be a presence.

When he walked on stage, he had a presence that could not be ignored. When he had everyone’s attention, he had to make sure that he was ready to say things that were well informed.

He did exactly that.

He made his points clear through humor and audacity, but that is what stuck with the audience. His personality is an asset to his profession.

That’s what makes Stephen A. Smith one of the greats, whether you agree with what he has to say or not.

Smith before the show

Prior to going on stage Smith had a few things he needed to do for some of the Fairfield University students.

Earlier in the day, Smith sat down for dinner with students involved in the event and student athletes.

“Stephen A. Smith was incredible and a very well spoken man. Dinner with [him] was an honor and something I will never forget” Men’s basketball’s Derek Needham ’13 told FairfieldStags.com.

Men’s Basketball’s Head Coach Sydney Johnson also reflected positively on the dinner with Smith. “I was thrilled that Derek, Des [Wade], and Colin [Nickerson] and I were among those who had the opportunity to visit with a popular TV personality who shared his poignant thoughts on education, race and personal integrity in addition to the world of sports,” Johnson told FairfieldStags.com.

After his dinner and pictures with the athletes, Smith was rushed back stage to get a sound check and meet with The Mirror and WVOF

In his interview, Smith said many insightful things, as he reflected on his career thus far, and on his beginnings.

He mentioned his role models as Ralph Wiley, Howard Cosell and Bryant Gumbel.

“The more you think about it, you realize the more people who have touched your life. It’s because of them that I am here,” Smith said.

In reference to his views on the print, television and radio world, Smith noted that there are so many factors involved in each area.

“For me I always like two of the three. If I had to pick two it would be writing and television because of the respectability standpoint. But it would be radio and television in terms of what i enjoy.

“I think it has more of a profound impact, when people can visualize not just what you say, but how you say it, your inflections, your tenor , your cadence etc.” explained Smith.

Whether you are watching, reading, or listening to what Smith has to say, it’s apparent immediately that Smith is a seasoned writer who knows his stuff about sports.

He is one of the biggest sports personalities around. Regardless of how you are consuming the information, he wants you to know.

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--- Senior | Executive Editor --- Journalism/Film, TV & New Media

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