Monday, January 23, 2012

Scot Bemis--Celebrating a Winning Life

   Loss is a strange word, when you think about it. It can indicate absence or failure or something incomplete. But most of all loss represents nothing. You had something; now it is gone. Nothing there. Nothing left.
   Nothing. Is that what we have now?
   I remember walking into B Period Physical Science freshman year and being absolutely scared to death. Back then I was just a skinny kid with a bad haircut coming straight out of Verrado Middle School in Buckeye, Arizona. Moving to Scottsdale meant I knew just about nobody at Notre Dame. I had met a few guys through football camp over the summer, but I had yet to make a real friend. I was your classic new kid, and when I stepped into Room 707 my biggest worry was finding a seat next to someone who did not look too intimidating.
   Then Coach Bemis stood up from his desk and started hollering at everybody, and I swear I almost wet my pants. So much for not being intimidated. But when everyone settled down and I could actually hear what he was saying, things grew different.
   “Hello everyone. My name is Mr. Bemis, and I’m just going to tell you right now that in my class I am going to yell at you a lot. I am not mad at you, I am just very loud. We get after it in here, we work hard, and all I want from you is your effort and attention.” His voice was steady, firm, and kind. His eyes gleamed. His big, goofy grin most of all allowed me to be instantly drawn to him.
   Just like that, I felt a little better.
   I had been apprehensive about the yelling, but over time it grew to become one of my favorite things about freshman year. My sister had his class as well, and it was quite often when she would edge me out on a test and “Daswick! It’s time to step it up kid! She’s hot right now but you have to find a way to get it done. Let’s go!” or when I would come in on Wednesday and “Daswick! Did you see Fringe last night? You wouldn’t believe it, let me tell ya!” or even when a certain member of our class started some shenanigans and “Johnston! Here, I’ll give you something to do! Take this pass to Room 208 for me, and you had better go fast!” This last line was often followed by “Ha! Look at him, he’s trying to open the maintenance closet!”
   Coach Bemis had a way of making people feel welcome, and I guarantee you that no one was left out. He knew everyone’s name, he knew what everyone was up to, and he treated each student with as much respect and attention as anyone else. So often we hear of teacher-coaches catering to their players, but Coach Bemis was just as interested in the cast of the school musical as he was his defensive starters. It was incredible.
   This is why the man had such an impact on his community. This is why he and his family have received so much support over these past few months. His reach was limitless, and his impact was profound. His ability to inspire was one we will always remember. He was able to teach without a word, and lead by just living.
   I asked earlier if we have been left with nothing. Is that what this loss is? Certainly not, because we can still see his influence. We can still feel his presence. His legacy is found in the tears we shed and the words that we pray and the love that we have for him and the care we have for his family.
   We have so much more than nothing. We have the lessons that he taught us, lessons about passion, lessons about achievement and success, lessons about what kind of people we all want to be. We are a Team, and he helped all of us grow into Team Players. This Team fights, this Team overcomes adversity, and Team Bemis will always be here.
   Loss should never enter the equation when it comes to Coach. The phrase has been used that he has lost his battle with cancer. No. No way. Losers lose, and Scot Bemis was not a loser. He was a winner, and he spent his life teaching others how to be winners too. That was his game, and you know what? Call him undefeated. Call him a champion. Call him victorious.
   Death often comes sooner than perhaps any of us can expect. But this is life, and life is unpredictable and life is sad and life will look to beat you every chance that it has. Now we need to think about the things that we have learned from this man. Give your best. Never quit. Play until the whistle blows. Our coach has given us all of the tools that we need to succeed, and all that is left is for us to go out and execute.
   It is time for us to make our leader proud. It is time to show him that he resonated within each and every one of us. It is time to retake the field, or the court, or whatever you want to call this big game of life, and be Team Players. Coach Bemis will never be forgotten, but he will also help us move forward. Because with the things that he has given each of us, all we need to do now is to get after it and play our game.
   Scot Bemis was never about losing, and that is why that when you look at all of the people he has touched and all of the lives he has changed, you do not think of a loss. The only word that comes to mind is victory. Victory that is pure, and victory that is undisputable. Mr. Bemis played life like a champion, and he left life in the same way. It is our turn to use what he has shared with us. We have been given life’s playbook, and now it is time for us to go out and be winners. 
   The winners that he molded us to be.

Thank you. For everything.


  1. Tyler,
    Well put, I couldn't have said it better. You are a very talented writter. I didn't know Scot as well as many others, including my brother, but I feel I've gotten to know him very well from all the posts on FB and other social media. Bill Hoddy

  2. Beautifully written, thank you.

  3. This made me flash back to my freshman year at St.Marys 1st period in 2001. He will truely be missed. Rest in Peace, Mr.Bemis .. Beam me up, Scotty ;) He always gave me grief about saying that.

  4. This is beautiful. You have a talent for writing, this made me cry. Thank you for writing it.

  5. First met Mr. Bemis my freshman year of high school at St. Mary's in 2001. His passion for life was obvious in everything he did. Always came prepared with something interesting and new, he was never the type to simply go through the motions. I was thrilled when I heard he was coming to Notre Dame, he instantly made the campus better with his big smile and grin. Will never forget him telling me "Wirth! Is it Worth it?" which always made me laugh. He was the best teacher/friend/mentor anyone could have. He truly changed my life for the better and will be missed dearly.

  6. Fantastic tribute. Nub did teach you well. I've known him for about 40 years and I am proud to call him friend. Keep carrying his message and you will succeed in life just as he has.


  7. Extremely thoughtful and very well-written. Thank you for sharing~