Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running
over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.
Admittedly, it’s a strange thing for a fan to write a eulogy for someone he has never met in person. I never met NFL sportswriter Terez Paylor, who died yesterday at the young age of 37, but I felt as if I had. We only interacted on Twitter as he responded to my messages praising his work and on occasion when he answered a question of mine during his podcasts. That’s not enough to say you really knew someone. Yet, I gained so much from Terez’s writing, his videos and his podcasts, not merely because of his excellent coverage of the KC Chiefs but because he was so fully himself as he did so. His inner light was contagious. His deep belly laugh was viral in its joy. Life felt more vibrant when I read his work, watched him speak and listened to him talk. He was a part of my life, as he was for so many people who loved his work.
Terez became a personal part of my life during a very difficult year for my family and me. The weekly post-Chiefs game podcasts he hosted with the other KC Star sports reporters were a dose of laughter and good vibes my soul sorely needed. As a consumer of sports and sports writing, I can testify it is exceedingly rare in that empty bravado-filled landscape to hear a group of men laughing as friends—a laughter that wasn’t mean-spirited or at someone else’s expense but the kind that comes when people are sharing a passion together. During a lonely and painful year for me, Terez’s laughter was light cast into my shadows. When I shared this in a tweet to Terez and the other writers, their kind responses were a form of grace that was healing.
So, I feel compelled to write a eulogy. It’s what I do as a minister, both for people I know well and for strangers I’ve never met whom I come to know through the stories loved ones tell about them. As I have read the pieces Terez’s fellow journalists have written over the last 24 hours—that’s writers doing what they do—I have been deeply moved that my fan’s experience of Terez is one miniscule point of light on a vast tapestry of brighter lights experienced by those who knew him well. The genuine humanity we fans experienced from Terez Paylor was not an act, as it is in the case of so many in the public eye, but a real representation of who he was in person. That consistency of character is, from what I gather, rare in the competitive field of journalism, just as it is rare in all other areas of life. I feel like that kind of unique generosity of spirit is worth celebrating and learning from, not only for my life but for all of our too-short lives.
Numerous articles and obituaries list Terez’s rise from his Detroit childhood to Howard University to cub reporter covering high school sports at the KC Star to Chiefs beat reporter to national NFL writer for Yahoo Sports. Certainly his career and rabid love of the game of football is laudatory, but what moves me is the universal declarations of Terez Paylor’s kindness, generosity, vulnerability, sense of humor and his deep laughter. Yes, he was a ambitious reporter who was always stayed to the end to cover a story, grinding out his exhaustive knowledge of football, but he somehow did that work while at the same time being a real friend, a trusted colleague and a invested mentor. Here are some of the words his colleagues and co workers had to say about him:
“I don’t know how many people are so good at what they do, yet remain so eager to get better. I don’t know how many people can carry a confidence that could border on arrogance, and be the first to make fun of themselves. He had a confidence you could feel the first time you talked to him, and a gift to transfer that confidence to you.”
--Sam Mellinger, Sports Columnist, The Kansas City Star
“He loved what he did. You could see it in his work. In his mock draft. In his All-Juice teams. He had a wide smile and infectious laugh. When you heard it, you had to join in, even if you had absolutely no idea what had gotten him. To know Terez personally was to be surrounded by joy and laughter. It felt impossible — impossible — to be in a bad mood when you were in his presence.”
--Sam McDowell, Sports Reporter, The Kansas City Star
“Terez made everyone around him a better person and could light up a room with his tremendous sense of humor and brightest of bright smiles.”
--Herbie Teope, Chiefs Beat Writer, The Kansas City Star
“I just loved talking to him. About anything. He just put you at ease. The conversation just flowed. If you ever had a problem at work or in life, he was there to get worked up on your behalf — in classic Terez fashion. He would say something that would make you feel better. He’d make you laugh. It sounds cliche to say that everybody loved Terez, but it was just impossible not to.”
--Rustin Dodd, Sports Reporter The Athletic
“Terez made every jam-packed media room better, smarter and more absolutely joyful just by being in them.”
--Joshua Brisco, Sports Radio Personality, 810 WHB
“He always wanted to get it right. He was warm, honest, fair, respectful, and he cared a great deal about you as a person.”
--Matt Nagy, Head Coach Chicago Bears
“One of the most genuine reporters I’ve ever communicated with.”
--Derrick Johnson, retired Kansas City Chief
It is a rare person who makes other people better at the same time he aspires to be better. We are taught in our culture that excellence exists in scarcity. One can only rise if others fall. One can win only if others lose. Yet Terez embodied the truth that excellence exists in abundance. The best are those who make those around them better.
“I continue to be struck not by how many people have spoken warmly about Terez Paylor but by how many have said variations of “You helped me when I needed it”. Can there be a greater honor for a person?”
--Kurtis Seaboldt, Sports Radio Personality, 810 WHB
“Terez didn’t just help me. He uplifted everyone. He didn’t have to spend as much time as he did with Brook Pryeor, Lynn Worthy and me in 2018k our first year covering the Chiefs but he answered every question.”
--Nate Taylor, Chiefs Reporter The Athletic
“When I first started going out to Arrowhead to cover the Chiefs, it was honestly kind of intimidating to be in these spaces with no one around you who looked like you. Terez took the time to show me the ropes.”
--Carrington Harrison, Sports Radio Personality 610 Sports Radio
“Fellow journalists: Let Terez's enthusiasm and eagerness to help others coming up in the biz inspire us to take joy in the mentorship and sponsorship opportunities all around us. Young journalists, especially young journalists of color, were one of Terez Paylor's passions. Let's pass it forward.”
--Jeff Rosen, Assistant Managing Editor/Sports, The Kansas City Star
As a minister, I strive to import to people what Terez lived out—be who God created you to be. Find your passion, your calling, live it out with joy. Share what God has given you with others, trusting that however much you give away, you will only be given more in return. I don’t know Terez’ religious beliefs or if he had any at all, but from my perspective as a Christian, I believe his love of life, his generosity towards others, his praise for others’ good work, his consistent ethics, his genuine friendship and so much more are at the heart of who Jesus desires us to be. This kind of genuine humanity—living out of one’s true self, the true person God created one to be, the inner light that is the spark of the Divine that dwells within us, left there when we were created in God’s image—is contagious. As so many have described, it fills the room with laughter and leaves others feeling more truly themselves once they have experienced it.
I believe that is the way people felt when they experienced Jesus when he walked the earth. It’s too bad all our paintings and pictures of Jesus have him looking so serious, so sad or so mean (not to mention so white!). It is difficult to picture Jesus with a belly laugh. So, that’s why God gives us a person like Terez Paylor, so we can see how good this life can be. The good news is that what Terez grabbed a hold of and lived in his too short life is available to you and to me, even if we never quite grasp life’s laughter the way he did.
I will never forget Terez’s podcast episodes where he addressed issues of systemic racism following the killing of George Floyd last year. He shared his point of view with a genuineness and generosity that invited dialogue rather than shrill denunciation. His grace in approaching such a loaded and multifaceted subject as racism in America was masterful. It offered the promise of healing—not the cheap type of healing offered without the integrity of honesty and justice, but real healing that opens up clenched fists and closed minds. Our world has too few of such moments of goodness.
In his moving piece about his relationship with Terez, Charles Robinson, Terez’s cohost on the Yahoo Sports NFL Podcast, write this about Terez:
“When you got close to him, you learned all the things that attracted people from afar were real. He was kind. He was caring. He had a code about what was right and wrong. He could make you belly laugh, and he was actually much more likely to give you a belly laugh, even if what you said wasn’t nearly that funny. . . Through it all, he always wanted to learn more, always strove to get better. He was unafraid to express curiosity or regret about story choices in a way that most reporters won’t. And he made the people around him want to be better, too. Especially me. . . This is how it usually went with Terez, whether you were working with him, against him or watching him from afar. If you invested the time to know him or his work, he inevitably became a beam of light and you became a blade of grass bending in his direction.”
Whether we are Terez’s fellow journalists who knew him well or just ordinary fans of his work that never knew him in person, like me, we all can strive to be like Terez, living out of our true selves, who we were created to be, shining our beams of light into the shadows around us.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851