Historians and science may never understand why former Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief signed off on a toll road to Cleburne, but his decision to court ESPN for our Sundance Square was brilliant.The city of Arlington does not enjoy the peripheral residuals of hosting all of JerryWorld’s premier games, such as the parties and other events that are predictably going to Dallas, but Moncrief’s recruitment of ESPN guaranteed Fort Worth gets something.On Friday, ESPN’s wildly popular GameDay crew will anchor in Sundance Square Plaza as the spot to launch the 2014 season, and specifically the “home” of the Cowboys Classic between No. 1 Florida State and Oklahoma State to be played Saturday night at AT&T Stadium. GameDay is scheduled to return to Sundance Square for college football’s new national title game in early January. God willing, this region will not be crippled by the 100-year storm that turned the 2011 Super Bowl into a national joke and a source of local embarrassment.The phenomenon of GameDay — fans standing for hours for the chance to watch people talk about football — is rooted in the crowd, the energy and its hosts. GameDay remains a must-see sporting experience, both as a viewer and an attendee, primarily because of the relentless charm, personality and charisma of its hammy analyst, who now offers a great message.“I had a stroke five years ago, and I’m not the same,” Lee Corso told me Monday morning in a phone interview. “You have a stroke and you never really completely heal. I exercise and I rehab and I am getting better, but I’ll never be the same. But I feel great.”Today, social media is flowing with people gleefully participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that has raised millions for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease. There is no reasonable reason to criticize something that is raising money to find a cure for a disease that is long, painful and 100 percent terminal.As we douse ourselves to join this worthy trend, we should not forget there are equally dreaded afflictions that as yet do not have a pink ribbon or a bucket of ice water to make their causes memorable.Strokes, according to the Centers for Disease Control, kill almost 130,000 Americans each year and cost this nation $36.5 billion. A stroke has the potential to completely derail a life.People often survive strokes, but as Corso will tell you there is no such thing as a complete recovery.Corso, 79, said the only thing that has been affected is his speech, but the rest is fine.“I hesitate at times. It’s all in my brain, but I can’t get it out of my mouth,” he said. “When I get tired, I can’t talk at all. It’s really tough. God was good to me — it just affected my speech. I’m really not as good as I used to be, but [ESPN] stayed with me and I am indebted to that. Think about that — a guy makes a living speaking and he has a stroke and they still keep him around.”Watching and listening to Corso after the stroke is a painful reminder not to take the simplest of acts — such as talking — for granted, and how talented of a gab artist this man remains despite his speech limitations.Watching and listening to Corso after the stroke is a reminder that something like this can affect anyone with zero warning.Watching and listening to Corso after the stroke is a reminder that a stroke is not a conclusion.“Every now and then I get to go to hospitals and talk to stroke patients,” he said. “I tell them all the same thing: You are going to get discouraged, and you are going to want to quit. You can’t quit. Never give up. Do what the doctors and the physical therapists tell you.“I have not had a single day I have been sick. I have been well ever since the day I had the stroke; I just can’t talk.”Despite the stroke, Corso sounds great — energetic, vibrant and a total ham who looks forward to putting on his next mascot gear.He said he will be coming to Fort Worth on Thursday, and he looks forward to hitting Billy Bob’s in the Stockyards. And he has UCLA defeating Florida State in the title game, which he plans to see to when GameDay returns to Fort Worth in January.Not everyone will be able to enjoy the Cleburne toll road, but everyone will enjoy seeing Lee Corso in Fort Worth on GameDay this weekend, and again in January. Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof