Late ESPN broadcaster opened up about depression, personal trauma to help others

Aug 23, 2017
Originally published on November 20, 2017 5:36 pm

He was a welcome presence on ESPN and ABC for decades. During his 30 years at ESPN, John Saunders lived every sports fan’s dream job.

But even as this one-time Western Michigan University hockey player rose to become one of the country’s most popular sportscasters, he secretly battled depression – and endured personal traumas that are hard to believe.

John Saunders finally chose to share his painful battles with depression. He chose to do it through a book, Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope. He co-wrote it with his friend, Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon.

When Saunders died suddenly one year ago in August 2016, Bacon was left to carry the torch and tell his friend’s story.

“John spares nothing in this book,” Bacon said.

He said the book details Saunders’ experience of physical abuse, sexual abuse, an unhealthy relationship with sex, using and dealing drugs, self-medication, self-mutilation, and depression – “the umbrella on top of all of it.”

Listen above for Stateside's full conversation with Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon.

Minding Michigan is Stateside’s ongoing series that examines mental health issues in our state.

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