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Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985 after a two-year stint covering college hockey for The Anchorage Times in Alaska. From 1985-90 he covered New York City high school sports, then spent five years as Newsday's beat writer for St. John's and Big East basketball. From 1995-2005 he covered the Giants before leaving that beat to become a reporter, columnist and feature writer focused on off-field topics such as sports media and business. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. 30, 2005.

Jay Glazer recounts near-death experience

Inductee Michael Strahan, left, poses next to his

Inductee Michael Strahan, left, poses next to his bronze bust with presenter Jay Glazer during the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Canton, Ohio. (Credit: AP)

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Jay Glazer has a couple of best friends, both of which he honored in Canton earlier this month.

One, Michael Strahan, was being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with Glazer as his presenter, which secured him a seat for the ceremony near the likes of John Madden, Marv Levy and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

He credited the other with the fact he was able to be there for the big moment.

"I literally looked up to God and said, 'What am I doing here? How did I get here?' " Glazer recalled. "Nothing overwhelms me -- ever. Nothing, ever, ever. I don't get overwhelmed. But I really was."

Glazer, 44, had more than one reason to be overwhelmed, among them his rise from a hardscrabble start as a low-paid, journalistic nobody covering the 1993 Giants to Fox's king of NFL "scoopage," as he likes to call it, and a spot on the Hall of Fame stage.

He even added a new show to his busy schedule this past weekend, hosting Fox Sports 1's "Fantasy Football Uncensored," in which he kibitzes with comedians, commentators and his mixed martial arts pal Chuck Liddell about their fantasy league.

But more so than all that, Glazer is thankful this summer merely to be alive.

"I'm not trying to be a religious zealot here," he said, "but my best friend God saved me on this one and stepped in at the last second."

That was in March, when during a simple procedure on his back, Glazer vomited with his face down, quickly "drowning in stomach acid and bile and half-digested food." He suffered aspiration double pneumonia, in which his lungs were severely damaged and his oxygen intake compromised.

"They told me after that if I was older I would have died -- they used the word 'expired' -- and if I wasn't in the shape I was in I would've died," he said. "Even so, I was so far gone when they brought me in [they thought] there was nothing they could do. They were kind of going through the motions."

The NFL, MMA and sports media worlds were aware of his condition -- especially when he mostly skipped the NFL free-agency scoopage period -- but in the months that followed he misled followers on social media to believe he was well.

"I wasn't," he said. "I just wanted people to stop asking about it and start calling me again."

Glazer, who is known for his high level of energy, was told by doctors to relax, which he found "the most depressing thing I've ever been through in my life . . . I'm used to training with guys in a cage, and all of a sudden I couldn't walk."

He covered the NFL draft in May, which landed him back in the hospital. Strahan visited him there.

"I was filleted out," Glazer recalled. "He was like, 'Man, you look awful . . . I guess we're not having dinner.' "

Fox executives were supportive and cautious throughout, he said, but that did not stop him from pushing himself. He finally has felt close to normal since training camps opened, although he still has not returned to cardiovascular workouts.

"I'm praying I've turned the corner," said Glazer, who added the worst part of the ordeal was the effect on his 11-year-old son. "I couldn't get out of bed to take him to school."

All of that made that night in Canton mean even more than it otherwise would have.

"That was the coolest thing I've ever done in my career, by far," he said.

Glazer particularly appreciated Strahan's response when people wondered why he didn't have someone such as a former coach introduce him.

"He said the nicest thing he's ever said about me in his life," Glazer recalled. "He said, 'Hey, listen, I've had three head coaches. I have one best friend.' "

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