Even In His Death, Stuart Scott Taught Us How To Be Good Men
He helped re-define broadcasting and masculinity.
ESPN analyst and SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott, like most great personalities, had his own catchphrase: "cooler than the other side of the pillow."
He used the idiom to describe a characteristic so rare in sports, so hard to find in real life, that it could only be compared to that perfectly calm, comfortable and cool side of the pillow you find by chance in the middle of the night.
That characteristic, so profound and so worthy of praise, was stoicism in a moment of extreme pressure, class and accuracy in an instance of great achievement or great failure, confidence reserved only for the finest men and women among us.
I'd argue that Scott — who made a career pointing out the greatness in others — had such a good radar for special people because he was one himself. As Jay-Z once said, "real recognize real, and you lookin' familiar."
The greatness of Scott was easily seen in the hours after his death became public. The President of the United States said he inspired us. Popular online culture magazine Complex called him "hip-hop's sports analyst," and for good reason: When Scott first arrived on the scene in 1993, sports entertainment was an industry largely populated by white men. Scott became a bridge between a sports culture largely unrepresented by the media and many of the people who consumed the athletes as entertainment.
When I heard about Scott's death, I rushed to my computer to see if it were true. It was surreal then, thinking that I'd never hear his voice or see him doing spoken word sports segments on national TV again. But then I thought about him, and his ESPY speech, and part of me smiled. You just knew that in his parting, in the way he left us, Scott's words and his attitude would echo around the world. His dedication to being himself is what made him so special, and we can only hope that it will continue to be contagious.
"It's hard to remember how revolutionary it was when Stuart brought a little of that hip-hop attitude and style and flair to SportsCenter," John Skipper, president of ESPN said. "At the time it was a little attitude that SportsCenter hadn't really felt before, so he brought that and it changed everything."
Throughout his career as a journalist and TV personality, Scott personified everything that I picture when I think of great men. He shared his love for his daughters proudly and publicly. He took his job seriously, but he did it in his own way. Pressure from corporate executives to tone down his personality was ignored, and years later his style was so embedded in his work, so distinguishing, that former co-host Rich Eisen was able to do an entire segment pretending to be Scott.
He also earned the respect of his peers. Everyone from Lance Armstrong to LeBron James to Floyd Mayweather paid their respects after his death. Cancer patients and NFL wide receivers alike came together to say, "this man spoke to me, this man understood me."
Over the years, Scott sat down with the biggest names on the planet: Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, among others. And all that time, there were little kids like me waking up before school, running downstairs to turn on the TV and catch his segment. There I sat in my family room, memorizing his lines from that morning's show so I could reuse them unabashedly in school that day.
But in his final years, Scott wasn't just a brilliant writer, a unique voice or a sports guy: he became a survivor, and redefined for all of us how we imagined surviving.
He called one of his two daughters on stage for a hug during his famous ESPY speech. He spoke openly about his three battles with cancer. He responded to a second diagnosis by becoming more active, by competing in MMA and continuing to liven up the set of SportsCenter. Through it all, he showed us that stoicism, that coolness, that he was so famous for spotting. Not once did Scott break down on camera, not in his speeches, not even during his often filmed cancer treatments.
Instead, Scott told us to live, told us to love, and told us to be ourselves. He told us that winning wasn't everything, and he showed us how. He was one of the few — if not the only — men who have ever graced such a large national audience without a scandal, without a mishap, without a tainted or tarnished track record. His pedigree never stopped him from being who he was, which might be why the comments sections of articles like this are filled with stories of people who met Scott, and were shocked by his genuine nature.
He spent his career telling us who was cool, but in the end, Scott was the coolest of us all.