Sunday, January 04, 2015

Adieu, Stu

The "Worldwide Leader in Sports" loses a long tenured member.

Stuart Scott, a longtime anchor at ESPN, died Sunday morning at the age of 49.

Among the features of the new ESPN studio in Bristol is a wall of catchphrases made famous by on-air talent over the years. An amazing nine of them belong to one man -- from his signature "Boo-Yah!" to "As cool as the other side of the pillow" to "He must be the bus driver cuz he was takin' him to school."

That man is Stuart Scott, and his contributions to the sports lexicon are writ large. But they are only one aspect of his legacy. When he passed away, he left behind so much more. He inspired his colleagues with his sheer talent, his work ethic and his devotion to his daughters, Taelor, 19, and Sydni, 15. He defied convention and criticism to help bring this network into a new century. He spoke to the very athletes he was talking about with a flair and a style that ESPN president John Skipper says, "changed everything."

There's a video clip of several moving tributes by Scott's ESPN colleagues (current and former) within the link I provided above (Perhaps the most emotionally raw tribute was by former ESPN co-anchor Rich Eisen, now of NFL Network, who learned of Scott's passing literally minutes before his NFL pregame hosting duties). Said colleagues and friends admired Scott's willingness to just "be himself" while delivering sports highlights (i.e. narrating them with a "hip hop" flair) and were inspired by his tireless fight against three different cancer diagnoses since 2007.

This past July, Scott inspired many others with a speech he gave upon receiving the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the annual ESPYs.

While I was moved to tears by many of the homages paid to Scott, I couldn't help but bristle at some of the statements almost implying that he was on par with civil rights leaders. Yes, Scott was a trendsetter in the sports broadcasting genre, reaching a whole new audience likely not attained by middle aged white men like Chris Berman, Bob Ley, Charley Steiner, et al. But let's not pretend that drawing a whole new demographic (i.e. African American youth) to a sports entertainment program is the equivalent of MLK marching in the streets on behalf of desegregation. No, what Scott should be most lauded for is the way he constantly doted on his young daughters or how he continued a rigorous work schedule and intense physical regimen despite being gassed after chemotherapy sessions. The example he set for his children on how a real man should represent himself is the legacy that will outlive anything he has ever done.

The key excerpt of Scott's ESPY Award acceptance speech was “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” Given the testimonials conveyed by those who knew Scott, the manner in which he lived was definitely a betterment to those with whom he came in contact.


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