During my time at ESPN Radio there were several defining moments that came to mind with the sad reality of Stuart Scott’s passing. I remember with clarity – as though it was yesterday – two members of the administrative establishment telling me “you need to sound more white” and to “stay away from that Stuart Scott stuff. He’s a flash in the pan and won’t last.”
So I listened and worked tirelessly to try and capitulate. I sold my professional soul to the devil and was sent packing because of “problems with [your] delivery.” Yet in a twist of fate, Stuart Scott went on to become a cultural icon in sports media while the executive who told me to speak “white” was demoted and the program director who made “flash in the pan” comment was ultimately fired because of racial insensitivity. BOO YAH!
If I were as gutsy as Stuart Scott, I would have stood up to those with PHDs (Player Hater Degrees) and my tenure would have probably lasted longer. What those middle aged white executives didn’t understand, but came to realize, was that Stu spoke Gen X in the world of baby boomers. What they, and even some of his colleagues and producers, couldn’t initially comprehend was that there are different worlds in our vast nation and that Scott was reaching this rapidly growing, culturally evolving, generation.
Stuart Scott’s impact on the world was bigger than just sports broadcast journalism. He was more than just a trailblazing Black journalist who brought urban cool to the sports desk. He was a cultural icon who was able to bridge socio-economic backgrounds through a two minute SportsCenter highlight package. He could give the late Dr. Jack Ramsay a pound when covering the NBA Finals, prompting the Hall of Fame coach to respond with a “holla back”.
He changed sports coverage, ESPN, and the delivery of information on cable television in the way Run DMC and Aerosmith collaborate to bring hip hop to a wider audience. Before “Walk This Way” urban music was barely played on mainstream music outlets and across American suburbs. Stu brought Black barber shop lexicon into pop culture through the prism of sports. The doors he opened paved the path for the change in TV news broadcasts, where John Stewart, Steven Colbert and Bill Maher have taken viewers from Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, appealing to those who wanted a combination of news, entertainment and credibility.
He walked that way, and made it cool to talk that way, by covering the games people play for a living with passion, verbiage, and commitment to quality broadcast journalism that was second to none. Stu understood that if you were going to be “as cool as the other side of the pillow” that you had to be twice as good a writer and spend more time in research as the other anchors. That’s the reason he could take the worst games on NFL Primetime and make those highlights sound like they were the Super Bowl.
When Stuart Scott anchored SportsCenter he owned the show, just as he did that one last time we saw him during his inspirational speech in July at the ESPY’s. I’m pretty sure when he got to heaven that Ralph Wiley and Bryan Burwell were the first to greet him at the Gates. They were probably glad he was out of the physical pain he fought through during his seven year bout with cancer, and after they gave each other dap he began his next lifetime with a Booyah!
Stuart Scott- his name will always be butter because he’ll always be on a roll.