On Stuart Scott

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 11.16.35 AM

In case you missed it, ESPN’s Stuart Scott has died following a long battle with cancer.

He was 49.

I didn’t know Scott. In fact, I’ll be honest: Back in the 1990s, when I was at Sports Illustrated and he was at ESPN, he irked me. Actually, most of those guys at the network irked me. The swagger. The talk. The self-references to “The Talent.” Whenever we’d be at events, and the ESPN anchors showed up, it was as if five or six Elvis Presleys entered the room.

I hated that.

One time, inside the SI offices, we enjoyed a Revenge of the Nerds moment. In the leadup to the Baltimore Ravens-New York Giants Super Bowl, Scott had a very bad journalistic moment. After the media had used 95 percent of Ray Lewis’ press conference to pummel him with questions about murder accusations, Scott embraced the star linebacker in a tight hug and said, “Don’t let the motherfuckers get to you.” It wasn’t good, and a Sports Illustrated writer teed off, writing a fierce damnation of the Scott-Lewis embrace.

A day or two later, Scott left a long voice message for the writer … that was played repeatedly throughout the office, to great laughter. The highlighted line—”You wouldn’t understand. That’s just how we do”—became a punchline for a brief spell. If someone, say, spilled his cup of hot cocoa, and a colleague laughed, the spiller would glance and say, “Hey, you wouldn’t understand. That’s just how we do.”

That was a long time ago.

Truth is, back then I didn’t understand Stuart Scott and ESPN. I judged them on journalistic merits, when it truly wasn’t about that. Scott and Co. were entertainers—and Scott was, by far, the best of the bunch. His shit was tight. His catchphrases not only worked; they captured something. Just as was the case at SI, the faces of ESPN were pretty much all white. Scott brought color to SportsCenter. But not merely skin color. He brought flair and pizzazz and oomph and heart and soul. He made otherwise dull-ish telecasts genuinely interesting. He was, by all accounts, authentic and genuine. What he sounded like is who he was. It wasn’t an act, or bullshit. It wasn’t contrived or forced.

Stuart Scott was Stuart Scott.

I didn’t understand at the time, but I do now.

That’s just how he did.

2 thoughts on “On Stuart Scott”

  1. I think you meant it *wasn’t* contrived or forced. Couldn’t agree more on that last paragraph. He did things his way, authentic and genuine to the very end, on and off air. Great post, Jeff.

  2. Jared Paventi (SBU '99)

    I don’t think you’re far off from where a lot of SC viewers were. I think that the flare, the “Boo Yah Stu” or what Kornheiser would call “Stuin’ It Up,” got old for some, but Stuart Scott wasn’t necessarily for you and me, the viewership where Kilborn-Haber or Olbermann-Patrick worked best. The Stuart Scott-Ray Lewis incident exposed the coziness that ESPN has with those it covers, one which would not surprise anyone now (particularly following James Andrew Miller’s book. I think what we know now is that the journalism of ESPN is very much separate from the anchor desk, much in the same way it is on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, et al.

    That said, he was as much of the ESPN fabric as Berman, Ley and Mees were at the beginning. I think that what we, the viewer and consumer, have to remember is that the void he left was not merely on the screen.

Leave a Reply