Remembering Stuart Scott » VSB

Featured, Pop Culture, Race & Politics

Remembering Stuart Scott

I know I watched SportsCenter before Stuart Scott made his first appearance on the show 1993. I just don’t remember what it looked like or sounded like prior to him.

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I did what I always do and turned on ESPN to watch SportsCenter, but this time I knew it would be an episode unlike any I ever seen. The tributes were bittersweet if only because they gave me a highlight reel of Scott’s best moments, a gift given to us due to unfortunate circumstances: On Sunday morning, Stuart Scott passed away due to appendiceal cancer at the age of 49.

If you watch ESPN’s flagship sports news program as much as I have over the years, you have kind of grown used to the various anchor lineups and Scott not being a part of them. Over the years, Scott’s physical presence on the show was becoming more of a special occasion than the norm, and we all understood why. But his influence on that show, his spirit, always remained.

It’s easy to say the reason for Scott’s influence on SportsCenter was because he was black, but there were black people behind the desk before Scott came along. According to the Historical Dictionary of African-American Television, John Saunders was anchoring SportsCenter in 1986. Robin Roberts was the first African-American woman to anchor SportsCenter when she made her debut in 1990. And though that SportsCenter anchor desk was very much a white man’s world, the network as a whole was better than most in regards to diversity. Seeing Scott, a black man from Chicago by way of North Carolina, in that position wasn’t necessarily special.

What made Scott special was more than skin deep, and had everything to do with his broadcasting style. You could turn on SportsCenter, close your eyes, and simply by listening to the way he spoke, tell a black man was behind that desk. That is, after all, what Scott was, a black man, but before him, I never ever heard a black man sound like Scott did.

Very few people will ever know what it’s like to have to say things in front of the camera, even fewer will know what it’s like to deliver news and information from that vantage point. I have done it a couple of times, and I can honestly say, the most challenging thing about being in front of the camera is being the exact same person you are off the camera. When that red light comes on, something inside many people turns off.  This is especially true of black men who are anchors or hosts. Whenever I’m watching black men read the news or host a show, I often get the feeling they’re not giving me what I call their “barbershop selves”. With Scott, I had no such feeling. So many mornings I left SportsCenter humming in the background even as it played the same episode over and over all because Scott was on and listening to him felt like I was hanging out with one of my boys at the barbershop. His style became so distinct that now I can’t even say he was influenced by barbershop talk. Barbershop talk about sports has been influenced by Scott.

“Cool as the other side of the pillow” is the best rap line that was never rapped. I remember the first time I heard it, and having the type of reaction to it that I usually reserved for some ill line I heard from an MC. It showed that Scott was something more than a hip-hop fan, he was a product of hip-hop culture. Instead of taking a rap lyric and incorporating it into his recap, he took a hip-hop ethos. He wrote his own rhymes. And  even when he did want to sample others, he was so slick about it.

If my memory serves me correctly, every now and then, when Scott was calling basketball highlights he would say, “bounce up like round ball,” a very random line from Jay-Z’s “Heart of The City (Ain’t No Love).”  No, it wasn’t one of his more popular catchphrases, and I’m not entirely sure it was Scott who said it. But what I am sure about, whether Scott said it himself or not, is that Scott made it okay.

As soon as Scott passed, the tributes and homages to Scott’s SportsCenter quotes and his beautiful, touching, tear-inducing speech about fighting cancer at last year’s ESPY’s were all over my newsfeed. This makes sense. Scott was a God on the microphone, but what I will always remember about Scott is the man behind the words, a man who truly was himself in front of the camera and became a worldwide treasure for the worldwide leader of sports.

Filed Under: , ,
Jozen Cummings

Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called the Empire Afterparty and he works at Twitter as an editorial associate. He lives in Harlem, graduated from Howard University, and grew up in Seaside, California. He cannot get you a blue check.

  • CBrown

    RIP Stuart Scott!!

  • MeridianBurst

    Even though I’m not all that into sports I still knew of him. He’s pretty much a household name so there’s still a familiarity with him. The speech he gave at the ESPY’s is the part of him that resonates with me the most. It was a beautiful, touching moment and I think it represented such a poetic strength of a good man. I was saddened by his passing but seeing his peers give their tearful tributes is what really choked me up. He was greatly loved, greatly admired, and what he leaves us with is a positive sense of perseverance. Condolences to the family, rest in paradise.

  • pls

    lorddd this is my first time seeing a picture alongside “rip stuart scott” since news hit. i didn’t realize it was him *tear*

    even if you’re not into sports you know him, and he def made sportscenter feel like the conversation was your dad and brothers in your living room talkin ish.

  • miss t-lee

    Mayne…
    When I saw the tweet had he’d passed yesterday, I instantly got sad.I followed him on twitter and he’d normally been tweeting a lot, and then as of late there wasn’t much tweeting, so I figured he’d had a setback or something.
    I was good until I watched the tribute that Robin Roberts narrated. Then, it was ugly cry time. Even when my brother called me yesterday, that’s the first thing we talked about. Being teenagers in the early to mid 90s, we’d watch SportsCenter every morning before school to catch all the highlights, and of course Stuart Scott’s broadcasting was one of those highlights as well. Honestly if it wasn’t for him and Robin Roberts at the time being brown faces on the tv–I don’t even know if I would have even watched much ESPN back then.
    Of course this is hitting extra close to home since I have my grandmother battling colon cancer, a cousin who was recently diagnosed with throat cancer, and my best friends mom fighting leukemia. F*ck all of the cancers with a rusty screwdriver.
    I feel most for his daughters. Losing a parent is a rough, rough road.

  • camilleblu

    i distinctly remember becoming a fan of ESPN the day i saw stuart scott broadcasting and when calling a basketball play, he said *vla-di-da-di…vladi.dadi*. he had me hook, line and sinker.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    I can’t. Still too raw. Eff you cancer!!!!!!

    • Mimzi

      pretty much.

  • Thanks for putting into words what I thought. He’s very much a part of that vanguard of Black people who were their authentic selves on camera. This isn’t knocking the Bryant Gumbels and Wayne Bradys of the universe. After all, without them, we wouldn’t be able to understand who someone like Stuart Scott is. He was us without pandering or cooning it up. He was what a lot of serious writers try to be but never quite are.

    Thankfully there are others like him in the world expressing themselves as they feel, not in a way that is oriented towards a White America frame. This is an unqualified good. Among the many things the Civil Rights generation fought for was for a right to express ourselves by our own dictates, not through a frame imposed upon us. By his early death, he managed to reveal how much of an effort he made towards that same goal. Like you said, it’s gotten to the point where you can’t tell where the Barbershop ends and Stuart Scott begins… And that’s a good thing.

    • Yeah, I was doing my research when looking up the black anchors were on before him, which is how I came across John Saunders. I also remembered very vividly Robin Roberts, and it’s funny because I was reminded in the research that she used to say, “Go on with your bad self!” a lot. Still, no one was doing it like Scott, and that’s not a knock on anyone who was doing it before him. He just did it in a way that was so damn genuine.

      • Exactly. The sad thing is that it’s something you can’t really appreciate until someone’s gone. And the thing is for anyone, say, under 25, Stuart Scott IS sports journalism as they know it. They would look at old SportsCenter tapes from the 80s as something dry and weird.

        • BeautifullyHuman

          You make an interesting point. I’m not under 25 (not far from it) but Stuart Scott is sports broadcast journalism to me. I’m my world, his voice is the voice of ESPN and I mean that figuratively and literally. There were so many nights that I went to sleep hearing Stuart Scott’s voice. I think that’s what I’ll miss the most: his voice and his cool commentary peppered with flair and enthusiasm.

          Literally, he is ESPN to me and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to separate that.

  • ED

    I noticed on my Facebook newsfeed that, with all the posts about his passing, there were no posts about how we’re making such a big deal about one man dying when millions die all over the world. To me that says something. “From the department of redundancy department” Stuart Scott was special

    • Pinks

      I didn’t want to be THAT person and make a whole post about it, but there’s always someone who has to be like “But people die every day…did you know them personally…why do you care…what about the poor black kids dying in Chicago..etc”

      Like shut yo simple arse up!

  • Mimzi

    My dad is in his fifties, born in Nigeria, and in many ways is the epitome of an old African dad. Very stoic, doesn’t emote much if at all, etc. etc. Sunday morning I asked him if he had turned on ESPN yet, he said no, so I told him the news. My dad’s face fell harder than I’ve ever seen it. I actually can’t remember the last time I saw that much emotion on his face. Stuart Scott was absolutely, inarguably, amazing, and he touched so many people, including my family. I’ve been tearing up on and off since I heard the news. We lost one of the good ones.

  • I held on until I seen his long time running mate Rich Eisen on NFL Network then I kind of lost it for a sec. Stuart was “our guy” and in some ways he was kinda the Obama of sports journalism. Adding in the bravery of fighting cancer 3 times and his outstanding ESPY’s speech and he has earned all this adulation that has been thrown his way. His spirit lives on forever!

    • miss t-lee

      That Rich Eisen tribute had me doing the ugly cry too.

      • I read a story he told about when he and Stuart Scott went to a party surrounding the NBA all star game in 1997. Since they had to work together, they showed up at the same time. People apparently called out Stuart by name and called him “the white guy”. I found it hilarious that he remembered that, and that he was effectively second banana to Stuart.

        • miss t-lee

          “the white guy”…lol That’s great.

More Like This