If you say “Boo-yah!” when you score points on somebody, if you say someone is “cool as the other side of the pillow,” you’re just one of the millions of us Americans who regularly quote Stuart Scott without realizing it.
Last Sunday, January 4, ESPN announcer Stuart Scott passed away from cancer at the far-too-young age of 49. The Tarheel basketball players I watched this week wore “Stu” patches on their jerseys. Along with all his other roles, Scott was a Tarheel through and through. And I am oddly proud to know that.
Of all the testimonials I’ve read, the two themes that stand out the most are “Stuart Scott, Trailblazer” and “Stuart Scott, Devoted Father.” ESPN notes that it was Stuart who worked to make the national sports media more relevant to ALL Americans, not just the dominant culture:
ESPN knew enough to have sportscasters who represented 45 million Americans, not to mention 80 percent of the players in the NBA and 70 percent of those in the NFL. What we didn’t know, until Stuart got here, was how important it was to have someone who could relate to them.
“He was a trailblazer,” says ESPN anchor Stan Verrett, “not only because he was black — obviously black — but because of his style, his demeanor, his presentation. He did not shy away from the fact that he was a black man, and that allowed the rest of us who came along to just be ourselves.”
“Yes, he brought hip-hop into the conversation,” says Harris, “but I would go further than that. He brought in the barber shop, the church, R&B, soul music. Soul, period.”
Some of his best moments on the air came when he adopted the persona of a preacher: “Can I get a witness from the congregation?!” And one of his best moments off the air came when a producer suggested he change a reference on his NBA show from Omega Psi Phi, the fraternity of Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, to something more universal, like Animal House.
“I have friends who have no idea what that movie is about,” Stuart told him. “That movie was made two decades ago, and black fraternities have been around since 1906.”
Even more important, as this ESPN article and many others show, is how much Scott loved his daughters and made himself an unself-conscious role model for modern dads:
“His girls mean everything to him,” says Harris. “I mean his girls mean everything to him. He would easily take Stuart Scott, dad, over Stuart Scott, ‘SportsCenter’ anchor.”
“He’s a great, great dad,” says Ramsey. “He just takes so much pride in the girls, and you can’t see him without him taking out his phone and showing you a video of Taelor or Sydni singing or dancing or playing soccer.”
Occasionally, Stuart would give a shout-out to Sydni’s soccer team, but that was easy compared to another commitment he made to his daughters. “His daughters and my daughters danced at the same studio,” says Anderson. “One year we went to their performance of ‘The Nutcracker.’ And here comes Uncle Drosselmeyer, and I thought, ‘That man looks a lot like Stuart Scott,’ and it was — he was there for his girls. I’ll never forget him coming out in this big cape, swooping in with his nutcracker, and he was great. I’m not sure the dance steps were up to Baryshnikov, but certainly the intentions were.”
Then there’s Stuart Scott, cancer warrior, inspiration: “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.”
So why does it matter that Scott was a true-Carolina-blue Tarheel till the end? It doesn’t, not really. Except that who wouldn’t want to claim any kind of allegiance with a human being like this?
Thanks, Stuart. Go Heels. Rest in peace.