I was eating breakfast at Waffle House when I got word of the passing of Stuart Scott. I took out my iPhone after eating an All-Star Special and the first post on my news feed was from SportsCenter.
“We are heartbroken to report that Stuart Scott has died after a long fight with cancer. He was only 49 but had a distinguished career and life. He will be sorely missed by the SportsCenter family.”
It was my first time at Waffle House and the first time I almost cried in front of people for the death of someone who was not a member of my family.
I wasn’t the only one. Many of those in the sports world took whatever medium at their disposal: Twitter, Facebook, NFL Network, ESPN, to pay tribute to Scott. Steve Wulf, ESPN the Magazine senior writer, wrote a beautiful piece on Scott’s legacy including quotes from Scott’s partners at ESPN. Scott’s “TV Wife”, Rich Eisen, Scott’s longtime partner at ESPN, gave an emotional report on Scott’s death and how much Scott impacted his life.
There was so much said and so much to say about a man who’s done so much for so many. But for me, Stuart Scott is the reason I became interested in sports. And he is the reason why I want to become a journalist.
I was just a little boy growing up in the Bronx and flipping through the channels on my analog cable box when I stumbled upon an episode of SportsCenter. On the screen was this black guy with a booming voice doing play-by-play and talking like a regular on my block.
It was the best thing I ever saw on television.
Scott was saying things never said before. He was doing things never done before. He was someone no one had ever seen before and I loved it.
While friends talked to me about cartoon shows and Disney sitcoms I never cared to invest in, SportsCenter was my show. But it was my favorite show when Scott was on camera. “Boo-yah!” was my favorite catchphrase and I’d do my best and obviously fail at trying to be imitate his delivery. He was one of a kind, the cool guy at the worldwide leader of sports, and someone I wanted to model myself after.
One guilty pleasure of mine was watching Mr. 3000 over and over again as a kid. My favorite scene was Stuart Scott’s cameo appearance, ripping Bernie Mac’s character, Stan Ross. “Stan Ross’ first week at bat was kinda like his first week out of the womb,” Scott said in the film. “Whole lot of just flailing around.”
But as a kid, being picked on was something I experienced and I know Scott was picked on to. I wore glasses that made me look funny to some kids and to some viewers, Stuart’s eye injury was funny. I was different from a lot of the other kids because I wasn’t so exposed to pop culture. Scott was different because he spoke in a manner only a specific culture spoke and it angered people. And the biggest obstacle he face was being a person of color on live television.
To have the courage to put your face on camera is one thing, but for Scott to do it was a whole other ball game. It was different. It wasn’t comfortable. But it was like watching Superman. It didn’t matter how different he was and how uncomfortable it was because once he put on his flashy suit and gleaming glasses, he wasn’t Clarke Kent. He was Superman, saving the world of sports from traditional reporting and showing kids like me that I can do what he was doing.
When I found out he had cancer, my reaction was: ‘How could the cool guy, Stuart Scott, have cancer?’ Cancer isn’t something Superman gets. Cancer can’t be his kryptonite. But while he battled against cancer, he’d never let you see it. He didn’t miss a beat, his charisma at 110% with flawless delivery. And he was always smiling.
That’s why I smile so much.
During his acceptance speech for the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2014 ESPYS, my throat tightened and my eyes watered as I saw what Scott underwent at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.Eyes dreary, but a smile on his face and a body figure of someone in his late 20s to early 30s. It didn’t look like someone with cancer.
As he stepped onto the podium and began his speech, I sat there in amazement. How could a man, who just had four surgeries in the span of seven days, still have the same tone of voice and exuding the same amount of passion the day I first stumbled upon SportsCenter? The award was the answer. He persevered. He fought. He never gave up. He never, ever gave up.
He spoke about his fight and the people who were there to help him in the fight. “The doctors and nurses could, “ he said about his seven day stay. “People that I love, my friends and family, they could fight.” But his heartbeat as he said was his daughters. “I am standing on this stage, here tonight, because of you.”
I never had the fortune of meeting Stuart Scott. I thought I would re-create his scene with Chris Berman where I would shake his hand and tell him I’d enjoy working with him one day at ESPN. My aspirations, my dreams are because of Stuart Scott. He inspired me to chase this dream. I am becoming a journalist because of Stuart Scott.
I don’t know what else to say because so many of his companions have eloquently and emotionally stated how much Scott meant to them and I don’t want to repeat anything any one said. But Scott’s death, while tragic and sudden, displays while cancer took him away from us, it didn’t beat him. His spirit lives on in his two daughters, the people he worked with, the people he made feel better who were in a fight, and the people he inspired.
“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” By your words Scott, you beat it. Now you can rest eternally on the cool side of the pillow. We’ll keep fighting. I’ll keep fighting.