Being raised on sports as I was- on ice skates by age 3, and inhaling the aroma of the freshly-mown outfield grass of a little league baseball diamond by age 5- I spent many a Saturday morning, not watching cartoons, but watching SportsCenter on ESPN.
I soaked in the highlights of the games from the day and night before, the previews and analyses of the games to come Saturday, and on football Sunday, and allowed the anchors and reporters, with their catchphrases and their unending statistical knowledge, to fuel the fire that became my undying passion for sports.
And within all of it, amidst the Bob Leys, the Dan Patricks and the Scott van Pelts at ESPN, there was one man who called my attention every single time he was on camera and his visage happened across my television screen- that man was Stuart Scott.
From his trademark “booyah” to accentuate a Ken Griffey Jr. home run, and his affable demeanor in working with his co-anchors, his deskmates, and his friends, Stuart Scott was always himself.
He brought a flair to sportscasting, his own brand of hip-hop inspired colloquialism and expression that made you want to imitate him, idolize him, be just like him.
It was in watching Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen, or Stuart with Scott Van Pelt, as they riffed on at the SportsCenter desk, trading catchphrases and anecdotes, regaling the at-home audience and in-studio crew with illustrative game recaps that could rival, in entertainment value and sheer descriptive beauty, even the greatest of novels, that I gained an appreciation, an admiration for the art form they created of sports reporting, and an aspiration, a yearning to be the one in front of that camera.
He breathed constant life, energy, enthusiasm, and excitement into a medium that all too easily could have fallen victim to routine and sameness. From his seat in the studio, to his field reporting and interviews, Stuart brought an animation, a liveliness to his job day in and day out.
His style, not without its detractors, changed sports reporting from a simple stream of video and analysis, to segments of comic-book sound-effect exposition underlining action-packed highlights sequences, engaging the viewer, drawing them in and holding them captive.
When Stuart was faced with adversity, when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, he tackled it head on, like he did with his job. He fought with the zeal for life that he always flashed in front of the cameras and that he exhibited in the public eye, and with his family. He fought not just for himself, but especially for his two daughters.
All through the illness and the treatments, as he battled, Stuart still went to work, sitting at the SportsCenter desk, in-studio with his colleagues, bringing his never-ending passion and love for sports to the show every day.
At the 2014 ESPY Awards, he was awarded the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award for his courageous fight against cancer. In a moving acceptance speech, he explained, “When you die, that 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.”
Today, January 4th, after seven years of fighting, Stuart Scott was taken away by cancer.
But he did not lose the fight.
No, Stuart went the whole twelve rounds. For he had, through the entirety, continued to live- for himself, for his work, for his family, for his daughters. He lived with an unmatched passion for life, taking up mixed martial arts, maintaining a sense of humor even in the most difficult times, and displaying an unending love and devotion to his work and to his family.
There are people- most often celebrities, athletes, personalities- who we may never have the chance to meet, but who have a major impact on our lives, on who we become as people. For me, Stuart Scott was one of those people. He incited in me a fuller appreciation of sports, a respect for quality, intelligent, and engaging sports reporting, and a desire to be just like him.
Beyond saying that he will be missed immensely by the greater sports community, by his co-workers, his friends, family, and all of his fans, I want to say thank you. Thank you, Stuart Scott, for sharing yourself with us, the sports fans of the world, for more than two decades. Thank you for instilling in me a passion for sports that will live on with me for the rest of my life.
You were an inspiration, a leader, an institution within an institution, and you will be sorely missed.