The most casual of sports fans lost a friend when Stuart Scott passed away on Sunday. The ESPN anchor was a fixture on SportsCenter for many years, having been with the organization for 21 years.
What made him so different was the way in which he packaged the information that he delivered. He managed to combine a Kobe Bryant thunder dunk with one of his trademark expressions such as “cool as the other side of the pillow.”
He made listening to SportsCenter both informational and fun. When Scott teamed with Rich Eisen, now with The NFL Network, you listened more intently because in the language of some urban youth, he kept it real.
Despite some criticism from sports traditionalists, Scott invented a hip-hop style of delivering sports information. Because of him, I believe more urban youth tuned into ESPN. He was cool, serious, thoughtful and funny during his telecasts.
As I have been around students all of my professional life, you must bring your “A” game if you want to hold their attention. Scott saw the relationship early on between sports and urban communities. As a result, he developed a flair that was both appealing and contemporary. It was almost like he had a crystal ball and saw the future before it got here.
Now when you go to the playgrounds and to the playing fields you see more boys and girls competing than ever before. All of this translates into more of us becoming student-athletes in college and then some of us becoming professional athletes.
The hip-hop culture permeates almost everything that we do today. For example, rap-themed music is being used in television commercials and urban wear is becoming standard wear. Entrepreneur Russell Simmons saw this shift culturally years ago and Scott created a similar movement for the sports industry.
The beauty of listening to Scott was that he was bilingual. He could go straight up hip-hop on you or he could go traditional mainstream. When he would say in a half-serious way, “What had happened was” and then in the same frame come up with some interesting player’s statistics, you knew you were watching someone special.
Some years ago, now iconic sports announcer Dick Enberg made two words his signature statement. They were, “Oh, my!” When an athlete made a dramatic play, Enberg would utter the phrase that would simply punctuate and define the highlight.
If you fast forward to the Scott years, he came up with his own signature expression, and that was “Boo-yah.” So when a great play was made on the field or on the court, Scott would say “Boo-yah.” When you review the two expressions from these men, you realize that “Oh, my!” was traditional and “Boo-yah” was, well, non-traditional. No, let’s just say it came from Scott’s hip-hop lexicon.
It was sometime after watching him that I found out that we both grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I guess you can say it is a long way from Winston-Salem to the ESPN studios in Bristol, Connecticut. He and I are also members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the nation’s oldest Black Greek letter organization.
Like you, I will miss Scott for his dynamism, creativity and charm. We watched him because we felt at home with him. He gave us the news of victory and defeat in a way that captured our imagination.
Tributes and comments have come in from all across the country, including a tribute from President Barack Obama.
Stuart Scott was a great father to his daughters, Taelor and Sydni, and they will miss him greatly. Stuart Scott belonged to America and we are better because he passed this way.
Stuart Scott was as cool as the other side of the pillow.
Dr. James Ewers is the president emeritus of The Teen Mentoring Committee in Ohio. He served as a vice president and admissions director at several colleges and universities before retiring in 2012. A motivational speaker and workshop leader, he is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues.