This Sunday morning was just like any other morning growing up. I’d get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and watch SportCenter. This morning was no different until SportCenter broke with news that I’m still trying to fathom.
Long time SportCenter anchor Stuart Scott, died of cancer at the age of 49. He had been battling the vicious disease since November of 2007 until he was notified that he was cancer free four years later in 2011. Except in 2013 it came back and took him off the air till his moving and inspiring ESPY’s speech this summer:
Growing up there was no show that was on more in my house than SportCenter, or ESPN, and I know for a fact that I’m certainly not alone. It was almost comical how much I watched it, so much so that there were plenty of nights where I would fall asleep listening to ESPN radio too.
Scott joined ESPN in 1993, three years later I was born, the same year (1996) when Stuart started to appear on SportCenter with Co-host Rich Eisen, who now works at NFL Network. For the next 18 years (and beyond) I watched SportCenter two, sometimes three times a day no matter if it was a slow news day or if there was breaking news. All along the way “Stu” was there in my living room talking to me about sports.
But it is the way that he talked about them that was so revolutionary and so different that made him stand out above the rest. All SportCenter anchors had catchphrases doing highlights, but Stu took it to another level. With phrases like, “Boo-yah!” “Cool as the other side of the pillow” and “Grab some butter because this man is on a roll!” he was essentially changing the way we talk about sports, no other man or woman was saying this type of stuff on air.
I’m sure those who were as devote to SportCenter as much as myself had their own favorite SportCenter anchors duo. For myself it happened to be Stuart Scott and Scott Van Pelt, who became SportCenter’s primetime duo through the better half of the 2000’s. For the hour or so that they worked together on air, they made watching sports highlights a delight, they were more than just “talking heads” they were friends in your house talking sports.
Countless times I would wake up early on Monday mornings before school to watch them recap the NFL from the day before. There were times when I would watch the same SportCenter three times through because to myself and so many others it was genuine fun listening to him and listening to Van Pelt try to keep up with his energy and charisma on air.
Stuart is also a major reason, if not the reason why one day working at ESPN is my dream and why I decided to go into journalism in the first place. His ground-breaking personality and the way he continued to live his life and do SportCenter even with the disease has inspired me to hopefully one day follow in his footsteps.
He inspired the community with those who are fighting and those who have fought cancer by the way he lived, in that he lived his life as if he didn’t have cancer, he didn’t let it take over his life.
I don’t know Stuart personally, but the way he did his job on SportCenter I felt like he was a friend who was there through all my ups and downs in sports. He was there when my Yankees lost a historic three game lead in the 2004 ALCS to the Red Sox. He was a part of the coverage the night the Bulls drafted Derrick Rose first overall in the 2008 NBA draft. He introduced NBA Champions, covered Monday Night Football, made golf highlights fun, and just about everything in between you name it and Stu was there doing what Stu does and you knew it too.
It’s a tragedy that his life was taken away from us today, but they’re signs of his life everywhere. His impact is so profound in more ways than just sports. He was a one of a kind talent that changed the landscape of SportCenter forever. As he used to say, “It’s your world kid, the rest of us just payin’ rent.” We’re the ones paying rent, Stu.
Thanks for growing up with me. Rest in eternal peace.