Stuart Scott dies at age 49

Widely respected sports anchor (July 19, 1965 — January 4, 2014) influenced many others

It’s rare when a moment of silence is given at a pro sporting contest for someone other than a president or national figure, but this one occurred before the start of the scheduled AFC wild card playoff game for longtime ESPN sports anchor Stuart Scott, who died of cancer on Sunday. He was 49.

Scott was born one of four siblings in Chicago in 1965 but grew up in North Carolina. He graduated from high school there and later graduated from the University of North Carolina with a speech communication degree in 1987. He began his broadcasting career at a Florence, South Carolina television station and worked his way to Bristol, Conn., where ESPN is headquartered, after stints in Raleigh, North Carolina and Orlando, Florida in 1993.

His first ESPN assignment was a short, twice-hourly sportscast during ESPN2’s SportsNight program, then as anchor on the main network’s signature show, SportsCenter.

“I say three-fourths of our society is sports fans, and if you are a sports fan, you’d watch ESPN at some point in your life. When you watched SportsCenter, you watched Stuart Scott,” noted former St. Paul Pioneer Press sportswriter Ray Richardson. He paid tribute to Scott, who recorded several promos for his “Back in the Day” show about a dozen years ago that Richardson still uses today, during his Sunday evening front_stuart_scottKMOJ show.

“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live,” said Scott during his July 16, 2014 appearance at the ESPYS.

“His legacy will live on in many ways,” said President Barack Obama in a statement on ESPN’s website. “Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favorite teams and the day’s best plays. Over the years, he entertained us, and in the end, he inspired us — with courage and love.”

“He was part of our daily lives and what we do on a day-to-day basis,” said Minneapolis native Henry Lake, now a Kansas City, Missouri midday sports radio host, of Scott, who was a huge influence in his career.

Within a span of a month Black journalism has lost two stalwarts — award winning
columnist Bryan Burwell died of cancer December 7 at age 59, and Scott, who was first diagnosed with cancer in 2007, on Sunday. Burwell wrote for mainstream newspapers in St. Louis, Detroit, New York and USA Today, appeared regularly on ESPN, was an HBO sports correspondent and a sports radio host.

“Both of those two guys were very influential for me. They weren’t working for mainstream media and were showing their intellect on that platform,” added Richardson. “It shows that we have the talent to do the job just like anyone else, and they proved it — they showed it. We haven’t had brothers like that as visible in the mainstream media, but it is not just because they were Black, but they were good.”

“I knew for a fact that there was a lot of White [network] executives at Bristol who weren’t comfortable with the way he got down,” recalled Washington, D.C. and Heritage Sports Radio Network Host Mark Gray, who once worked with Scott at ESPN Radio. “I think Stuart Scott was to ESPN what a collaboration of Run DMC and Aerosmith was to MTV; it changed the way the world looked at hip hop or rap music,” he pointed out.

“You know you arrived when someone mocks you on Saturday Night Live,” recalls Gray of former SNL cast member Tim Meadows’ impression of Scott. “Stu was the guy that the younger generation got their sports [from] and how it’s delivered to them.”

“I don’t have a whole lot of regrets in my life, but I do have a couple,” continued Lake. “I had the opportunity to meet Stuart Scott around 2002” at an all-star high school basketball game in Indianapolis. “Who was sitting in the stands to my right but no other than Stuart Scott, and I am one of his biggest fans. I wanted to get up at that moment and introduce myself, but there were people around us and I didn’t want to bother him and invade on his space, his downtime. If I could take that moment back, I would walk over and introduce myself.”

“I will miss Stuart Scott,” said President Obama.

“You never replace somebody like that,” said Gray. “You just hold on [to] the memories.”

“He was different, but he was a journalist in the truest sense of the word,” concluded Richardson. “I will really miss him.”

Information from ESPN and other sources was used in this report.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.