Roughly 11 years ago, I was a sophomore in high school. Like many high school students, I was struggling with the decision as to where I wanted to go to college. I was considering many different institutions1Including a pair of well-known schools in the Midwestern USA, while comparing them to a local-ish public institution that I ended up attending. The decision took me just over a year to make, and was heavily influenced by my desire to attend the same school as my high school sweetheart2Though I refused to admit this to myself or to her at the time, it was very much the truth..
I did, however, think that I knew what I wanted to do with my life at that point in time. I was very convinced that I wanted to be a sports talk show host. My fascination with sports and my realization that I wasn’t good enough to play sports in college had finally merged the year prior, so I saw sports broadcasting as a way to stay close to the games I loved, while developing my own voice in the process.
It wasn’t that far-fetched of an idea. Whenever I played sports video games, I’d turn down the volume and provide my own play-by-play and color commentary. When my brother, my cousins, and I played backyard football/kickball games, one of my cousins would dutifully keep statistics so that I could enter them in an Excel spreadsheet afterwards. I even did newspaper-style writeups of the games after the fact, much to the delight of my younger cousins, who were amused by seeing their names typed on a piece of paper in Courier font.
I went off to college in the fall of 2006. I began volunteering for one of our college’s radio stations shortly thereafter, and started my first sports radio show, The Two Minute Drill, with a couple of friends. We had a two-and-a-half year run before I graduated, in which we got kicked off air once3Much to my dad’s disappointment, it wasn’t for violating FCC rules, rather an extremely tiny radio station technicality that resulted in a one-week suspension., hosted two eating contests, three live bands, and subjected Grantland writer/editor Mallory Rubin (then working for Sports Illustrated) to what was likely the single worst interview of her life4The context of said interview was awful and is arguably my only regret from college, though that’s a story for another post.. The show was as disjointed and yet flowing in its format as I was, and I brought The Two Minute Drill its trademarked style.
I say all of this to bring up the fact that one of the two people who inspired me to try media as a career died yesterday. Stuart Scott passed away at the age of 49 after a lengthy battle with cancer. While I am not an African-American, Scott was one of the few sports commentators that really resonated with me in my youth. The passion, flair, and professionalism with which he spoke made Scott one of the most talented and well-respected speakers in an industry full of them. And yet, Scott is perhaps best known for his catchphrases that he intertwined into calling highlights. Prior to Scott, announcing highlights was merely a retelling of a story. After Stuart Scott came on the scene, it became a work of art.
The impact that Scott had on sports media goes well beyond the addition of “booyah” to the average American’s vocabulary. He served as a groundbreaking figure toward the growth of African-Americans in sports media, particularly at ESPN itself. In many of ESPN’s tributes to Scott yesterday, his coworkers spoke of how great of a person Stuart Scott was to go along with his verbal skills5Sage Steele’s story about Scott stood out to me. Go here and scroll down to the section labeled “Friend” if you want to read her story.. His speech last year at the ESPY’s detailing his fight with cancer was as uplifting and as moving as a speech as you’ll hear anyone give6It could even move people who say cancer is an over-publicized disease to tears, not that anyone in their right mind would actually say that…right?.
During my final semester at college, I realized that I didn’t want to work in sports media anymore. There were people who viewed sports as a life-or-death matter, and those people — fans, as they greedily call themselves — place far too much emphasis on what’s happening on the field. To me, Stuart Scott will always be the antithesis of that very ideology. He was a man who viewed sports as a for of entertainment — one that he enjoyed very much, but also something that was always secondary to the truly important things in life.