The network's video tribute to Scott was simply amazing. I thought of the many Sunday nights in the 1990s spent watching him on "SportsCenter" as he dispensed his distinctive catchphrases and adorned those trendy suits and ties as an anchor. I thought of greeting him at the annual National Association of Black Journalists conventions, always happy that someone of his professional stature would mingle with students as easily as he did sports superstars.
Of course, I thought of my own students at Marquette University. Forgive the over-simplification, but it often seems that most of them want to head straight from student media to write for Vanity Fair or anchor on "SportsCenter." I absolutely love and support high aspirations. But I remind them that everybody they see on ESPN likely started in the trenches of local television or as a newspaper beat reporter covering a small college team, if not, high school sports. So it was great to hear or read many times how much Scott focused on getting facts right as much as punctuating his reports with signatures such as "Boo-Yah" and "Can I get a witness?"
These days students are excited to meet ESPN personalities such as Jemele Hill, Adam Schefter, Chris Broussard, Michael Scott, etc. I remember the days of Stuart Scott, Rich Eisen, Keith Olberman, Dan Patrick, et al., on "SportsCenter," long before shows like "First Take" and "Pardon the Interruption." Back then, Scott and Robin Roberts were the noted African Americans on the network. Seeing him function so skillfully and yet also so confidently – as a black man dominating the sports broadcast landscape – meant a lot to me and so many others.
Two among the countless social media tributes yesterday particularly struck me: 1) A Facebook post from Mister Mann Frisby, a journalism educator at Temple University, recounting how Scott "saved my job and my reputation" at a NBA Finals game between the 76ers and Lakers in 2001, and 2) Jamal Andress, who tweeted about how Scott inspired him to become both a journalist and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. (Scott and I also pledged Alpha while in college.)
I remember being impressed when Scott delivered the commencement address, a few days before that same NBA Finals game, at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina. I like to have my students use well-known speeches for writing assignments. Early on, I used Jimmy Valvano's classic inspiration from the 1993 ESPY Awards. I imagine that future students may write about Scott's reflection of what it is like to live with cancer, at the same venue in July.
Here's to Stuart Scott for, yes, being as cool as the other side of the pillow.