As everyone’s certainly heard by now, Stuart Scott, most famous as a newscaster on ESPN’s Sportscenter, died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer. Of the many tributes, obituaries, and stories about Scott, my two favorites came from his longtime Sportscenter co-anchor Rich Eisen, (who, in a later interview, reminded everyone that it’s spelled “boo-yow” according to Scott – hence the title of this tribute) and this story about courage and savvy in the face of professional adversity as told by Keith Olbermann.
I was saddened when I heard the news about Scott because I was in junior high and high school during the golden age of Sportscenter. Therefore, I’ve probably spent more time with Stuart Scott (as well as Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, Rich Eisen, Kenny Mayne, Rece Davis and others) than roughly 95% of everyone else on TV excluding the cast of “Friends” and mainstays from the WWE. I used to watch Sportscenter semi-religiously, and probably would have counted it as my favorite show from approximately 1995-1997, if asked. The show was incredibly watchable no matter what season it was or even what highlights were featured. Scott was a huge reason for that, and his voice provided a welcome cultural counterpoint to much of the college boy snark populating the airwaves at that time.
At the risk of sounding trite (and repeating what roughly a billion other people have already asserted), his “as cool as the other side of the pillow” is about as perfect a simile as someone can craft. Like a great pop song, it’s one of those things you hear for the first time that you’re aghast it took this long for you to hear it. It’s something so vivid, so universal-yet-specific, so effortlessly hip that you feel like you’ve been thinking about it your whole life, but for some reason unable to from those words in that order.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever, and that phrase will live on in pristine eternity.
Two lesser-cited things I loved related to Stuart Scott:
1. One of my all-time favorite SNL sketches is the Sportscenter parody featuring Ray Romano. Romano is the clear star here with his goofy, off-the-mark attempts at new catchphrases (“Sweet sassy molassey!”), but Tim Meadows as Stuart Scott is an underappreciated cog in this wheel. The first big laugh of the sketch comes when Meadows introduces his new partner and says, “Hey, Chet is more excited than Dennis Rodman at a Clinique sale” there’s a brief pause, then Meadows chuckles at his own joke and bellows right at Romano “BOOYAH!” Romano looks surprised at the veracity with which he’s just been barked at, and a big laugh from the audience follows.
Meadows doesn’t get Stuart Scott’s mannerisms and inflections exactly right (and I would definitely know as I watched a shitload of Sportscenter in those days, as I mentioned), but it strikes me more as a tribute than a parody. Sure, he overuses “BOOYAH!” which becomes its own running joke, but he largely serves as the straight man in the sketch. It would have been easy to parody Scott himself, but instead it chose to make him the voice of sanity and reason. That’s a nice inversion of expectations, and a tribute to Scott’s journalistic cred.
2. Probably the greatest show in the history of killing time in a hotel is “Stump the Schwab.” Hosted by Scott, this show pitted supposed sports know-it-alls against the king of sports know-it-alls, Howie Schwab – here known simply as “The Schwab.” If you were an avid sports follower, it was perfect trivia. Hard, but accessible and not totally impossible. The first round was always my favorite, and if you click the link above, you’ll get a flavor for the types of questions the show would ask. “Name members of the 1998 Chicago Bulls roster,” which, admittedly, was probably easier a decade ago than now, and “Name the 18 players who have scored 60 or more goals in a season in the NHL.”
Go to 6:22 of the clip, and Scott’s eclectic style and natural exuberance shines through. The player is scanning his brain for an answer, pulls Mike Bossy out of nowhere, and you hear Scott off-camera go “A-Tone on the microphone! Give it up!” Everyone claps, and we keep going.
I’ll be honest here. I still don’t really have any idea who or what that refers to, if anything. But goddamn it sounds good and natural coming out of Scott.
He had a weird chemistry with Schwab, as he did with almost everyone who shared a camera with him. Scott was uniquely himself, yet meshed with damn near everyone. He was a familiar, reassuring and always professional presence that could say goofy shit like “A-Tone on the microphone!” and make you feel like that was the most regular thing to say, ever.
By all accounts, he was well-liked by his colleagues, well-regarded by his peers, loved by his family, and adored by his viewers. That’s a guy who will be missed.
Rest in peace, Stu.