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January 2015 Hero of the Month: The Legacy of Stuart Scott

We all tend to look forward to a new year with hope and expectations of better things to come. There is something therapeutic about cleaning out our desks and noble about making new year’s resolutions and vowing to do better and be better in the year ahead.

Thus, it is exceptionally painful to lose a friend at such a time. I never met Stuart Scott of ESPN, but oh did I enjoy watching him and I considered him a friend. Someone who comes into your home as much as Stu did for 20 years is family.

He broke the typecast of smug, hugely opinionated, bloviating sportscasters (yes, Keith Olbermann, I am talking about you) in favor of making sports more fun, and he brought such incredible energy to his broadcasts — just about stealing every segment he ever did, regardless of who was his co-anchor (even the Berminator seemed subdued next to Stu — not an easy accomplishment for Chris).

ESPN is simply one of the greatest inventions of the last thirty years, right up there with CNN. And Stu deserves a lot of credit for that because he made it more youthful, hipper and smarter (even an old guy like me felt younger watching him).

But, as reflected in the moving tribute ESPN released on Stu’s death and included below, Stuart Scott was more than that: he was a courageous man and a great father. Three times he was forced to battle cancer, from the age of 42 to his passing at 49. No one should have to fight that battle that early, that often, or that long. And as noted in the broadcast, his motivation was to buy more time to be with his daughters, above all else.

And then, you cannot talk about Stu without acknowledging that he was an incredible role model for other aspiring black broadcasters and convincing black people that ESPN was their network, too. America is strongest when we encourage diversity of style and substance. One of his greatest qualities was that he had faith in who he was and would not put on a “game face” for the broadcasts by dialing down his personality to “blend in” even if it meant some folks might be turned off. He dared to be different and he was true to himself. As a result of his unique style, Stu and ESPN received a lot of hate mail from people who resented his color and his hip-hop persona. In one poll in 2003 for ESPN, he was voted the #1 anchor people wanted “outta here” and #2 most popular “definitely keep him.” (My kind of guy!) Stu saved ESPN from endless reruns of Mike Ditka and Ron Jaworski. Boo-yah.

Stu was honored at the ESPY Awards in July 2014 with the coveted Jimmy V Award given to an individual who shows exceptional courage in coping with illness (if you don’t know about Jimmy V, check him out at Wikipedia under Jimmy Valvano, for another example of greatness). Stu had had four surgeries in the week preceding the award ceremony for liver and kidney complications. At the end of his remarks, he dropped the greatest pearl of wisdom I have ever heard about a life threatening illness: “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live and the manner in which you live…” Amen.

“Call him butter, he is on a roll!”

R.I.P., Stu.

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