This past weekend the sports world mourned the tragic loss of ESPN host Stuart Scott to cancer at age 49. To the casual fan he was the black guy who sprinkled sports news with funny hip-hop catchphrases, to people who are just recently catching on he may be known for the rousing, tear jerking speech he gave at the ESPYs a few months back. But to people like me and the rest of my 10th Year Seniors brethren, he was so much more.
Scott’s influence on sportscasting has been spoken about in depth in the past couple of days, but it would be ridiculous not to bring it up; Before Stuart Scott sports reporting was done by guys who didn’t look like me (or most athletes) drawling about what was happening on TV.. It wasn’t really interesting but I guess the game itself was supposed to be the attraction. Enter Stuart Scott swaggering, dropping rap quotes and being generally cool, changing the way it was done. He was especially illuminating to me in my early teens as I had just started really listening to hip hop. Listening to Scott every day the way I did taught me that Sports reporting could be cool, and relevant and generally funny. He taught me that someone not named John Madden could add their own personality to sports shows when it wasn’t really a thing at the time, but in retrospect it made so much sense. See, the news is what it is and it doesn’t change, if you want to know who went off last night in the NBA you can read a paper or go online. By stamping the news with his colorful commentary Scott made sports reporting an event, and in doing so he paved the way for numerous other commentators like Jalen Rose and even John Gruden to do the same.
Scott was undoubtedly a trailblazer because of the way he reported sports news but he means so much more to people like me. He started on ESPN at a time when hip-hop was the whipping boy for the complex social ills that plagued America and locking up black men made white politicians instantly more electable. In this climate that was highly hostile to black men here was Stuart Scott, highly educated, a proud alum of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hosting what would become one the most watched news shows in the world (virtually no nationally televised news shows have black anchors even today), wearing his hip hop influences proudly on his sleeve, on equal footing with his education. He taught me that I can love hip hop and still be an educated, professional articulate black man. He taught me that as a teenager who got shit from classmates for “talking properly” it was okay to be who I am. For that I will be forever grateful.
What we do on 10th Year Seniors, our jargon how we look at and talk about sports, none of it would exist if not for Stuart Scott showing us that we can be goofy, and relevant, and still be articulate and intelligent. He paved the way for 4 educated guys from The Bahamas to goof off on the internet and generally do ridiculous things like working Young Thug references into NBA podcasts. We’ll never accomplish what Stuart Scott did but if it wasn’t for him we probably wouldn’t even exist, definitely not in our current form. He was 10th Year Seniors before it wasn’t even a thing.