Real Life: Stuart Scott: He had me feeling like black was the thing to be

As a 21st century resident of the United States, I woke and scrolled the timelines of my social media on Sunday morning, January 4, 2015, and was slapped in the face with the news of the passing of ESPN’s Stuart Scott.




You can’t be in sports and not affected by his death. And I tried all day to avoid writing something about it. Quite frankly, I didn’t think it was place: there were enough voices, better voices, more intimate voices from his immediate colleagues and friends. They gave the most heartfelt, dynamic, and personal accounts of their experience, influence and relationship with the sportscaster. I simply didn’t think it was my place to contribute.


I certainly got my share of requests to “say something about Stu.” But truth be told, I was too emotional. To my surprise, Scott’s death affected me way more than I thought I would. It hurt like a family member had died. But he wasn’t family, and I barely knew him. What happened was someone very important died.


A friend texted me and said “I can’t remember the last time the passing of a public figure was this upsetting. And I know he was so important to so many journalists I know.”
I replied “Not just journalists...black people…”



Scott was important to me, to all of sports, to the broadcasting industry...to black people.


Gender doesn’t determine a mentor, and Scott was definitely part of the process of my dreams of one day presenting sports on TV. Tupac’s lyrics rang in my head all day when I would think about his influence- “he had me feeling like black was the thing to be.” Because early in my career news and sports were presented in a strict, upright, suited and serious way. Yes, even sports. (Now look at us, we don’t even wear suits anymore...most days I wear jeans.)


Scott’s presence on TV was cool and fun. He’d say “Boo-yah" (pronounced boo-yaow, dammit!) and we’d shout it in our schoolyard games, while playing video games and secretly wished that we were that cool to come up with one of our own. 

He was important to sports because he was the guy athletes wanted to talk to, so they did. 

He was important to broadcasters because he was another black face in the studio.


I met Stuart Scott in 2005, at the NABJ Convention, as an aspiring journalist. I knew that I wanted to do sports, but I wasn’t in the door yet; so I was open to trying every beat to get in. (At that time, I had just finished an internship at a radio station, and was months in as a logger for Turner Sports.) NABJ was amazing, and I was awestruck by all of the celebrity journalists who roamed the convention floor. Of course I tried to play it cool, but my goal was to gain as much from that week that I could. I remember, I went by myself. I didn’t know anyone, which made it the perfect opportunity for this shy girl to make friends on the fly. I collected so many business cards, and my encounter with Scott still makes me laugh to this day.


The convention has a number of mixers each evening. I was at one, I don’t remember which one, and apparently I was talking to one of his colleagues. Scott came up to us and I was introduced. It was my turn to speak and I could barely remember my name. But I tried to recover, yanno...play it cool, and thanks to Stu for letting me get away with that fumble. Needless to say, I didn’t ask for a picture. Plus...I didn’t want to come off like fan-girl, when I wanted to be taken serious.

NABJ Sports Task Force honored Stuart Scott for his contributions to broadcasting in 2014. I was there.


Each following year at the convention, (that’s when we black journalists take a little mental health break from the regular,) and as I gained more friends in the industry and employment too, whenever I ran into Stu, he would stop, ask me how my career was going, and say some “keep at it” words of encouragement.

He was so kind for that.


You've heard others compliment Stuart Scott with his own “cool as the other side of the pillow” sentiment, and in reality he really was. To his family...his daughters, I wish you comfort through the grief. The world loves your guy and he did something great and important.

Though this story may not be as powerful or profound (or even as well written) as the others, it is my #StuStory.  

 

*during the 2014 NABJ Sports Task Force breakfast, Stuart Scott was honored but couldn't make it. We sent a video tribute with this "Boo-yah" video. Pause it at the beginning and you can see me in the far left corner.

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2 comments :

  1. thanks for sharing your story.

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