And now for a moment to talk about something that isn't really about Cal, but kind of really is.
If you were a kid in the 1990s who considered themselves a sports fan, you would probably get up a little bit earlier than usual to turn on the television to catch SportsCenter. You'd almost certainly do it when you knew that Stuart Scott was going to be on your TV.
I didn't know Stuart Scott, but in many ways I feel like we did know one another, because he spoke to me on a level that many people didn't. For me and many others, Stu was my TV best friend, the guy who you could turn on at any NBA Finals or Super Bowl and know he'd be there somewhere. He helped launch ESPN2 (which was one of the hippest places to be back in the day) into the phenomenon that it was.
The names of Stuart Scott, Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, Kenny Mayne, Rich Eisen, Linda Cohn, Robin Roberts, Bob Ley, Mike Tirico, Scott Van Pelt, Steve Levy and so many more--they were the faces that put ESPN on the map and made SportsCenter a worldwide phenomenon. As much as we give them hate on a day-to-day basis, who knows if we can cover Cal sports the way we do at CGB without ESPN stepping up and becoming the place it is for college sports.
But it's more than just business and money. Stuart was special in his own way. He made watching sports feel cool for all of us. He made it accessible. He made it fun. He stripped sports of its seriousness and reduced it to what it really was -- a game.
He made 7 a.m. on ESPN must-see TV. There was none of the life-and-death reporting and blowhard opining that permeates sports media, just the highlights, the top plays, the fun times. The SportsCenter Top 10 is not happening without Scott. We're not lobbying Kenny Lawler for top catches without personalities like Scott making highlights a fixture of our everyday viewing experience.
Almost every athlete growing up during that time wanted Stu narrating their top play. Almost all of them still do.
The cultural impact of Scott was hard to register at the time, but in many ways he's influenced almost every 20-something sports writer and journalist out there. People forget how very white American sports telecasting and broadcasting was in the early 90s and how he brought the other side into the national consciousness. He brought the street to TV in a way that made it vibrant, that made it alive.
He mainstreamed hip hop before hip hop artists mainstreamed hip hop. He narrated the action of any crazy touchdown pass or incredible slam dunk in his irreverent slam poetry storytelling style. He made it start to feel okay to like rap and not be viewed as a thug or a hoodlum. His daily lexicon permeated the national consciousness with words and catchphrases that have taken root in most of American sports today. ("Booyah!" "As cool as the other side of the pillow." "Just call him butter because he's on a roll." "CAN I GET A WITNESS FROM THE CONGREGATION?" So on and so forth.)
Think of the way you and your friends write or speak or talk about sports, and you'll probably find at least a small trace of Stuart Scott's impact in there. Without guys like Stu ushering in urban black culture to the rest of us, Cal favorites like Marshawn Lynch would not be as publicly embraced for the unique type of individual they are or were. Stu was one of those guys who made being unique a cool thing to be.
It might have seemed pretty normal to kids and teenagers who wanted that stuff. But it was definitely groundbreaking. Now it's hard to think of anyone not looking back on their work in sports media and thinking about the little traces of Stuart Scott that were part of it all. He was larger than life.
Stu wasn't afraid to be who he was. He wasn't afraid to do things that people might frown upon, or hate him for, or go outside of the box and do things that challenged norms and conventions. He was himself. He was himself to the very end. Not once did he back down from that.
It would be hard for me to say I'd be a huge sports fan (and no doubt I wouldn't be writing at all about it) without a presence in my childhood like Stu. He provided the hook. Although his influence was beyond color, I know a lot of us who are brown and black and yellow feel that way about him. He was a trail blazer. He made us all feel like we could have a voice.
It hit me hard when I saw Scott at the ESPYs just a few months ago. He was not in a good place. I had no idea how bad it was for him, how he'd fought cancer for seven years, beaten it twice only to have to do it all over again. For the first time it was really dawning that he might not be in our lives anymore. It was unthinkable. It was awful. How could he go when he had so much more to give?
Just like everything else, Scott wouldn't take no for an answer. The man refused to let cancer beat him, just like he had refused to let critics get in the way of his creativity, the way haters had trashed his artistry. Stu would be Stu. He was until the end. Even in his pain, he provided hope, and love, and courage. He wasn't ready to go. His family, his friends, his colleagues weren't ready to let him go. And I honestly thought he'd keep on going, because even in the face of death he never quit.
That is Stuart Scott's legacy. His devotion to life, and to living.
There won't be another Stuart Scott. But there should be--there are--people who treat life in the way that he did, with love and passion and kindness and warmth. I can only hope more of us will live their lives with the same courage and fervor he did. You, the people you touch, the world only gets better that way.