A few weeks ago on the Monday Night Football pregame show on ESPN, Suzy Kolber was sitting in for Stuart Scott hosting at the onsite desk. I can't recall which former players she was sitting with (likely some permutation of Steve Young, Trent Dilfer, and Ray Lewis), but at the end of the segment, just before kickoff, she had the crew come out to the desk to join them.
At that point, Kolber sent tearful wishes and prayers to Scott, then the whole lot of ESPNers joined hands and raised their arms to salute to the longtime personality, who had been battling cancer on and off for seven years.
It was at that point that you knew that Scott's health situation, the severity of which he did his best to shield from his viewing audience (save a very revealing speech at the ESPY's in accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award), was grave.
On Sunday morning, Stuart Scott passed away in a Hartford, CT area hospital at age 49.
The news of Scott's passing was broken on air, appropriately during SportsCenter, the show for which Scott was the primary voice for the better part of the last two decades, taking the show to the next level of pop culture relevance after the Dan Patrick/Keith Olbermann Era ended in the mid 90's.
An emotional Hannah Storm conveyed the news to the audience, in a one minute report that was heartfelt, and included the most poignant part of Scott's ESPY's speech, that you beat cancer "by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live"...
From there, ESPN went immediately to a nearly 15 minute tribute to Scott that documented his meteoric rise in the business, his devotion to being a great father to his two daughters, Taelor and Sydni, and the generous soul that he represented to so many.
To anyone who merely saw Scott as a gimmicky fountain of hip-hop phrases on their television every night, the ESPN tribute (not to mention the deluge of thoughts, sentiments, and stories shared on social media) showed a side of Scott that made him impossible to dislike, regardless of how you feel about his work.
Numerous stories were shared of Scott encouraging and mentoring everyone from up and coming broadcasters to people in the ESPN mailroom. In a business that is as cutthroat as it gets, Scott's willingness to help make people better at their jobs might be the most telling thing about his professional character.
Hell, ESPN stopped everything they were doing on a Sunday morning to pay nearly 45 minutes of uninterrupted tribute to Scott that bled into the first half hour of NFL Sunday Countdown. During the NFL Playoffs.
Respect is also other networks mentioning and mourning Scott during their broadcasts, which literally every other pregame show on Sunday did. You rarely see homage paid across network lines. Condolences, yes. Reverence, no. This, again, spoke volumes about the man. Included in the border-free on air remembrances was the NFL Network's game day show, on which Scott's former SportsCenter partner Rich Eisen sent this heartfelt message to his late colleague....
During his 20 years at ESPN, which began when Scott was brought in as one of the foundation players at launch for ESPN2, Scott interviewed luminaries across all areas of sports, pop culture, and politics, up to and including the President of the United States, Barack Obama, who also weighed in on the impact of Scott's passing.
In a statement, President Obama said: "Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favorite teams and the day's best plays. For much of those twenty years, public service and campaigns have kept me from my family -- but wherever I went, I could flip on the TV, and Stu and his colleagues on 'SportsCenter' were there. Over the years, he entertained us, and in the end, he inspired us -- with courage and love."
Perhaps the tweet that best summed up the seemingly endless praise for Scott came from Desmond Howard's wife, Rebkah:
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The remarkable way in which you lived your life is evidenced by the way people remember and mourn you when you're gone. Rest, @StuartScott.
— rebkah howard (@pink_funk) January 4, 2015
I was never a huge fan of Stuart Scott's shtick on the air, but I became a huge fan of the man on Sunday. The outpouring made me wish I was a bigger fan when he was still with us. He was generous, respected, well liked, courageous, and unique. Whether you liked the trends he set or not, he was no doubt a trendsetter and set an example that many in and out of media strived to match.
Scott is survived by his daughters, Taelor and Sydni; his companion, Kristin Spodobalski; his parents; his sisters, Susan Scott and Synthia Kearney; and his brother, Stephen.