*When Stuart Scott died last week I didn’t appreciate his legacy.
When I first started watching ESPN Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were the headliners of Sportscenter. It seemed like every anchor had some sort of signature catchphrase. In that context Scott didn’t seem so unique.
But upon further review Scott’s appearance on ESPN was definitely noteworthy. Scott was the first black male to be a featured anchor on Sportscenter. And while Scott was one of many talents that created memorable phraseology for highlight packages, he was the only one that used vernacular and cultural references from African-American culture. In fact I remember younger me hearing Scott do a highlight package and questioning his decision to use ethnic nicknames as a gimmick; it seemed like Scott was trading on his blackness to advance his career.
And perhaps he was but as time went on I realized Scott’s vocabulary was not a shtick. He was being true to himself and his heritage. If he was trading on his blackness it was organic. I went from frowning on Scott’s highlights to rooting for him to get more camera time.
Talking to my brother helped me realize there is an entire generation of sports fans who either went to sleep listening to his voice, waking up to his voice, or both. In other words he was extremely influential. And even though I wasn’t all that aware of his being the first African American male to lead SportsCenter at the time, I have been acutely aware of how good an example he must have set so that we now look at multiple African American men on various ESPN properties daily.
Lastly Scott’s appearance on the national landscape helped transform our natural culture. African American culture has always been a significant subject of American culture as a whole. But from the 1980s until today African American culture has been getting further and further integrated into the popular culture at large. If cultural critics point to Jay-Z as someone who has normalized black culture to the country at large every year with a new album, if you can cite The Cosby Show for putting a black family in front of the nation every week, then likewise we must include Stuart Scott in that group and applaud him for helping to standardize black culture every night.
Rest in peace.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.