The long-time ESPN anchor passed away today at the age of 49.
We’ll remember his catchphrases–like “as cool as the other side of the pillow”–but he was more than the sum of his taglines.
One of hardest things to do in any medium is to speak in your own voice. There’s constant pressure to talk like everyone else, to speak in the corporate voice if you want to be heard and respected.
That’s not quite how Scott played the game.
What I admired about Scott–and what lots of people loved about him– is that he didn’t sound like every other broadcaster on ESPN.
But a lot of broadcasters now sound like him.
Former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson said on ESPN today that, after he left football to become a commentator, Scott helped give him the courage to be himself on the air. “He was able to bring the hip hop culture, that urban feel to television sports broadcasting–something that’s never been done before–[and] gave me the hope that I didn’t have to be some corporate guy.”
I never thought of Scott as hip, let alone hip-hop, but he brought some of the flavor of the way people actually speak, some of the rhythms of the music many sports fans listen to, to sports broadcasting.
“He was a role model for me,” former NFL player turned broadcaster Cris Carter said today on ESPN. “He talked, on SportsCenter, like me and my friends talked.”
Lots of times, I turn on ESPN radio, and I hear about brothers on the court, but there are no black broadcasters talking about the action. Lots of times I turn on ESPN on TV, and I see brothers on the field, but I don’t see a single person of color giving their views about what’s going on.
In the book “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” former ESPN executive Keith Clinkscales is quoted as saying “Sports journalism’s record on hiring minorities is abysmal, and network television’s record is abysmal.” He calls Scott getting vernacular on the air at ESPN one of black America’s “great cultural moments.”
Scott’s voice will be missed. He was much cooler than the other side of the pillow.
He was the other side of the story.
Please leave your thoughts about Scott in the comments.
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