The sports world received devastating news Sunday morning when it was announced that longtime broadcaster Stuart Scott had passed away at the age of 49 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Back when I first met Stuart about 20 years ago, I had just started my move from behind the bench in the NHL to in front of the camera, something that is never an easy transition no matter how easy it might look.
When I heard the news Sunday morning, the first thing that came to mind was back when ESPN2 was starting. It first came on the air in late 1993 and grew over the first few years. I was hired very early on after the launch along with people like Kenny Mayne, Suzy Kolber, and of course Stuart. Everyone was brought in around the same time and if you remember, ESPN2 was going to be the total opposite of ESPN. Guys were going to wear denim shirts on the air; no ties. I remember Stuart's work in particular on the first few nights. He was always a good guy and he loved all sports, including hockey. He came to numerous Stanley Cup Finals, and what I really loved about him is at a time when the NHL was still growing, Stuart worked as hard on an NHL highlight for SportsCenter as he did for the NFL or the NBA.
He was a total, thorough professional from the moment I met him close to 20 years ago right down to the end. Today is an extremely sad day for everybody, and watching all the tributes to him on TV that we've seen this morning in the United States have been deeply touching even if we knew this was eventually going to happen. Stuart put up a heck of a fight for a long time, but that doesn't make it any easier.
When I had first started doing TV full time, I learned from everybody I worked with, people like Steve Levy, Chris Berman, Dan Patrick, and of course Stuart. I was there for all of those guys, and I've seen a lot of anchors come and go, but Stuart stuck out because he was always having fun. It wasn't a job to him. I think anyone that's good at something, it's not a job to them, and Stuart was great at what he did. He was always ready. He did his homework.
Even more than being a professional, though, was the pure entertainment value he brought to televised sports. He never went on the air so-so and had a bad show. He was always fired up and energized, and that came across in his telecast. Not only did he have energy, but he had a different kind of personality from what sports-TV had seen before. He's one of the few people who basically changed the English lexicon. Things like "Boo-yah!"; things like "As cool as the other side of the pillow." Those are things he said on TV, and people still use them in common language now.
Stuart taught me to just have fun. He taught me to show your own personality. He had fun and he didn't treat it like a job. We're the luckiest people in the world. We get to talk about sports for a living. That's how Stuart approached his job every night.
He was right that we're the luckiest people in the world. All of us who work in sports are lucky to have known or worked with Stuart. Unfortunately, we're all a little less lucky today.