Wednesday’s game would probably have made Stuart Scott cringe. Watching his Tar Heels get handed a beating in the ACC-Big Ten challenge would have been hard to swallow for the UNC grad. What happened before the game would have helped to soften the blow, however. The outpouring of remembrance and celebration of his legacy from the Tar Heel faithful on ESPN’s Stuart Scott Day was a clear reminder of how much he meant to the University of North Carolina, and how much he continues to mean.
There has been plenty written about Stuart Scott, by smarter folks than I. There’s still plenty more that needs to be written. He was a singular figure on ESPN, someone who came in and changed the way sportscasters interact with their viewers. He struck a chord with his audience through his catchphrases, things that were repeated in driveways nationwide as kids dribbled around and pretended to be in the Top 10 on SportsCenter. The voice announcing most, if not all, of these imagined Top 10 plays belonged to Stuart Scott. The “boo-yah” echoing through my head as I swished what I imagined was a game-winning buzzer-beater from the second crack in my driveway’s pavement (almost three-point range, certainly close enough to count) was no different.
Towards the end of his life, after his legacy as an outstanding and paradigm-shifting sportscaster had been cemented, he became emblematic of something else entirely: a refusal to give up. His very-public fight with cancer, the one he was winning right up until he wasn’t, was a source of inspiration to other folks experiencing something similar. His speech at the 2014 ESPYs is as relevant today as it was then, and his candid manner of speaking coupled with his raw emotion makes for one of the most moving speeches I have ever seen. I watched it again Wednesday night, after Scott Van Pelt ended his SportsCenter broadcast with a tribute to wrap up Stuart Scott Day, and I found myself tearing up as I recognized anew the struggle he was facing. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer, and to hear the larger-than-life Stuart Scott talk about being tired is to hear the echo of everyone who has undergone treatment for the horrible disease. That was one of Stu’s unique gifts—to connect on a personal level with folks he hadn’t and would probably never meet.
I remember going to Late Night with Roy as a youngster and watching Stuart Scott host the festivities. It was so cool, to me, for someone as famous as he to come to my hometown and celebrate our team with us. I mean, he was on TV. He made a living talking about sports, and he’s here in the Dean Dome talking about my team. About our team. He was always proud to be a Tar Heel, and Wednesday night’s tribute just goes to show that, four years later, the Tar Heels are still proud to have been associated with someone like Stuart Scott.