When I was working at the NBC affiliate in Orlando in 1992 I was on the verge of becoming the next great TV sportscaster. Or so I thought. When my station announced they were going to add a third sports anchor, I was primed (in my mind, any way) to be that guy, but the station hired a guy named Stuart Scott out of Raleigh, North Carolina. Man was I pissed. Despite my not really having any chance at the job, I was mad at Stuart before he even walked in the door. All that went away 30 seconds after Stu walked through the door at WESH.
Stuart Scott was as bombastically kind as any person I've ever known. He really could never help himself. He was warm with everyone, truly caring how you were and how your family was. It didn't matter if he'd known you for 10 years or 10 seconds. One night during his first week in Orlando I asked him if he wanted to go to dinner and suggested Pizza Hut. He said that sounded great and off we went. When we got there Stu ordered a no-cheese pizza. I asked him about his odd order and he said he didn't like cheese, to which I told him "We didn't have to come here if you don't like cheese." He just smiled and said "It's ok. It seemed like you wanted to come here." That was Stu in a nut shell, putting other people first.
Stuart was also BORN to be an entertainer, whether he was on TV or just hanging out with friends. One night Stu and I and two others went to the movies. We entered the theater just as the previews started. Stu yelled out "Ohhhhhh!!!" and took an intentional barrel roll half way down the aisle. As he got up and dusted himself off people looked on in horror as the rest of us just giggled. Fittingly, that movie was Danny DeVito's Renaissance Man, which is exactly what Stuart was.
Another time I called Stu and asked if he wanted to go to the park to shoot hoops. He said sure and I told him I would be right over to pick him up. He and I lived in the same apartment complex so it only took me 5 minutes to get to his place. When I knocked on the door instead of opening it he just yelled "Come in!!" When I walked into his condo he was rolling around the floor in pain. I asked him what happened and he said he thought he broke his foot. So I helped him up and we went off to the ER. Once we got there I asked him what happened and he said he was getting ready for hoops and jumped over a pile of laundry on his floor and landed wrong. "But that's not what I'm going to tell people. I'll have to say there was a fire in a building and I ran in to rescue people." He was only half-kidding. It was a better story. It was a more entertaining story.
Stu and I worked together on the weekends. I was the producer of the 6 and 11pm newscasts and would often give Stu 5 or 6 minutes for his sportscasts on a regular basis. More often than not, Stu would never get through all the things he had put into his rundown and would often wonder why. Stu would usually write lead-ins (the on camera set up to highlights) in the 40 second range. Most anchors wold target :15-:20. In the end it didn't matter that he didn't get to the last few things he had planned because the extra time he was spending on camera was what was important at that time. He was honing his craft, creating the Stuart Scott persona that would become legendary. It was like watching the molecules of a comet forming for the first time.
In Orlando in the early 90's the type of audience that watched local news wasn't exactly prepared for "BOO-YOW!!" and all the things Stu brought to the television screen. Our news director would often tell him to tone it down because "Mr. and Mrs. Jones really don't understand what you are doing." Stu didn't ever listen to that because he was committed to being Stu Scott, not what someone else thought he should be. When Stu left for ESPN everyone at WESH knew he was going to be a star. It didn't take long.
About a year and a half after Stu left he called to tell me ESPN had some producer openings and he set up an interview for me. I got the job and my life took an amazing turn going from producing the noon news on local TV to producing SportsCenter, in large part thanks to Stu.
When I got to ESPN Stu would tell me how he was butting heads with management but wasn't wavering in doing things how he wanted to do them. "Just like in Orlando," I told him.
I wasn't sure if Stu would be able to win that battle, if America was really going to embrace his style that was unlike anything else on TV at that time.
About a year after I got there (and 3 years after Stu arrived) I took him down to my hometown of Greenwich, Ct. for my high school's homecoming football game. We got there and found a spot on the sidelines and watched the game, minding our own business. But someone noticed him, and then another person, and then another. One by one all these high school kids in one of America's whitest towns came over to him, shook his hand saying "BOO-YOW!" and Stu happily spent a little time with all of them. It was pretty clear to me in that moment that Stu was going to be just fine.
In the fall of this year Stu tweeted about his youngest daughter scoring a hat trick in her varsity soccer debut. I immediately texted him congratulations. We got into an exchange about the joys of watching our children excel in sports. I told him that my 2nd son, Jack, made the baseball All-Stars and that his team was legit, that they had a legit shot to get to the little league World Series next summer. He responded "If I'm still around and they make it to Williamsport, you and I will go together." Stu didn't make it, but if my son's team does I know Stu will be there and he'll have the best seat in the house.
I held Stuart's first daughter on the day she was born. Everyone is a "Proud Papa" but I've never seen anyone as proud and happy as Stu was that day. And that never waned. Selfishly my heart is broken today because I have lost a great friend, but the true pain comes from knowing that Stu will not get the chance to see his daughters grow to be the amazing women I am sure they will become, because Stu was their father.
(After writing this blog I went on Bill Simmons podcast and shared some more Stu stories. You can hear that here http://grantland.com/the-triangle/b-s-report-discussing-the-nfl-playoffs-with-cousin-sal-and-remembering-stuart-scott-with-gus-ramsey/ )