Stuart Scott was a fighter, no doubt about that, but much of the sports commentator’s charm, his widespread appeal, was his knack for living a life in keeping with the motto of North Carolina.
Esse quam videri, or to be rather than to seem.
For 49 years, Stuart Scott was simply being Stuart Scott.
In “Every Day I Fight,” a posthumous memoir, Scott and co-author Larry Platt offer a moving and inspiring account of battling a relentless opponent – a rare appendiceal cancer.
Scott, a longtime anchor at ESPN, died Jan. 4, but his voice is alive and crackling – raw, honest and ever unique – in the new book.
Wrapped in this story of tenacity is a rich narrative of love. For family. For personal values. For living each day as if tomorrow is fleeting.
We learn about Scott’s childhood days in Winston-Salem, where he, his brother and two sisters experienced a South in the early stages of desegregation.
They made up games with G.I. Joe, Steve Austin and O.J. Simpson dolls, excelled at sports and were “Soul Train” fans. It was then, Scott tells us, that his trademark “boo-yah” was born.
Scott and best friend Fred were hanging out, soaking up the wisdom of Gilbert Shelton, “a kindly older black man,” as he made bamboo chairs in his garage. Scott wrote:
One day, Mr. G said, “Hey, fellas, did you hear that thunder last night?”
“Nah, Mr. G. I didn’t hear anything.”
“You didn’t hear it?” he said. “Goodness, it was loud. It was like Boo-yah!” He yelled it so loud as if it were real thunder.
Fred started laughing. “How’d that thunder go again, Mr. G?”
“Nah, Mr. G, I didn’t hear anything.”
“Years later, when the phrase caught on and became part of my national identity, I was as surprised as anyone else, because I was just talking the language of my youth,” Scott wrote.
Those phrases and Fred remained with Scott as he went to UNC-Chapel Hill, hung out in dorm rooms with basketball great Michael Jordan, took early TV jobs in South Carolina and at WRAL, then started as a fledgling anchor with a brand new ESPN2.
While in the national spotlight, Scott added to his signature catchphrases, making “as cool as the other side of the pillow,” “swoops with a steal” and more part of the lexicon.
“By the time I got to ‘SportsCenter,’” he wrote, “the impact of hip-hop was everywhere ... except in the sports broadcast booth. My industry seemed black-and-white in the Technicolor hip-hop world, with our well-coiffed, deep-voiced anchors and their perfect diction.”
Throughout the memoir, whether he’s talking about the push-back from listeners and industry people who wanted to tamper with his voice, to the cancer and eye disease that resulted in 18 surgeries, Scott shows a deftness for knocking down or sidestepping barriers.
When he went in for what he thought would be routine surgery to remove his appendix, Scott found out about the cancer growing inside him.
He insisted that his doctors spare him from numbers and prognoses. He wanted to live, survive until his daughters Sydni and Taelor had what he described as that “aha moment,” when they understood him and knew he understood them. He refused to give up has fast-paced life, crisscrossing the country from sporting event to sporting event.
But as death neared, the high-energy sportscaster learned to slow down, to savor moments. With warmth, humor and parental pride, he describes those times with his daughters.
“That’s what cancer does: It messes with you, but it also makes your love so much bigger,” he wrote.
Every Day I Fight
Blue Rider Press, 320 pages