News broke Sunday morning that Stuart Scott died at the age of 49. On NFL Network Rich Eisen, Scott’s longtime partner on SportsCenterin the mid-1990s, delivered a graceful goodbye to his friend on live television, fighting back tears as he said:
“As you go to bed tonight, flip your pillow over to the cool side and before you go to sleep, as Stuart would say, you lift your knees tonight and pray to the big man for his beautiful daughters who he loved, Taelor and Sydni. Pray for Stuart and his family, his parents, his siblings, his girlfriend, his ex-wife, everybody who he loved and that includes you the sports fans, even those who hated on him. He thrived on it. That’s because he is who he is, and was … I can’t believe it’s past tense, who he was. Stuart Scott is dead at the age of 49. I love you Stuart, wherever you are. Godspeed. Rest in peace.”
On ESPN, Hannah Storm announced the news and then the network ran a 15-minute tribute package to Scott’s memory. Then ESPN went to its live NFL Countdown program, where Scott had been a fixture on Monday Night Football telecasts. Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, Cris Carter and Mike Ditka all spoke from the heart about Scott, especially Johnson who noted how much Scott meant to him as both a player and as an analyst. Said Johnson:
“Like CC said, one of the things Stu told me when I first took this job was to not change who I was, be exactly who I’m supposed to be. That looking at him and knowing he was able to bring the hip hop culture, that urban feel to television sports broadcasting, something that’s never been done before, gave me the hope that I didn’t have to be some corporate guy to feel like I needed to wear the white shirt with the red tie and sit there and talk a certain way.”
I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to remain composed and perform on live television in the wake of receiving news that one of your best friends and colleagues has just passed away.