by Tracy Johnson
Whether familiar with the late Stuart Scott’s work at ESPN or not, radio personalities should study him. Scott’s career produced great lessons for air talent. He became well known through a powerful personality, but it was made possible by leveraging memorable benchmarks.
Here are a few things about Scott that broadcasters can apply:
Scott had a clever way with words, using clever catch phrases to accent his delivery.
These benchmarks are not features. They’re cleverly embedded into the fabric of his content.
At ESPN’s studios, there’s a wall of phrases made famous by talent over the years. Nine belong to Stuart. From his signature “Boo-Yah!” to “As cool as the other side of the pillow” to “He must be the bus driver ‘cuz he was takin’ him to school”, the frequently-used quotes made him memorable.
Purpose drives performance. Scott was an inspired broadcaster that went beyond the broadcast. At the ESPY Awards, shortly after another round of cancer surgery, Stuart accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance with these eloquent words:
When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.
Scott brought his best every night. It was a show, not a shift. Every night. He never went through the motions, but delivered great performance each day.
Steve Levy served as co-host at SportsCenter. He said:
I think the audience recognized that when Stuart was on, there was going to be something special. And to his credit, he brought something special every night he was on.
As Stuart’s career took off, so did hate from those who resented his color, his hip-hop style, or his generation.
He received a lot of hate mail, most anonymous. But he never let it affect performance, his sense of who he was, or his mission. He avoided conforming and as a result avoided the dreaded Zone of Mediocrity.
After all, they don’t boo nobodies.
He came off as causal, brash and spontaneous, but was one of the hardest working personalities in sports.
Dan Patrick said this about him:
I never found him without a statistic to back up what he said. He wanted you to know that he knew what he was talking about, and he never failed.
There were times his friends worried that he was working too hard.
Anchor John Buccigross said:
He’d be tired. But once he sat down in the chair, he would just start to click in and get that zero focus. ‘Where’s this guy from?’ … ‘Who has the most triples of all time?’ Once he got into the show, you just forgot about everything, and it was just Stuart Scott doing SportsCenter, having fun.
Stuart knew the key to keeping viewers was hooking them early. Listen to his lead-ins. They’re thoughtful, precise, well-constructed poetry that frames the story moment. Each was full of references to pop culture, but always on point to the content presented.
And occasionally, he would bust out original poetry, as he did for this jam on Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday:
The best ever … a CLEVER phrase we OVERuse …
When mere greatness becomes our MUSE …
Or artistic inspiration … but the real celebration
Of “best ever” is an ENDEAVOR
Into MORE than GREAT! WAIT …
Didn’t you see the tongue wagging …shorts baggy …
Practically DRAGGING teammates to 1-nc2a … 2-gold …
Brotha I was sold when he won 6-NBA rings …
But the THING that makes “best ever” SING …
Not scoring titles and-MVPs,
The double nickel that sliced the knicks at their knees …
The 63 he put on Bird … Larry Legend sayin’ PLEASE …
Is that GOD?
Stuart Scott died of cancer at the age of 49. The way he lived and performed should be an inspiration for your career, and your life.
Read the entire tribute to Scott from ESPN here. Seriously. Read it. It’s great for talent.
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