Personality Profile: Stuart Scott’s Legacy [video]
by Tracy Johnson
You may or may not be familiar with the late Stuart Scott’s work at ESPN. If you’re not, you should study it, for he has great lessons for your show and career. He became well known through his powerful personality, but it was made possible by leveraging the importance of benchmarks.
Here are just a few things about Scott that broadcasters can apply:
The Importance of Benchmarks
Scott had a clever way with words, and created catchphrases that accented his delivery. These benchmarks made him more memorable. At ESPN’s studios, there’s a wall of phrases made famous by talent over the years. Nine of them 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”, these clever, frequently-used quotes made him memorable.
Purpose drives performance. Scott was an inspired broadcaster with a sense of purpose that went far beyond his 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.
He brought his best every night: When Stuart Scott was on the air, it was a show. Every night. He never went through the motions, but delivered great performance each day. Steve Levy served as his co-host for SportsCenter 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 the hate from those who resented his color, his hip-hop style, or his generation. He received a lot of hate mail, most of it anonymous. But he never let it affect his performance, his sense of who he was, or his mission. He avoided conforming and as a result avoided the dreaded Zone of Mediocrity.
He came off as a 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 was saying. He wanted you to know that he knew what he was talking about, and he never failed.
There were times in the last few years when his friends worried that he was working too hard. “He’d be tired,” says anchor John Buccigross. “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 doin’ ‘SportsCenter, havin’ fun.”
He 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. They were full of references to pop culture, but always on point.
And occasionally, he would bust out his own 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.
Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.