As a person who continually studies and writes about racial matters, I must attest that it is very easy for one to focus so intently upon those issues that they lose sight of the larger issues that have very little to do with the social construct that Du Bois’ termed the problem of the twentieth-century. However, I was reminded of the universality of manhood by the demise of the unparalleled ESPN Sports Center anchor Stuart Scott. Although I already recognized this about the brother, today’s voluminous coverage of his transition drove home the point that Stuart Scott should be considered Black America’s knight in shining armor; a distinction that should be embraced by all African-American males.
One of the few benefits of being over the age of forty is having the privilege to witness an explosion in telecommunications. I was here before Black Entertainment Television, when we all watched VH1, one of the reasons that so many African-American forty-something’s know white popular culture artists from Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper. I am certain that the majority of my peers remember the excitement with which we ran to the television when Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean or Thriller was being played; we simply loved seeing ourselves on T.V. and it was truly a rare privilege.
I likewise remember the debut of SportsCenter, a channel that most did not expect to make it long term, boy were we wrong. Although those of us who were sports fanatics appreciated 24/7 sports coverage, there was still something amiss, there really was not a representation of us; meaning someone that was simultaneously articulate, quick-witted, smooth, knowledgeable, and possessing more swag than Superfly or Shaft. The man that presented that to an adoring Black audience was none other than Stuart Scott. Although there were sportswriters before him, none successfully made the transition onto television with their unique style of Blackness intact.
Although it is impossible to ignore Stuart Scott’s on-camera persona, it was not until his medical difficulties that we were provided much more than a slight glimpse into whom he was as a man and more importantly a father, friend, and mentor to those who walked down what was a relatively smooth path to broadcast fame. Rest assured that no other Black television sports personality, not even Bryant Gumbel or Stephen A. Smith, would have been able to pave the still jagged path that Stuart Scott paved through his talent, commitment to excellence, strength, determination, and courage.
One of the most notable things about Stuart Scott was that he appeared above reproach in how he handled his on-air duties. There was never a show where the brother appeared unprepared, never a show when he did not in some way acknowledge an observing Black male audience with a verbal head nod that I am sure white’s were initially not even aware of. Ironically, this brother won over his non-Black audience with the same swag that endeared him to us. His influence was so pervasive that we no longer bat an eye at the appearance of Black linguistic traditions on national sports broadcasts. Chris Rock once remarked that “if you haven’t stolen from Richard Pryor, you’re probably not that funny.” The same can be said for Stuart Scott’s enormous influence on the way that sports are reported, “if you haven’t stolen a catch-phrase from the brother, you probably are not that interesting to listeners.”
I pray that African-American males will eventually come to revere Stuart Scott, particularly in relation to his doting over and dedication to his daughters, for the man that he was, more so than the things that he accomplished. It is in the example of individuals such as Arthur Ashe and Stuart Scott that we are able to witness the greatness of African-American manhood away from all of the stereotypical glitches that seem to closely follow renowned Black males. There were no drug scandals, inappropriate language, even an appearance of wrong doing to be found. He was simply Stuart Scott; and it is for this reason that I tip my hat to this brother as he makes his transition to his Heaven.
However, I would be remiss if I did not punctuate this post with one last thing, one final reminder of who this brilliant man was, one thing that will hopefully ease the different levels of pain that all of us who ever crossed his path. And that one thing is, BOOYAH!
Rest in Heaven brother, you are still loved.
James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2015