As the clock wound down on the Baltimore Ravens’ playoff win over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend, two truths entered my mind immediately.
The first was that I couldn’t believe I managed to stay awake that late.
The second was that Steelers fans sure like to curse a lot in text messages.
I knew the first thing was true because I could see the time for myself through crusty eyelids, fused together by the desperate nocturnal cries of an 8-week-old baby who may or may not be trying to kill her parents. The second I knew to be true because I was getting sworn at profusely by a gentleman who obviously didn’t know how to take a joke very well.
There’s a slight chance I was going a little too far with my longtime friend about the game, leading to his verbal abuse. Perhaps the fact that every time the Ravens scored I would send him a message like this one: “Hey, I’m away from the television. Did anything just happen?”
Or, when the Ravens made an interception to pretty much wrap up the game, there’s a chance he received this from someone using my phone: “I hear there’s a sale tomorrow on Steelers jerseys. You could probably get a good deal. I imagine the Ravens ones are just going to get more and more expensive.”
And, when the clocked turned to 00:00 time left, this little message of sympathy was sent to his phone: “ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”
People, I’m a professional writer. That’s how I come up with sterling prose like that. Don’t try this at home.
Regardless, he lost control, called me a few names I can’t share here, and told me to go to a place the nuns in Catholic school already told me years ago I was doomed to go unless I changed my ways.
You know, a nice man — a decent man — would have apologized to his friend at that point for going too far. And though I do consider myself fairly nice, I chose to go another direction.
“Why would I want to go to Pittsburgh,” was my reply.
Long story short — he cursed some more, and I laughed some more. Then we both laughed and called off the conversation for the night.
I awoke Sunday morning, excited to watch the recaps from Saturday night’s game and revel once more in a big win by the Ravens. It was fun watching the national pundits backtrack from their prognostications a day earlier and give the Ravens some credit, but then ESPN cut into their programming with some sobering news.
Stuart Scott had passed away at the age of 49.
Since 1993, Scott had been a stalwart at the 24-hour sports station, co-hosting the 11 p.m. SportsCenter program for years, their leading show.
Scott was a lightning rod for criticism when he first started at ESPN. Many people hated him for not wearing the corporate face people had been accustomed to on television, and bringing the hip-hop culture into a mainstream platform. It’s hard to say if it was racism that brought the criticism, or his look-at-me attitude, but he was definitely something different to millions of Americans.
And that made him fun to watch for the 20-something sports fan I was at the time he grabbed the spotlight.
His signature “Boo-yah!” call would make me laugh every time he said it, and watching an athlete do something extraordinary in a highlight would prompt Scott to say, “Call him butter ’cause he’s on a roll!”
He was young and brash, energetic and unnerved by the constant wave of criticism hurled his way. Stuart Scott got to the “big leagues” by doing things his way, and he was going to keep doing it.
Scott had been battling cancer on and off for several years, and he was visibly weakened physically over the past few years. He appeared thin and pale on the air recently, but he kept coming to work. Kept offering catch phrases. Kept doing what he did because that’s what you do if you’re strong.
And he was strong.
The critics died down over Scott’s theatrics over the years, either because people became used to him, or because so many others picked up the torch and ran with it. Now, all the announcers have their little phrases, and all the faces on television aren’t white or older.
I’ll miss Scott, both for his courage and his skills at telling a story. RIP, Mr. Scott. You’ll always be “as cool as the other side of the pillow.”