By JuWan Graham
I never really had a role model, or at least one that I actively thought about all the time. Then in 1999, I remember this black guy talking about sports. No, he wasn’t a former athlete. Nor was he fake. He was vibrant, without being too corny. He was truthful, but not cocky. He was funny, and always sincere. This guy was Stuart Scott.
Until I saw Stuart Scott, I didn’t have that one person I wanted to be. My parents were great, but their professions never interested me. Scott was a big reason in me wanting to become a sports journalist. Hailing from University of North Carolina, he had a certain personality that not many had. From his commercials to his catchphrases, you could always recognize him. He integrated sports journalism and hip-hop, style and grace, showmanship and humility.
My favorite catchphrase were “as cool as the other side of the pillow.” It was SOOOO cool to say. He didn’t use it as often as you’d think, but when he did it was magical. A lot of people idolized him for being himself in a profession that teaches you to be the best fake self you can be. He made it cool to be yourself.
I can attribute my aspirations of becoming a public relations professional to this man. I was in high school at a crossroads, wanting to be a physical therapist. But I also wanted to become a sports journalist. I would see Stuart Scott all the time on SportsCenter and the choice was easy. I wanted to become a sports journalist. I looked up what it took being a sports journalist and the other professions associated with it. But eventually, I researched public relations and the rest was history.
Scott turned heads when he was awarded the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2014 ESPY’s. It was his speech that captivated the audience. He won the award because of his determination to beat cancer. Unfortunately, he would succumb to the disease.
I remember waking up on January 4, 2015. I checked Facebook and saw that a friend of mine wrote “RIP” in reference to Stuart Scott. I said “no way” to myself. He couldn’t be gone. Surely enough, I went upstairs to turn to ESPN and there it was. An hour long tribute to him. Seeing Rich Eisen’s and Suzy Kolber’s tribute damn near brought tears to my eyes. Even though I’ve never met him, it was surreal.
If I were to meet him in some other reality, I would say thank you. Thank you for constantly being an inspiration to me and a host of other African-Americans for showing us the way to being successful. In a world where we are constantly being told that you aren’t good enough, he was the shining light that told us we could. I’d tell him thank you for infusing his style upon a profession that seems so dry. And most of all, I’d tell him thank you for staying as cool as the other side of the pillow. Rest easy!
JuWan Graham is an aspiring public relations practitioner with a passion for writing and sports, and currently interning at CBS62 and CW50. He is a senior attending Eastern Michigan University, majoring in Public Relations while minoring in Marketing.