Keith Olbermann showed his emotional side when he paid tribute to his former ESPN colleague, Stuart Scott, just a day after the sports anchor died following a long battle with cancer.
“The courage and the strength ran deep in this man,” he said on his show, “Olbermann,” on Monday. “It always had and, in memory, it always will.”
Olbermann shared multiple anecdotes from his time working alongside Scott in an almost seven minute video tribute, which also included the late “SportsCenter” host’s first onscreen moments with the network in 1993.
In fact Scott’s first role at ESPN anchoring “SportsSmash” — a short sportscast airing twice an hour on ESPN2’s “SportNight” — came after Olbermann moved over to the network’s flagship show and Scott replaced him on “SportsSmash.”
Scott, who was 49 when he died on Sunday, has been heralded as not only a courageous individual who battled cancer and loved his two daughters Taelor, 19, and Sydni, 15, but also a broadcasting pioneer for African-Americans.
He helped evolved the lexicon at ESPN with an on-air persona chock-full of his own upbringing in Chicago and North Carolina. But according to Olbermann, the network brass didn’t always appreciate Scott’s style, and he went on to share one anecdote about an executive who once asked Scott to scale-back his on-air personality.
“His response was the single most impressive thing I’ve ever seen a sportscaster do,” Olbermann said.
Instead of succumbing to his bosses’ demands or calling them out publicly, he found a way to manipulate them into doing the right thing by praising them. Scott wrote a column online thanking ESPN for letting him be true to himself.
“Stu’s [ESPN] column was about the use of his catchphrases and it was full of respect and admiration for his employers willingness to let him use his because they were evocations of his cultural and racial heritage … tracing the history and meaning of some of his specific expressions back as far as the slave plantations,” Olbermann explained.
“He publicly congratulated ESPN’s willingness to accept aspects of its culture which to that point had not been part of its history. It was nothing less than perfect … It was the highest expression of professional courage and professional intelligence,” he added.
Scott was first diagnosed with cancer in Nov. 2007. After a grueling battle, the disease returned in 2011 and once again in 2013.
He received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award for his courage at the 2014 ESPYs in July, where he delivered an inspiring speech in which he told the tearful audience: “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.”
ESPN aired a touching 15 minute tribute about the fallen legend on Sunday, shortly after the news of his death broke, where colleagues including Scott Van Pelt, Sage Steele, Steve Levy, John Harris, Dan Patrick and joined network president John Skipper in praising Scott and expressing his contributions to sports broadcasting.