NB: I hope the management will forgive my indulgence here, but I couldn't let this go by.
I attended Vandy for three years, 1994-97. I lived all three in the Garrison Apartments, which were later bulldozed to become Commons. I had a pretty simple routine: arrive at the beginning of the semester, turn on the TV, put it on ESPN, flip to ESPN2. After that, the only buttons I used were Mute and Last Channel, pretty much until the end of the semester, when I'd turn off the TV and go home.
Back then, in an age before ubiquitous cable TV sports, before FoxSports1 and NBCSN and 40 regional channels available to all, before every major league had to have a network channel of its own on your cable box, sports coverage other than regional broadcasters meant ESPN. And SportsCenter was appointment viewing. You had Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, long before they became a talk radio guy and a political blowhard - they weren't just the best sports show on TV, they were the best news show on TV of any kind and they might have been the best show on TV, period. Reality TV at its finest: sometimes tragic, sometimes comic, sometimes surreal (1994 pretty much goes here) but never dull and never tired. And it was an ethos for the whole show. Sure, you had your stalwarts like Bob Ley and Tom Mees (dearly missed) and even Chris Berman, long before he became a parody of himself. But you also had people like Charley Steiner and Robin Roberts every day at happy hour, and Linda Cohn and Kenny Mayne and Chris Meyers and Suzy Kolber and all of the young blood coming on via ESPN2. And that's how I got to see Stuart Scott.
Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen were described by Twitter's own @BobbyBigWheel as "my generation's Crockett and Tubbs." They were more than that - they were the fresh young Robin to Dan and Keith's Batman. And the thing is - it felt real. I guess because it was. Stuart Scott's hip-hop stylings didn't feel fake or forced - they felt real, in every sense of the word. I bet any money that every SportsCenter anchor of a certain age will tell you they wanted to do what Stuart Scott did.
ESPN hadn't disappeared up its own ass back then. There weren't six different channels, there wasn't a crap-ton of talk show nonsense, the world never heard of Vandy's most hated alum or Screamin' A. Smith and there was no such thing as Around The Horn or the various other yelling-head shows trying to drag sports down to the level of political coverage. There were games, and reporting on those games. And the sense was that sports were exciting, a little silly, and occasionally profoundly meaningful. You know, like life.
There were giants in those days. Players who might have been the greatest ever to play their sports, like Gretzky and Jordan and Montana. But the folks covering them struck just the right tone. They cared about the games because they loved them as much as we did. It wasn't about extending the brand or maximizing eyeballs - or if it was, it hadn't overtaken the things they were there to cover. That was the soundtrack of my Vanderbilt life. Stuart Scott was a big part of that soundtrack, and he was only seven years older than me, and now he's not there anymore.
Yeah, there were giants in those days. Tonight there's one less. Rest in peace, Stuart. You were definitely the bus driver.