Growing up in the mid- to late-1990s allowed me to experience some pretty amazing things, most of which shaped my adult life as well. I got into the boy band 'N SYNC. I played the piano and started to play the organ. And I started following sports.
My father was a huge part of that last one, since he took me to tons of sporting events and taught me the rules of the games. But I'd be lying if I said that television didn't help that obsession grow even bigger.
ESPN had started out small, but by the 1990s they were a juggernaut in cable television, and our basement television was tuned either to ESPN or Nickelodeon. I initially just watched SportsCenter when my dad watched it, but eventually I was turning on the TV to ESPN at 6:00 in the evening and again when I woke up in the mornings. I loved the mad rush of highlights and news that filled my mind and helped me understand what Detroit radio personalities like Stoney and Wojo were talking about when my dad picked us up from school.
This was also a time in my life when I started picking "favorites." As a young child you love everything, but then you get into grade school and everyone's asking "What's your favorite...?" When it came to SportsCenter anchors, I had two pairs or favorites. Dan Patrick and Kenny Mayne were hilarious, and I knew that I would listen carefully for their ridiculous catchphrases or anecdotes before the highlights began. But my favorite pair was, without a doubt, Rich Eisen and Stuart Scott.
When I tuned into SportsCenter and those two were the ones welcoming me on my television, I knew my day was going to be just a bit better than normal. It wasn't just the "Boo-yah!" or "You want me on that wall...you NEED me on that wall!" that made them my favorite. They just seemed to really enjoy sitting next to each other and hanging out with each other every show. It wasn't just sports, it was hanging out with two happy dudes who loved sports.
When Eisen left ESPN in 2003 and went to the NFL Network I was bummed. Even though the two had branched out with other ESPN anchors and did other ESPN shows, they would occasionally come back and do a SportsCenter and I would cackle with delight.
Any ESPN show was made a gajiliion times better with Scott doing the broadcast. Heck, he even made NBA coverage tolerable, back when the Pistons were good. There was always a sense of genuine joy when Scott showed up on the screen. While SportsCenter was filling up with anchors who were trying to be personable, Scott didn't need to try. He just did.
Stuart Scott died today at the age of 49, and the news was deeply saddening to me. What made the news even worse was watching Eisen's tribute to Scott on the NFL Network. Even twelve years after they parted ways on the air, it was clear that both of them appreciated each other and still had a friendship.
Sometimes childhood memories can be made out to be better than they actually were. However, my childhood education of sports through my father, SportsCenter, and the duo of Eisen and Scott don't have rose-colored glasses attached to them. It was a great time to be a sports fan, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to learn about sports and feel the joy that comes with them.