It’s been nearly seven years since Stuart Scott passed away, but Rich Eisen and Gus Johnson are doing their best to ensure the legendary SportsCenter anchor won’t be forgotten.
Johnson joined The Rich Eisen Show last week for a wide-ranging interview, where the passionate play-by-play voice discussed working his way up in the industry. While Johnson said his unique announcing style was criticized on the internet earlier in his career, he rarely faced disapproval from his bosses or network executives. It prompted Johnson and Eisen to reflect on their mutual friend Stuart Scott, who was often told “don’t do it that way” about his on-air style as he broke into the business.
“The last time I talked to Stu, we were at the Super Bowl in New York and I ran into him with his lady at the hotel lobby at about midnight. And it was just us,” Johnson recalled. “I said to him, ‘When you go to bed at night, are you afraid?’ He said, ‘No, I’m not afraid when I go to bed at night. But I am afraid that I’m going to miss my daughter’s wedding. I’m afraid that I’m not going to see my grandchildren.’”
Scott died at the young age of 49 following a long battle with cancer on Jan. 4, 2015, but not before his impact on the sports media industry was cemented.
“He was so creative that he was a trailblazer,” Johnson said. “He allowed all of us to have a poetic license. We could be creative, we could bring our life experience into journalism, into broadcasting, into sports. That was all because of him. Because he was such a trailblazer and a trendsetter.”
According to Eisen, who co-anchored SportsCenter with Scott for seven years, his “TV wife” didn’t feel like a trailblazer as his career was unfolding. But Scott began to recognize his impact on the industry later in life.
“I like keeping the great broadcasters’ voices alive,” Johnson added. “I’ll say ‘cooler than the other side of the pillow’ in the midst of a broadcast. Because I want to keep that alive. I’ll say ‘Booyah!’”
“We have to,” Eisen said in support of Johnson using some of Scott’s famous phrases. “Because he’s gone six years and I think to myself sometimes, there are some people who are gonna just not remember.”
Scott changed the sports broadcasting industry by simply being himself. Even when others advised him to morph into the cookie-cutter announcer most broadcasting schools attempt to breed, Scott remained unapologetically authentic. There may be no better announcer to continue carrying that baton of remaining genuine in an industry that preaches being conventional than Gus Johnson.