Editor’s note: As part of V Week, ESPN is honoring the life and legacy of ESPN anchor Stuart Scott on the fifth anniversary of his death. His memory lives on in his family and the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund.
His daughter Taelor, 24, is an aspiring filmmaker, director and producer who has written and directed three short films: “Mod Squad and the Spectacular Paper Caper,” “Baltimore Whoosh” and “The Ballad of Chocolate Mabbie.” Sydni, 20, is a sophomore at Columbia University. She is majoring in political science and a member of the track and field team.
Here, they write to their father about his impact and what his legacy means to them. And yes, Sydni says, “he said ‘boo-yah’ at home, too.”
Sydni: It was always so funny to me when people asked me if you were the same at home as you were on television. Funny because you were the most singularly authentic person I’d ever known, and your TV personality wasn’t a fabricated persona but an extension of who you always were as a person. But how could anyone understand that? How could I ever explain?
And that’s the curious thing about you. There were never adequate words to describe you and the way in which you touched so many lives. And now still, there are no words to describe what it is like to continue to live in a world without you.
Taelor: Your influence on our lives is certainly still tangible. Despite never managing to develop an interest in participating in or playing them, I grew up with the culture of sports ingrained as an ESPN kid. I was the second baby born at the newly established ESPN2. Take your kid to work day meant I could pick up a cool new McDonald’s toy to add to my collection in your office. I might end up making a big spider web out of your ties all while you typed away, squinting at the words you wrote on your computer screen. We would walk down halls with rooms of sport archives, buttons and screens on our way to go visit our buddies. Former SportsCenter anchor Rich Eisen and producer Leslie Wymer would give me pennies to put in my big overall pocket or buy Girl Scout cookies. I have an early memory of being small and waking up in a port-a-crib in someone’s darkened office, listening to you and mom and your friends talking after work. I fell asleep to the sound of you laughing in someone’s cubicle outside the door.
Sydni: Growing up, there was no soccer without you. I can’t remember a time before you began buckling me into the backseat of your car, my legs not even long enough to touch the floor, and driving to games as the first few thumping notes from the “Rocky” soundtrack blared from your speakers. Every single game. Always “Rocky.” And every single time, I’d excitedly beg you to turn the volume up, all the way until the bass shook the frame of the car. Eventually I was old enough to ride in the front seat and control the volume and song selection myself, and still, we listened to “Rocky” every single game.
When I was little, they were just songs. Songs that were vaguely associated with those movies you were always so excited to watch. I run track at Columbia now, and every time I close my eyes, put my headphones in my ears and begin my warm-up, those same thrumming notes pour out, and I recognize that these songs are pieces of you that are left behind for me.
Taelor: One take Taelor to work day, I was sitting on the floor in the corner of a big ESPN conference room during a production meeting. Writers, producers and talent had gathered to discuss a retrospective on the life and impact of the great Mohammad Ali. The man was your idol, hung the moon and lit it in your eyes. You always told me, with pride, about the time you packed up my diaper bag and took me down to New York to see him, to just lay eyes on The Greatest. And there on that day, I sat in a room of TV people and sports experts tasked with doing what seemed impossible: coming to terms with the end of The Greatest.
You didn’t ultimately have to. He left after you.
Mom found the picture you took of me and Mohammed Ali in a box of your things about six months ago. He’s holding me, and I’m crying, and I’m guessing you are, too, out of frame behind the camera.
Sydni: There are still days when the idea of doing literally anything at all seems distinctly unfathomable. Anything I achieve, from rolling out of bed and putting two feet on the ground to graduating high school and starting college, is something added to the long list of accomplishments that you will never see. I can sometimes hear the sound of your voice like an elusive, little melody that is warm to the periphery of my body but leaves me a little cold because I can’t quite reach it. I can sometimes replicate in my head exactly what you would say in a certain situation, your voice swelling with the unbridled pride and excitement that was so strikingly definitive of who you were as a person. But I can’t see your eyes light up, and I can’t feel your hug when I need it. And in every single new thing I learn about the world around me and about myself, I am growing, but I am growing away from the little girl you knew.
Taelor: I hate going in sports bars now. It’s idiosyncratic aversion, but for most of my life there has been a 60% chance that I would hear your voice and see your face. Now, whenever I see a bunch of screens, I can’t help but think of how lonely it is, by comparison, and I’m half-waiting to hear your voice.
Sydni: You raised Taelor and me ambitiously. In some ways, maybe even too ambitiously. I can remember the look on your face when you realized that, in wanting to raise girls with minds of their own, you, at the same time, raised girls who would disagree with you with as much passion as they would anyone else. But you planned to send two women into the world, each with an unwavering sense of self and intrinsic understanding of the strength of her own voice.
You never let me win at card games. You never spoke to me as though I were a child. You never let me use being too young as an excuse not to do something. And so even though you didn’t get to finish your work in the way you’d intended, by the time you died, you’d taught me everything you needed me to know, whether I knew it at the time or not. It is my responsibility to finish your work with the things I continue to realize I’ve learned from you every day.