Wiedmer: ESPN's Scott would have loved Dallas win

Wiedmer: ESPN's Scott would have loved Dallas win

January 5th, 2015 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) reacts to a touchdown during his game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

As cool as the other side of the pillow.

If he hadn't lost his eight-year fight with cancer early Sunday morning, that's how the matchless ESPN sports anchor Stuart Scott surely would have described Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's game-winning touchdown pass against Detroit on Sunday evening.

And no words could better have framed that moment when Romo danced in and out of the pocket, desperate for a completion, determined to finally bring joy to the 90,000 Cowpoke fans who've endured mediocrity for nearly 20 years.

Lose here and there was much discussion that Romo's days in Dallas could be numbered, along with his head coach, Jason Garrett. Lose here and the dreaded "choke" label would again be bandied about Big D, its football team unable to win a single playoff game at home after going 8-0 on the road during the regular season.

Instead, Romo patiently waited for someone, anyone to get open, the picture most perfect of cool and calm under fire. Then wideout Terrence Williams broke slightly free in the back of the end zone. And Romo drilled the perfect pass. And Dallas down 20-7 with three minutes remaining in the third period suddenly led 24-20, winning by that score a few minutes later.

If only Scott had been able to lend his unique perspective to the most stirring Wildcard Weekend finish of the NFL's four playoff games.

"He talked on SportsCenter the way I talked sports with my friends," said ESPN analyst and NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter an hour or so after news first broke of Scott's passing. "He was a role model to me and hundreds of other African-American journalists-slash-athletes who wanted to be taken seriously as legitimate journalists."

Added Keyshawn Johnson, "His bringing hip-hop culture and an urban feel to television sports broadcasting gave me hope that I didn't have to become a corporate guy wearing a red tie and a white shirt and talking a certain way. When I first got into this (media) business he told me not to change who I was."

And that attitude changed everything about the business, creativity and personality suddenly as important as getting the facts right, though Scott's ultimate strength was that he never lost sight of the need for facts, the more interesting and off-beat the better.

"I never found him without a statistic to back up what he was saying," said one-time ESPN anchor Dan Patrick. "He wanted you to know that he knew what he was talking about, and he never failed."

But the facts were for the numbers geeks, the folks who know the stats on the backs of third-string catchers' baseball cards.

Scott's legacy will be his attraction to the masses, those millions of sports fans who set aside an hour each night or morning to not only learn the scores, but also hope ESPN's anchors could bring a smile to their faces after a long day at the office.

"There were successful African-American sportscasters at the time," ESPN director of news Vince Doria said in a Scott tribute article on the cable giant's website Sunday. "But Stuart spoke a much different language that appealed to a young demographic, particularly a young African-American demographic."

In truth, he spoke to almost everyone under 65 who loved to quote movie lines and chuckle over bloopers. And his best line "cooler than the other side of the pillow" belongs up there with Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles?" from the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team's upset of the U.S.S.R, and Jack Buck's "I don't believe what I just saw" from Kirk Gibson's World Series home run, and Howard Cosell's "Down goes (Joe) Frazier, down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier" as one of the greatest sports broadcasting lines ever.

Nor will his "Boo-Yow!" multiple stories released through ESPN said it was never intended to be "Boo-Yah!", but "Boo-Yow!" ever be forgotten.

In fact, thanks to the Cowboys' win over the Lions however unjust it may have been due to the pass interference call that somehow disappeared the playoffs now have at least a couple of "Boo-Yow!" matchups on tap for the division round.

Dallas traveling to Green Bay is sure to drag out plenty of grainy black-and-white footage from the 1967 Ice Bowl between those two at Lambeau Field. Baltimore heading to New England is good enough to be an AFC title game, though the Indianapolis Colts traveling to Denver which means Peyton Manning will have to beat his old team in order to probably face his old nemesis New England for a spot in the Super Bowl could actually be the sexiest storyline of the week.

Of course, the Colts' thorough 26-10 win over the hapless Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday brought to mind another Scott classic "He must be the bus driver cuz he was takin' him to school."

Then there's the game that could have included the Atlanta Falcons if they hadn't laid that egg against the Carolina Panthers nine days ago. Having earned the closest thing to a bye by meeting and defeating the battered Arizona Cardinals on Saturday, Cam Newton's Panthers now travel to Seattle, which appears to be the best team out there.

It all figures to provide wonderful drama heading to the Super Bowl, an event the 49-year-old Scott dearly loved to cover, though his number one love, by a wide margin, were his teen-aged daughters.

So both life and the world of sports move on, filled with games and SportsCenters and the occasional injection of a Scott gem as a tribute to a grand talent too soon gone.

"It's the sound of change," said longtime broadcast journalist Robin Roberts, herself a cancer victim, as she recalled Scott's gifts. "And it will echo for a long time to come."

If we could only change cancer's continued ability to echo waves of tragedy on a daily basis.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

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