eing an army brat, it was hard to make a connection to any local sports teams or to a specific area to call home. I was the youngest of four in my family and during my lifetime we lived in Kentucky, Annapolis, Richmond, Rio de Janeiro, North Carolina and Bowie before we settled here in God's country after my dad's retirement. There was a time when we lived at Ft. Bragg that I was a fan of the Carolina Cougars of the ABA and liked cheering for some of the North Carolina college teams from the ACC, but that went by the wayside when we moved back to Maryland.
I grew up in a family that lived and died by the Redskins so for the most part that was our connection back home. I rooted at times for Sonny Jurgensen, Larry Brown, Chris Hanburger, and Pat Fischer but I never had the same connection that my brothers developed. My connection back home to Maryland was ingrained in me by my maternal grandfather, himself a lifelong Redskins fan and, in fact, a ticket taker at the former Redskins' home, Griffith Park. For some reason, "G-da" taught me to love the Orioles, Bullets, and the Baltimore Colts and that passion has stuck with me to this day.
I certainly had my favorite players like Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer or Johnny Unitas and Tom Matte, but I would never have developed my deep passion for all things Baltimore had it not been for the writers and sportscasters that covered Baltimore sports. When you're away from home for so long and you're living in a time period that existed pre-cable television, you get very few opportunities to watch your hometown teams. Even now, with my brothers living in Carroll County, they get little opportunity to watch their Redskins, especially if they play at the same time as the Ravens.
I relied on the sportswriters at the time to keep me informed as my grandparents would send us clippings of the Baltimore Sun and Evening Sun sports sections which I would tear through immediately upon arrival. When we moved back to Maryland, it was the voices of Chuck Thompson, Scott Garceau, and Vince Bagli that solidified my love for all sports Baltimore.
It's incredible the impact that sportswriters can have on their readers. I was in my late 40's when I met Mr. Bagli in our deli and you would have thought I met Santa Claus in person. He told me that he read my columns and complimented me on my soccer knowledge, which I immediately relayed to my wife, my sons, my family and anyone else I could tell.
That was one of the better days of my life. (Sad I know, but true).
So it's funny to me that people don't understand the connection to the recently passed ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott. He was a trailblazer in the sports communications community that jazzed up an otherwise vanilla industry with his quips and quotes and advanced style that was the "yin" to most sportscasters' "yang". SportsCenter was there before Stuart Scott hit the scene running, but it wasn't "there," if you know what I mean. Scott made sports a staple of our daily lives and made it "cool" and "hip" to be passionate about all things sports.
Many of my friends now start their days with SportsCenter instead of morning news and my own sons will sit with me and watch the repeating half-hour recorded versions of the show ad nauseum like we expect some new information to come through each time. At work we talk about what we saw on the Top 10 plays or Not Top 10 from the night before.
But his impact wasn't as big with my generation and my demographic as much as it was with the younger, more "hip" crowd that he brought in to the game. He made watching sports fun again, he made it "cool." Watching athletes like LeBron James credit Scott with grabbing their attention and making them want to become professional athletes is a far more reaching endorsement of his impact than anything I can write. Every professional athlete owes him a great deal of gratitude for helping increase the awareness of sports, bringing more money to the game, and increasing their paychecks by promoting the games with his own style.
As he was battling cancer, Scott made a statement we all could learn from: "Every day, I am reminded that our life's journey is really about the people that touch us." Well, Mr. Scott, you have definitely touched many lives in your journey here and we're all better for it.
Reach Robert "Bird" Brown at 410-857-8552 or robert.brown@carrollcounty