Like many people I was saddened to hear about Stuart Scott’s death on Sunday. As a lifelong sports guy (watching and rooting at least, if not playing particularly well), I’ve “known” the ESPN anchor for years. His catch phrases, his professionalism, and his general likeability made him as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Until I went back and reread portions of the big ESPN book, I didn’t know Scott received so much criticism for style. I’m hardly an urban hip-hop kid, but I always found his street-smart style to be genuine and entertaining. Apparently, some people hated it and sent in emails or wrote online about they found his schtick unprofessional, inauthentic, or just plain annoying. Scott’s approach to this kind of internet criticism was refreshing:

I’ve read two blogs in my life. I’m not a big Internet guy. I was talking to a colleague of mine who works here and he said, “Man, I get on the Internet, I see all this stuff written about me and I’m firing off e-mails…” And I’m like, “Why? Why are you firing off e-mails?” I’m not trying to be cool; I just think that if there are people who say I’m trying to do this [act black], and I’m trying to do that, they can believe it if they want. (535)

Of course, there are times to respond to our critics, especially if they know us and really care for us. The internet, at its best, can be an easily accessible marketplace of ideas. But it can also be a butcher’s block. Anyone with any kind of public presence–and that’s almost everyone nowadays–must learn how to process the incessant punditry of online critics.

Again, here he is Scott:

I can’t be that concerned with how I’m perceived. I care about how my mother and father think about me and how my friends and how my loved ones think about me. I care about how my ex-wife thinks about me; she and I are still good friends and we do a good job raising our kids. But it doesn’t matter to me what people who are writing a blog on the Internet think. I can’t think about that.

Being a father. That’s it. That’s the answer. That’s my answer. I’m convinced of that. I remember there was a day—my oldest daughter, who is fourteen now, but when she was about two or three, there was a show called Gullah Gullah Island, a Disney show, that was her favorite TV show. I was doing the late-night SportsCenter that aired all morning long. So there was one morning and I’d done the show the night before, and I got up and I said, “Taylor, do you want to watch Daddy on TV?” And she said—and it’s not just what she said but how she said it—“No, I want to watch Gullah Gullah Island.” And I remembered thinking that day, if it’s not a big deal to hear, and she was my life, then it can’t be that big of a deal. (641-642)

Later in the book, Scott talks about his first bout with cancer and how it put the opinions of others into perspective:

I had cancer last year. I had appendicular cancer, which is very, very, very rare, like extremely rare. I had appendicitis. It didn’t rupture. It was inflamed, it go taken out—I was in Pittsburgh for the Monday night game. It was malignant.

So three or four days later I had surgery to remove, like, anything close. I got a big scar. They took apart my colon, anything. I did six months’ chemotherapy. Now, after they finished the surgery, they didn’t find any more cancer, but they said to do chemo anyway. Every six months I have to have a CT scan. Now, I’ve been clean. I worry, what if this comes back and I’ve go to live every day? So juxtapose that up against what somebody says. (642-643)

As a Christians–and I don’t know anything about Scott’s religious beliefs or lack thereof–we know that living for God’s pleasure and living in God’s pleasure are even better and more freeing than living for our kids. And yet, Scott is definitely on to something. Criticism hurts. Unfair attacks on our character are, well, no fair. But let’s not make it worse by our pride. Most folks, even those closest to us, aren’t fixated on us–either to applaud us or condemn us. And those who are have their own problems. Why get upset when people we don’t know and have never met think we’re dirty rotten scoundrels? The internet critic fires his missive and goes back to whatever life he was living before. Don’t let him (or her) have a place in your life he doesn’t deserve.

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14 thoughts on “Stuart Scott and (Not) Responding to Internet Critics”

  1. Larry says:

    Yes, but don’t you think that people who post blogs, sometimes critical in nature, should expect and respect internet criticism. You don’t want people to ignore your blog, so don’t ignore them. Stuart Scott’s bread and butter wasn’t his internet presence. Apples and oranges.

  2. Larry says:

    I think a better answer would be to remove blog comments sections and alter the manner in which you use social media. Then people with valid criticisms will be forced to pursue another route to offer it, like an email, a phone call, or their own blog post, if its that important to offer the criticism in the first place. But don’t put your blinders on to critics all together. They might have a point, even if it stings to read.

  3. JohnM says:

    “Why get upset when people we don’t know and have never met think we’re dirty rotten scoundrels?”

    True. On the other hand if most people you do know and have met think that….. :)

  4. Brandon says:

    TGC owes much of its success to the critical content it produces. Now its celebrities are found whining and spinning when they take heat from the interwebs. I fear this is the Achilles heel to the whole movement.

  5. Erica says:

    I really enjoy bloggers who stand behind their point in the comments section. Obviously, they have to pick their battles. I wouldn’t expect a response to every comment, but I do appreciate a good dialog about topics.

    TV, on the other hand, is not an interactive experience. If yelling at your TV makes you feel better, go ahead.

  6. Albert Modica says:

    I think he’s absolutely right, I don’t care nor will I ever about what someone thinks of be but my opinion is worth being heard and whether it’s a negative one or a positive one at the end of the day is just an opinion to help either express myself or to try to motivate someone to do more or better.

  7. Leslie Williams says:

    Press is to short for gossip

  8. Charley says:

    If a criticism stings, it usually means that it has struck a nerve. When this happens a mature person will consider why this is the case. Perhaps the critic has a point. Perhaps you should change your opinion. On the other hand, maybe you can figure out how the critic is mistaken and respond, or at least feel better having justified your position to yourself. Either way, you grow when you engage your critics, at least mentally.

    Then there’s Kevin’s recommended approach: Disregard the content of the criticism, and focus on the source. Assume they are losers, ignore them because they are a strangers, and carry on as before. This sounds like it’s taken from chapter one of the stubborn ignoramus training manual.

  9. Mike Donahue says:

    Wow, looks like most of the commentators totally missed the point of this post. What I take away from this post is something like what Solomon said, “He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Proverbs 9:7-9).

  10. sandy63 says:

    Wow, is this full of typos! Hard to read. Please do better proofreading.

  11. Tim Moreland says:

    Fine article and good points, Pastor DeYoung.
    In this link, Stuart Scott responds to an ESPN fan and indicates his own faith. I found this link a couple days ago. I was wondering about the late Mr. Scott’s faith when I heard his funeral was across town at Providence Baptist Church here in Raleigh.

  12. JR says:

    Kevin, well, I for one, do enjoy the ability to exchange ideas in the comments section of my favorite authors’ blogs. I read yours all the time, but rarely comment.

    FWIW: I just sent an email to The Gospel Coalition because they seem to have blocked comments on the main blog. I can log into disqus and see their articles, but when I try to go thru the actual website, Disqus is blocked.
    Does anyone else have this problem? I can’t seem to get an answer from TGC. I’ve written 3 or 4 times now.

  13. Richard UK says:

    Yes, TGC has become an embattled fortress – they fire missiles but won’t let anyone in to present a point for debate.

    Try Heidelblog where Scott Clark readily responds to blogs

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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