PARKERSBURG — An American sportscaster and sports talk show host spoke to students Wednesday in the Sports In American Culture class at Parkersburg High School.
“I’ll answer anything your class has about specific things, or the sports I cover, or the people I cover, whatever interests you,” Scott Van Pelt told Sports In American Culture teacher Sam Vincent. “I’m here for you guys.”
Van Pelt fielded questions such as who he thinks is the greatest basketball player of all time — Michael Jordan — what team is No. 1 in football in America right — Georgia — and more impactful questions such as what advice he’d give to a student wanting to enter sports broadcasting.
“Be you,” Van Pelt told student David Parsons. “Don’t change who you are for anyone. What makes you great and interesting is what makes you great and interesting. The things you have that nobody else does.”
He said not to let people change who you are or be different because they want you to be. He said the most important thing for someone interested in sports broadcasting is learning to write.
“And learn to write in the voice that’s your voice, to say the things that you feel,” Van Pelt said. “Just be you, just be you, and work hard at the writing. That’s the craft part of this.”
Van Pelt was asked who he thought was the most influential person in sports history.
“Muhammad Ali,” Van Pelt said. “The man went to jail over his beliefs. He was a man, a black man, at a time when the world was different, and not in great ways, but he was a man who spoke his truth. He was loud, he was brash, and then he backed it up, man. I think, given who he was, during the time he was, I think he represented a confidence in self that I think athletes today could look at.”
He talked about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball and having to “Stare in the eyes of people that didn’t want him to do it” but overcoming that.
“When you talk about most influential, I think what you’re talking about are people who stood for something, that changed something forever,” Van Pelt said. “Robinson did it. Ali did it. You wanted me to narrow it down to one, but that’s tough. … You ask 10 people you get 10 answers, more than likely.”
When asked what advice he’d give to high school students Van Pelt said not to be in a rush. He told students to be present in their present. He told them to be open to new experiences and people they may meet that aren’t like them.
“The world is a beautiful tapestry of people,” Van Pelt said. “The world is a big place. Be interested in people that you meet that aren’t where you’re from, that maybe aren’t from a group of people that you interacted with, because those people can become important parts of your life if you’re open to that. And it’s really important to recognize that. Just be decent human beings to each other, man. It’s not complicated. … Be optimistic, be present wherever your journey takes you, be grateful for whatever you’ve got, and work your butts off to get the things that you want.”
Douglass Huxley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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