Scott's trash-talking hero? Hulk Hogan
Jets linebacker learned to mouth off not from Muhammad Ali, but from a pro wrestler
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Dorita Adams was the first to assure her son, Bart Scott, that he would be good enough someday to walk the talk. Adams knew nothing about the Green Bay Packers or Vince Lombardi or the frozen corner of hell that was the Ice Bowl, but she bought her child his first football uniform when he was 2 and gave him an appropriate name.
"Bart Star," Adams called him.
She found out years later about Lombardi's quarterback, Bart Starr, while watching some old NFL clips. Adams never needed any snapshots from Titletown for inspiration.
Before she ever bought that uniform, before her only son even left the hospital after his birth, she looked down into his incubator and whispered more than once, "You're going to be special someday."
Adams had to protect him first. She was a quality inspector at a Detroit automobile plant, sometimes working as many as 12 hours a day. Adams did everything she could to keep Bart busy and out of trouble, enrolling him in the Boy Scouts, entering him in a bowling league, and making sure he made it safely to church.
Her two older daughters looked after him, and so did the extended circle of relatives who lived on their block. "I had a sister upstairs," Adams said, "a sister next door, my mother two doors down, and across the street another sister. Bart was raised by women."
Raised by women to conquer men.
When the walls of urban blight closed in on him, Scott won the one fight he needed to win in high school, a fight against a Detroit gang member trying to recruit him to the dark side. "Nobody jumped in," Adams was later told by one of her daughters. "It was one-on-one, and Bart took care of business."
The big Division I schools didn't want Scott out of Southeastern High; even Morgan State told him he was too small to play linebacker. He took a scholarship offer at Southern Illinois, watched 27 linebackers not named Bart Scott get picked in the 2002 NFL draft, and settled for a tryout with the Baltimore Ravens.
Scott made the team. "How ironic," Adams said. "Down the street from Morgan State."
Nine seasons later, Scott isn't the best player on a New York Jets team heading to Pittsburgh for a shot at Super Bowl XLV. Scott isn't the Jets' best defensive player, or even their best linebacker.
But if there was any doubt that he is the Jets' heartbeat and voice -- especially their voice -- it was erased that Sunday night moment when he interrupted his celebration on the Gillette Stadium field by turning his arms into airplane wings and taking himself in for a landing at the feet of ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, who stuck out his microphone and opened a treasure of video gold.
The New England Patriots, the Jets' very own wicked witch, was dead and buried, and Scott's rant about those who allegedly disrespected the Jets was framed by an iconic football visual -- clouds of chilled breath billowing from the player's mouth. If nothing else, Bart Starr likely appreciated that part of Bart Star's show.
When Scott finally came up for air, Paolantonio said, "Congratulations, see you in Pittsburgh."
"Can't wait," Scott barked, providing a fresh mantra this week for Rex Ryan and the rest.
"I thought I looked pretty crazy," Scott said Thursday of the clip that raced around the Internet at Ted (Golden Voice) Williams speed. "Hopefully what people can pull from that is that it's real. That's how I am."
It's real, yes, but artificial at the same time. In his youth, Scott unwittingly started developing his style as the NFL's foremost trash talker by watching hour after hour of professional wrestling.
Not just professional wrestling, but Hulk Hogan. When Adams was working around the home, doing the laundry, she saw Hogan as the perfect babysitter.
Bart sat in front of the TV, hooting and hollering and mimicking Hogan's blustery sayings and signature moves. "To this day," Adams said, "you can't tell Bart that wrestling isn't real. I'd say to him, 'Are you sure this is real?' And he'd say, 'Momma, the guy's got blood coming out of his mouth. It has to be real.'"
So Scott made a career out of hitting opponents with his words as much as he hit them with his pads. When asked at a news conference Thursday if he'd studied the founding father of trash talk, Muhammad Ali, Scott put Ali on the canvas and raised Hogan's triumphant hand.
Some reporters laughed. "What's funny, man?" he asked. Scott explained why he was serious about the Hulkster.
"It wasn't the fact that Hulk Hogan was a wrestler," he said. "What I took from it was that he was a trendsetter, no different from Ali or Babe Ruth.
"You can only globalize a sport or industry or whatever you're trying to do one time, and no matter what you may think about what wrestling is and what it stands for -- sports, entertainment, fake, whatever -- it was a craft, and he's the best at it. He worked at being the best and he entertained you no matter what."
After years of entertaining Scott, Hogan was finally entertained by Scott. The wrestling legend caught the linebacker's rant on ESPN and cherished every precious second of it.
"It was like one of my mid-'80s promos, and all that was missing were a few 'What are you gonna dos?' and some lightning bolts in there," the 57-year-old Hogan, now with TNA Wrestling, told ESPNNewYork.com. "It was right on the money. I think it's cool that [Scott] is stepping up and showboating it a bit, because it's about personality and entertaining people, too.
"I could tell Bart had been watching wrestling, and it's pretty cool because a lot of these guys are afraid to step outside the box. ... Sometimes when you say stuff you believe it and it happens."
So Scott is trying to talk his way to a championship. He isn't another Lawrence Taylor or Ray Lewis, but he might be the NFL's most entertaining conversationalist, outside of his own coach, of course.
Scott said he would "die for" Rex Ryan, and he was quoted in Newsday threatening Wes Welker after the receiver mocked Ryan's connection to foot-fetish videos allegedly featuring the coach's wife. "I don't see [Ryan] just as a coach," Scott said. "I see him as a friend or business partner."
A friend or business partner who allowed an interview of wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage to be played on team speakers while the Jets practiced, surely a nod to the villainous "Mad Backer," Bart Scott, one of the most detested opponents in the NFL.
A feature film on his life is in the works, based on a story by New York Times sportswriter Greg Bishop. After two consecutive failures in the AFC title game, Scott wants his movie to have a new closing scene.
"It's time for the New York Jets to get their happy ending," he said.
First Scott needs to make it past the Steelers, a team that lived to torment his Ravens. On cue, the linebacker will do most of the talking to Big Ben Roethlisberger. He'll try to crawl inside the quarterback's helmet.
But Scott won't get any angrier than he was in the immediate wake of the New England game, when the ESPN video showed the Mad Backer madder than he's been since his freshman year at Southern Illinois.
"He was really mad back then," his mother said. "That's when he was saying the colleges who didn't recruit him should've measured his heart instead of his size."
In fact, they should've measured his mouth. The linebacker said he talks and talks to elevate his own play, a piece of good pregame news for the Jets.
They can't afford him to be Bart Scott in Pittsburgh, not when the occasion calls for Bart Star.