Media Power List
NFL Network and NBC analyst Mike Mayock has expanded his on-air portfoilo
ESPN PR lost one of its best and brightest with the passing of Kim Jessup
Lisa Wilson is the lone black woman leading a metro daily sports section
(Each month SI.com highlights a selected group in the sports media who have proven newsworthy, both for positive and negative achievements.)
1. Mike Mayock, analyst, NFL Network and NBC Sports: The football analyst recently expanded his on-air portfolio, which is terrific news for thoughtful viewers. Earlier this month, the NFL Network officially confirmed the SI.com report that Mayock had replaced Matt Millen and Joe Theismann (say hallelujah) as the analyst for its Thursday Night Football package. Too often, television executives opt for name recognition or the usual cast of the jockocracy when it comes to NFL analyst hires. Mayock's ascension, for many, is the triumph of diligence over nonsense.
"If you told me 10 months ago that I'd be calling Notre Dame games on NBC, followed by an NFL playoff game on NBC, followed by the NFL Network offering me this NFL package, I don't know," Mayock said. "I would probably inquire as to your hallucinogenic of choice and figuring that that stuff wasn't going to happen for me. I start with a really fundamental approach. My belief is this: Football's the greatest game on the earth, especially on television. If you respect the game, I believe the viewer will appreciate the telecast."
2. Kim Jessup, ESPN Communications: Do what you love and love what you do. That was what Jessup had listed on ESPN's intranet when asked for the best career advice she had ever received. Last week, at the too young age of 29, she died unexpectedly while on vacation in Hawaii. She worked as a publicist on a number of sports at ESPN, including Arena Football, bass fishing, bowling, NASCAR, poker and the NFL.
I asked ESPN's Bill Hofheimer, who worked closely with Jessup in the communications department, what he enjoyed most about his colleague:
"Kim was an incredible person, so well-liked and admired, and you just had to love her spirit," he wrote in an email. "She was always willing to help others and take on new projects. Even if she didn't have experience working on a particular sport, she always volunteered to help. She was hard-working, eternally positive and appreciative of everything.
"When our communications office in Florida closed last year, I was worried Kim might not make the move to Connecticut. Her fiancé, Nathan Taylor, and so many of her friends lived there and she grew up in the south. But she and Nathan jumped at the chance. She had anticipated this and made up her mind that she would make the move. That really impressed me, and I'm glad she did this because I got to know her even better.
"Since Kim moved to Connecticut last October, she really hit her stride and wowed everyone around her. Even the worst winter in recent memory couldn't dampen her enthusiasm and sense of adventure. When she wasn't working, she and Nathan explored the area and visited friends in New York, Boston and other places. She enjoyed life to the fullest.
"Her trip to Hawaii she had been planning for months, and it was coming at the perfect time, right after all her hard work on the NFL draft. She had a calendar with activities planned for every day and she was so excited about it. The past few days have been very sad here without her. We miss Kim already."
3. Andrew Belleson, Wrigley Field announcer: From making gyros at his family's hot dog stand in a Naperville, Ill., strip mall to announcing Starlin Castro's name at one of the nation's sporting shrines, you won't read a cooler story than this. Belleson beat out 2,953 other applicants for the gig. His audition tape is fun to watch.
4. Lisa Wilson, Buffalo News executive sports editor: With her promotion last month to the top of her newspaper's sports staff, Wilson became the lone black woman leading a sports section at a metropolitan daily newspaper. (She is also the first female sports editor at The Buffalo News.) Having once worked alongside her covering the Buffalo Bills, it's great to see her ascent up the masthead.
"My appointment is a tremendous honor," Wilson said in an email. "I'm so proud to be the only black female sports editor at a major metropolitan daily. Becoming sports editor had been my goal for some time, but I envisioned it happening a few years down the line. My former boss took a buyout and here I am. It's a blessing.
"But it's hard to believe that I'm the only black female in this position because you can't convince me there aren't more women of color who are qualified to do this," she continued. "My appointment also is a tremendous responsibility. I have to be mindful of the women and people of color who surely will follow. If I do a good job and maintain The News' high standard, other newspapers will have to be more receptive to female applicants/applicants of color. If I'm a role model, I certainly embrace it. If women -- and this goes for all women -- and people of color can take something from my story, it's the importance of working hard and never giving up. It's cliché, but that doesn't make it any less true. We belong in these positions. We can beat the odds."
Wilson said a great newspaper sports editor must be a good communicator and listener, as well as respected by the staff.
"I've worked as a reporter and an editor, so I know what everybody's job entails," she said. "I've spent years working nights and weekends with this incredible staff. I've been here at 10 p.m. when we've ripped the section apart. I've walked out of here at 2 a.m. after putting out the Sunday paper. I've rung in the New Year in front of these computers. They know how hard I've worked -- how hard we've all worked -- over the years, and I have no doubt I've earned their respect.
"You also have to have a thick skin. In a passionate sports town like Buffalo, readers will let you know what they think you're doing right, but they'll also let you know what they think you're doing wrong. You have to be able to take the criticism."
Asked what the ideal amount of pages for a special championship section would be should the Bills or Sabres ever win a title, Wilson said, "Ideal amount? One hundred. But I'm not greedy. I'll settle for 50."
5. Joe Drape, New York Times horse racing writer: After writing exquisitely about his excruciating quest to handicap America's most famous horse race, Drape delivered for readers by correctly picking long shot Animal Kingdom to win the Kentucky Derby. We're now rolling with Drape for the Preakness.
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