Starting tomorrow if, not sooner, there will be wall to wall coverage of Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, CA by ESPN, “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.” Every one of the ESPN family that covers and talks about the NFL will be there from Eric Allen, Trent Dilfer, Hug Douglas, Herm Edwards, Mike Golic, Tim Hasselbeck, Meril Hodge, John Clayton Ron Jaworski, Ray Lewis, Sal Paolantonio, Wendi Nix, Josina Anderson, Bob Holtzman, Suzy Kolber, Mike Tirico, Steve Young, John Gruden, Trey Wingo, Mark Schlereth, Tedy Brushi and Damien Woody. On top of that, the “Sunday NFL Countdown” unit of Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, Chris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson and Tom Jackson will be there. The ESPN family will be missing one person. The one guy who is as good as anybody in finding and delivering information to us the viewer on everything and anything going on in the NFL, especially during this upcoming week.
Longtime NFL reporter and analyst for ESPN Chris Mortensen has taken a temporary leave of absence because he was diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer.
“More than a week ago, I was diagnosed with a Stage IV throat cancer,” Mortensen, who his colleagues call “Mort,” said in a statement back on Jan. 15.
“My focus shifted significantly to gathering information about the specifics of this cancer. The initial diagnosis was confirmed Friday and there is another test remaining that will determine the pest possible treatment plan that will commence in the very immediate future. Consequently with the support and encouragement from ESPN president John Skipper and many others at ESPN, I am temporarily stepping away from my normal NFL coverage duties to better engage this opportunity to fight the good fight that is projected to affect almost 1.7 million Americans with new cases in 2016. I have many inspirational examples of men, women and children who have faced this very fight. We all know somebody right? I also have the love and prayers of my wife Nicki, my family, my friends, colleagues and most of all, my faith that serves as source of tremendous strength.”
The 64-year-old Mortensen, who has been delivering NFL news for ESPN since joining the network in 1991 appearing on some of the networks main shows “Sunday NFL Countdown,” “Monday Night Countdown,” “NFL Live,” “Sportscenter” and “NFL Insiders” in addition to giving us the scoop around Super Bowl week and the NFL Draft. He also has made regular appearances on many shows for ESPN Radio.
Mortensen’s sidekick Adam Schefter, who joined ESPN in 2009 after working as NFL Network’s inside reporter for five years said to Sports Illustrated.com (SI.com) that he and a core of ESPN NFL staffers learned of Mortensen’s diagnosis back on Friday, Jan. 15 via e-mail.
“It was jarring, a professional and personal whammy,” Schefter said. “I consider him one of my closet friends. If I have issues in my life, he knows everything. He keeps me upbeat, grounded, a great friend, a great sounding board, I love the guy.”
In the days since then, Schefter has said he has spoken and texted with Mortensen every day. He more often than not has talked or texted him multiple times during a day
He is not the only one who has those kind of feelings for Mort.
Schlereth, who won two three Super Bowls in his career as an offensive lineman for the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins said that Mortensen had a wonderful P.M.A., positive mental attitude. Schlereth said on the Jan. 15 edition of “NFL Live,” “That dude has one of the most positive mental attitudes that I have ever been around.”
“He will attack this with great vigor and a great sense of humor and he’ll go after it and I’m there with you Mort. Love you brother.”
“NFL Live” host Trey Wingo said back on Jan. 15 that during game day at ESPN’s main headquarters in Bristol, CT Mort is the one that has the most energetic of anyone in the room. That he will get everybody going if given the opportunity.
That is something that will surely be missed, especially this upcoming week, the biggest of the NFL season.
“More than anything else, we miss you for the laughter my friend. So comeback when you’re ready. We’ll be here for you. We wish you nothing but the best,” Wingo said back on Jan. 15 on “NFL Live.”
Before he became a fixture at ESPN, Mortensen, who was born in Torrance, CA on Nov. 7, 1951 was with the The National Sports Daily covering the NFL from 1989-90, where he was one of the first writers hired by editor Frank Deford, who these days works on HBO’s “Real Sports.”
He was the beat writer for the Atlanta Braves from 1983-85 and then for the Atlanta Falcons from 1985-86. He covered the entire NFL for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution from 1987-89 and in 1987 received the very prestigious George Polk Award for a piece he did on the subversion of amateurism by sports agents and college athletes. He remains the sole recipient of the award since Red Smith in 1951. Mortensen also worked for Sports Magazine and The Sporting News.
To put how good of an NFL reporter Mortensen has been into perspective, he has covered every Super Bowl since 1979.
This battle that Mortensen is now facing makes the one he had against many Boston, MA fans and even some of those in the Boston media on Deflategate.
For those of you that might been under a rock the past year, this is a story that pertains to how the New England Patriots was the controversy involving the New England Patriots in the 2014 American Football Conference (AFC) title game where allegations were made that the Pats had tampered with the footballs that were used in this contest against the Indianapolis Colts, who they defeated 45-7 back on Jan. 18, 2015.
The league and Commissioner Roger Goodell announced back on May 11, 2015 that four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady would be suspended the first four game of this past season.
After Brady’s suspension was upheld, the case moved to federal court and on Sept. 3, 2015, Judge Richard M. Berman, a Senior U.S. federal judge of the District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated the four-game suspension of Brady on the grounds that “…the requisites of fairness and due process,” were not involved in the process leading to the penalty that came about.
While Brady was vindicated, a number of staffers of ESPN’s NFL staffers and of the show “Outside the Lines” received threatening phone calls, e-mails and tweets. Some of which were threats of physical violence. Mortensen was among those targeted.
One person who has been in Mortensen’s corner in this time of great uncertainty has been former Patriots’ great linebacker, who help them win three Super Bowls is current analyst for ESPN Tedy Bruschi, who 11 years ago came back from a mild stroke.
“You never know when it’s coming. The toughest that you’ve ever had in your life. I’ve experienced that personally,” Bruschi, who along with then Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith who were both named the NFL Comeback Players of the Year in 2005 said back on Jan. 15.
“From there, it’s about how much fight you got and from what I’ve learned from Mort the last seven years, I know you’ve got a lot of fight man. So this is yours. So I hope you welcome it and I hope you except the challenge and fight it like I know you will because from I’ve known about him and the support that he’s shown me since I first came here as an analyst, he’s a great man. He’s a good friend and I know he’ll fight.”
The greatest thing that when you are going through a tough, challenging moment in your life is to have faith in yourself to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Have an unwavering confidence that you will make it. More than anything else, you need to have people who have a high level of respect for who you are and what you bring to them that they believe in you enough that you will get through that tough moment and be better off for it.
The ESPN family has had two of those kinds of people in this position that Chris Mortensen is in now. Stuart Scott, the at sight game host for “Monday Night Countdown,” host of “NBA Countdown,” and one of the main anchors of “Sportscenter” fought bravely with his battle with stomach cancer, but passed away from it in January 2015 at the young age of 49.
Longtime west coast-based reporter for “Sportscenter” Shelley Smith back on Oct. 1, 2014 announced that she hand been diagnosed with breast cancer. After multiple radiation treatments, her cancer is in remission and has said she is “basically cancer free.”
Besides having his ESPN family in his corner, Mortensen will have his wife Micki by his side and his two adult children, which includes son Alex, who played collegiate football for both Arkansas and Samford. He served as an offensive graduate assistant for the 2015 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
Most of the ESPN family and a great deal of their NFL commentators, show hosts and analyst will be in Santa Clara, CA getting ready for Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos versus the Carolina Panthers. They will do a great job as they normally do from top to bottom getting us ready for what should be a great game, there is a guarantee of some extra focus and outstanding work knowing that one of their own will not be physically with them, but in spirit.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Chris and his family as he faces this challenge. He is an extremely respected colleague, who has the complete support of his entire ESPN family. We wish him strength and hope in the battle ahead and look forward to his return whenever he chooses,” ESPN President John Skipper said in a statement.
Information and quotes are courtesy of 1/15/16 3:30 p.m. edition of “NFL Live” on ESPN with Trey Wingo, Mark Schlereth and Tedy Bruschi; 1/15/16 www.si.com article “Chris Mortensen, ESPN Reporter and Analyst, Diagnosed With Throat Cancer,” by Richard Deitsch; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ESPN_personalities; http://en.m/wkipedia.org/wiki/Tedy_Bruschi; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deflategate.