By Richard Deitsch
May 16, 2011

(Each month 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 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 TheBuffalo 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.

6. Larry Collmus, Triple Crown announcer: With iconic race caller Tom Durkin opting not to renew his contract with NBC, the network tapped Collmus for the plum assignment of announcing the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. He has been the full-time track announcer at Monmouth Park since 1994 and was previously best known for this memorable call of a race last year.

"I really thought I would be more nervous than I was," Collmus told of calling the Derby. "But one thing I think I did notice was when the horses were going around the turn, my legs were shaking. But my binoculars were staying steady so that was all that mattered."

The Derby proved to be memorable given the long-shot odds of Animal Kingdom. Collmus said he was pleased with his call. He listened to it for the first time the following day when he arrived back at his home in New Jersey.

"I was happy with it, but you really can't be completely happy with it because you have to think there is a chance to do better," Collmus said. "But I was pleased considering it was my first one."

Collmus said he hopes this becomes a long-term relationship with NBC.

"I want to do as good a job as I can this year to make everyone happy," he said.

7. Woody Durham, University of North Carolina radio announcer: Giving voice to Michael Jordan before he was Air Jordan, Durham called his first Carolina game in 1971 and last month announced his retirement after more than 1,800 football and men's basketball games. He broadcast 23 bowl games and 13 Final Fours during his career. Most impressively, he knew when to say goodbye to his audience. The 69-year-old Durham (his son Wes is the play-by-play voice for Georgia Tech) told the Winston-Salem Journal that he thought his performance was slipping last year. "A lot of times, I thought my accuracy was lacking," Durham said. "Maybe two or three years ago, I started trying to say things in a different way rather than the same, old way that a lot of people do them. I just wanted to say it a different way. I realized that wasn't a good decision, because I was little slow saying what I wanted to say. I just wasn't as accurate or as timely as I thought I needed to be, and as I thought I had been through the years."

Click here for some of Durham's most memorable calls.

8. David White, Porterville Church of God, senior pastor: After a 17-year career as a sports writer, including the past five years covering the 49ers for the San Francisco Chronicle, White exchanged his keyboard for a pulpit, becoming a pastor for the Porterville Church of God in Porterville, a central California town between Fresno and Bakersfield.

"I've done part-time ministry during football offseasons since 2004, always wondering if there was something more full time to it for me," White said in an email. "Last year, I spent four months as an interim pastor leading right up to the start of Niners training camp. When it ended, I didn't want it to end. That's when I knew God was calling me to full-time ministry. I got to answer the call when the church's pastor recently retired. Besides, the Raiders and Niners went 21-59 and fired four coaches during my stay. I'm not sayin' God told me enough already; I'm just sayin'."

I asked White if he considered sports writers a spiritual lot.

"Well, former Chronicle comrade Ray Ratto says that I've been a sports writer far too long to think I can save my soul now," White said. "We can be a bit cynical, and a tad sarcastic, as a whole, but given the overwhelming words of support I've gotten from colleagues everywhere -- not a single one has called me an idiot wrapped up in a moron for this move -- I'd like to think Jesus holds out hope for even the crustiest of my peers."

9. Gus Johnson, Fox Sports: ESPN's Tony Reali called it the news that broke the Internet. We'll give the blog Awful Announcing, which covers Gus news with the same fervor The Washington Post details the White House, the last word on his move from CBS to Fox.

10. Jay Mariotti, former columnist and TV personality: Last week, the Los Angeles Timesreported that Mariotti was charged with felony stalking and assault (he pleaded not guilty to the charges and his attorney called them "complete fabrications.") The news comes eight months after a domestic incident in which Mariotti was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to perform 40 days of community service.

Mariotti's first arrest produced a torrent of schadenfreude from his colleagues. The relative disinterest over this latest incident (which does not take away from the seriousness of the charges) is an example of how quickly a so-called sports television personality can fade from the landscape. Deadspin wrote a smart piece on the narcotic of sports television fame, and the loss of self for those who start to believe what fans and enabling public relations people tell them.

One thing is for certain: Mariotti's career as a major sports commentator is over.

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