ESPN NFL senior reporter Chris Mortensen update: ‘You don’t kick cancer’s butt. It kicks your rear end. You just take the punches, get back up and let it hit you again and again’

Chris Mortensen may not be in Chicago reporting on the NFL Draft for ESPN this year.
But he’s definitely paying attention.
The 64-year-old South Bay native continues receiving treatment in Houston for Stage IV throat cancer. You may have spotted (in the video above) his emotional appearance in a Gatorade commercial that just launched, talking about Peyton Manning, who broke the news to Mortensen about his NFL retirement.
Colleagues and media journalists have been tweeting out messages about him over the last 48 hours:

As Mortensen watches more of the NFL draft this weekend, he took a few moments to email responses to questions we asked him about — checking on his progress, what is getting him through it all.
Here’s how it goes:

Q: You’ve had several colleagues at ESPN go through various forms of cancer and recovery. Can you take anything from what they went through as inspiration to how you’re moving forward?
A:
Well, “moving forward” is the catch-phrase there. Unfortunately, so many colleagues have had to endure this awful disease and I think that’s a snapshot of the country and world. 
Stuart Scott … gosh I don’t know if anybody was grittier in their fight. Stu’s death made me very sad. All of us.  He was such a pioneering talent, global in a sense. He was a friend to many. His drive through that ordeal was unmatched. Stu was so kind to my wife Micki and our son Alex, especially through Alex’s football playing days (as a quarterback at the University of Arkansas). Stu was always disappointed Alex didn’t pick North Carolina, his alma mater. Disappointed in a friendly, even humorous, way.
Shelley Smith … Robin Roberts …
When this happens, it taps very much into one’s soul. I have found myself praying everyday for someone who has been stricken or be taken. And, of course, Jimmy Valvano. The V Foundation is one of the great promises kept. I know. The V Foundation was very supportive in my seeking treatment at MD Anderson in Houston. I’m leaving a lot of colleagues unnamed. So many have shared their stories and it is very humbling and inspirational.
But, I’ll also say this: Each case of cancer is very personal and unique. Very personal.

Chris Mortensen during Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft from Radio City Music Hall in New York. (Photo by Rich Arden / ESPN Images)

Chris Mortensen during Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft from Radio City Music Hall in New York. (Photo by Rich Arden / ESPN Images)

Q: Your involvement in the NFL draft coverage for the last 25 years on ESPN has been magnified over the years as interest has ramped up and people seem to demand more and more information. You seem to be still engaged in social media outlets even if your voice isn’t there. Is there any way you can still impart information to your colleagues as you watch and network with your sources?
A: I have been able to interact with many in the NFL and with my colleagues. I have become a serial texter, which isn’t a good thing. A conversation still beats a text for a lot of reasons. I really haven’t been that engaged on social media. I may get on Twitter two or three times a week by someone’s request to re-tweet something or just to check NFL-related content.

Q: You had more than 7 million retweets of your announcement on Twitter that you filed a story to ESPN breaking the news of Peyton Manning’s retirement decision in early March. Many thought the fact you reported it was as big a news item as Manning’s decision. How did that play out and what was your reaction to it?
A: It’s actually awkward. The news was Peyton Manning’s retirement, especially when there was speculation that he could seek extending it with another team. That’s just not something that ever really appealed to Manning. Even though he may have been an admirer of Brett Favre, I don’t think he wanted to emulate Favre’s last dance with three teams. It was painful enough for him to leave Indianapolis. 
So, back to your question … it’s very heartwarming and thoughtful for people to be so generous with their response. You do get to experience great depths of humility in these circumstances.

Q: You’ve got a choice now of taking in the NFL draft on ESPN or the NFL Network. Where and how do you plan to watch it play out this year?
A: I watch the NFL draft on ESPN. That’s a tradition. I really did wake up at 4:45 am on the Pacific Coast in our Hermosa Beach house to watch the NFL Draft on ESPN with Chris Berman and Mel Kiper Jr., et al, even when I covered the Dodgers for The Daily Breeze and the draft began at 8 a.m. ET.
I grew up a huge Los Angeles Rams fan – my Uncle Jimmy took me frequently to games at the Coliseum, even walking there a relatively short distance from my Grandmother’s house. It did strike me that the Rams had the first pick.
3216When Suzy Kolber and Jared Goff – whom I got a little uainted with at the Manning Passing Academy last July – gave me a shoutout, it was cool because it was the Rams. The L.A. Rams.
As far as the NFL Network goes, I pay attention and have good friends there. I always want to hear what Daniel Jeremiah has to say. He’s one guy who was highly regarded as a scout with the Ravens, Browns and Eagles; gosh, he had an opportunities to become the player personnel director with two teams this year but chose to stay put. We’re also close friends, extended through our families.

Q: What else is on your mind that you’d like people to know about anything right now?
A: Cancer is personal. It not only affects the patient, it extends very personally to the family and loved ones. That’s very true in my situation, too. They become caregivers and that’s a very draining responsibility. They need support and prayers as much as me.
When I’m locked down onto a table with a mask for daily radiation, I have the techs at MD Anderson pipe in Christian music. It brings me a sense of peace.
On that note, there is something special about experiencing the humility that comes with being a cancer patient. You realize pretty quickly that it’s non-discriminatory. Doesn’t seem matter if you’re middle-aged, old, young,  poor, rich, black, white, Hispanic, Islamic, Asian…it is indiscriminate. There’s a way-too-large community of cancer patients, inspired by survivors but equally inspired by those who fought the good fight but eventually succumbed.
There is one myth, in my opinion, I would share. The mantra of “kick cancer’s ass” may be well-intended but it’s misplaced. Based on what I have experienced and having seen and heard others, you don’t kick cancer’s butt. It kicks your rear end. You just take the punches, get back up and let it hit you again and again.
I have watched Ed Werder endure agonizing cancer and other serious diseases that have afflicted with his daughter Christie and ultimately with his son-in-law Trey, who passed away a couple months ago. Nobody fought harder or wanted to live more than Trey. He was 31 years old. Trey’s experience was torturous and I found myself waking almost every night in the middle of my sleep and praying for him, Christie and Ed and Jill Werder. I believe their fight and love and sacrifice embodies the cancer experience.
You pray you’re standing in the end. But it’s day-to-day. One day at a time. 

== Also:
= An update on Mortensen we posted on Wednesday is in the weekly media notes linked here.

 

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30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 29: The Dodgers and the ‘60s, innocently enough

1963-dodgers-champions-pennantThe book: “The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers”
The author: Michael Leahy
The vital statistics: HarperCollins Publishers, 496 pages, $26.99. To be released May 10
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website

51FLABT1EJLThe pitch: Maury Wills, Wes Parker, Tommy Davis, Sandy Koufax, Jeff Torborg, Dick Tracewski, Lou Johnson, Al Ferrara, Joe Moeller, Ron Fairly, Claude Osteen …
They really weren’t innocent bystanders.
They happened to be mature enough in age to be playing baseball in Los Angeles, for the star-studded and workman-like Dodgers, in the 1960s, when the land around the Ravine was still shifting.
They reflected the cross pollination of race, religion, class – while winning and losing in a sport that many still considered the national past time — pre-Super Bowl, remember.
The beauty of this 50-year retrospective is that as a group most are still around to talk about it, honestly, putting their trust in a Washington Post writer who started this innocently enough in 2009 when he was tracking down former DC native Wills to catch up with him about his exclusion from the Hall of Fame which was, and continues to be, a gross oversight.
One interview led to a story in the Post Magazine, and a book was organically created when Michael Leahy talked to more and more of Wills’ teammates from that era, particular the introspective Parker, then Tracewski, then Davis …
182061We are fortunate Leahy has a personal connection to this subject.
Growing up in Northridge, he admits in the acknowledgements that his passion was “ignited long before I had a driver’s license,” and his dad and neighborhood friends would take him to Dodger Stadium – including the night to witness Koufax’s perfect game in 1966 from Aisle 27, Row S of the fourth deck, with enough of an imprint that he can reflect on some of the key plays of that game from his own perspective, things seared into his memory that may make no sense to others, but it’s the power of that memory that comes alive again.
He also knew first-hand the impact of Vin Scully’s voice, who, “at thirty-four in 1962, Scully possessed the command of someone twenty years his senior. .. (he) had the wit and a keen eye to complement a melodious voice devoid of any trace of an eastern accent, his speech and style an amalgam of laidback folksy and eloquently descriptive.” He was perfect man for the job when the O’Malley family moved the team from Brooklyn and needed to attract new fans, because “the sound of Vin Scully on their radios was ubiquitous. To make that first trip to Dodger Stadium for the new Californians was akin to embarking on an obligatory family pilgrimage to Disneyland.”
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30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 28: Is that a bat in his hand or a battering ram?

A photo from the back cover of the book, which implies this has to do with how baseball help distract locals during The Parsley Massacre of Rafael Trujillo.

A photo from the back cover of the book, which implies this has to do with how baseball help distract locals during Dominican Republic’s Parsley Massacre led by dictator Rafael Trujillo against the neighboring Hatians.

The book: “Weaponized Baseball: Declassified, Withheld Stories Reveal Baseball’s Hidden Role in Geopolitics, International Military Action, Mental Manipulation & Mass Distraction”
The author: Scott A. Rowan
The vital statistics: Sherpa Multimedia, 256 pages, $24.95. Released in March.
Find it: At Amazon.com, the publishers website

WEAPONSThe pitch: Scott Rowan connects dots, deciphers codes, and advances theories.
Maybe as bizarre as ones as he can find.
Like Art Bell and UFOs.
If a baseball-related book can be both enjoyable and disturbing, invigorating and brow-raising, Rowan, who previously wrote  “The Cubs Quotient: How the Chicago Cubs Changed The World” in 2014, can probably make you believe that the ivy covered walls of Wrigley Field were done that way so that camouflaged spies could send signals easier to those at the Chicago Navy base.
Taking the research approach that you can’t know everything you think you already know, Rowan goes through world history and pinpoints how baseball had an “often-hidden role” in government policy, military planning, religion, commerce, innovation, entertainment, social control, crime, gangs, law and order.
Yes, it’s mind-blowing.
XAYAjONT_400x400Rowan, a journalist from a military intelligence family background, just can’t help himself.
Rowan admits in the end that perhaps ignorance is bliss, but “it can be dangerous. My goal is to help sports fans and the general public get a peek behind the curtain of many aspects of life that they take for granted, never knew about or felt was imagined or unreal.”
Start with perhaps how the Yankees got their name. It’s beginnings go to the famous song “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” which British troops used to sing in mock of U.S. military during the Revolutionary War. What’s the song really about? Rowan explains. We’ll leave it that.
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Weekly media notes version 04.27.16: Really, we’re waiting for a big NFL/Rams reveal?

kiperFor those on the spectrum of conspiracy theoreticians, there’s one going around this week that the NFL has squeezed the Rams to wait until Thursday evening — when they’re officially on the clock at the 2016 Draft in Chicago — to reveal who they’ve decided to pick with the No. 1 overall choice.
Don’t spoil the suspense for ESPN and the NFL Network, both of whom air the draft that officially starts at 5 p.m., or prime-time in the East. When it’s up against “The Big Bang Theory.”
0ap3000000577742_thumbnail_200_150It became a topic, interestingly enough, on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” on Monday. Co-host Michael Wilbon got a little squirmy about it — as he should. He’s now asked to comment about whether the company he works for about whether it should comply to this request.
“Are we sure the NFL asked this, or did the TV networks ask it?” he responded.
Co-host Tony Kornheiser seemed a lot more subdued about it. It’s a TV show, he rationalized. He was fine with it.
“You want to get higher ratings,” he said, “You get higher ratings if there is a certain amount of suspense … If there is going to be a team that would help to create drama to make ratings, it would be a team in Los Angeles. I am OK with it, I don’t think it is bad.”
We’re bothered by the assumption that the league can so easily manipulate a network, even its own. Yet anyone with a true journalistic sense of duty would take this as a challenge to dig deeper through all the obfuscation. Produce a nugget of information prior to when it’s officially announced — a no-doubt true find. Perhaps it would then be just a matter of whether his editors would allow it to get on the air before the pick.
You could go with the Stephen A. Smith method and just guess loudly, with your chances here appearing to be 50/50, and wait for the outcome.
With that, ESPN’s 37th year of coverage begins officially with a “draft countdown” from 4-5 p.m. Thursday and the first round scheduled from 5-8:30 p.m. It’s a production that includes 27 cameras to capture Chris Berman, Mel Kiper Jr., Jon Gruden, new “NFL Front Office Insider” Louis Riddick, reporter Adam Scherfter, Suzy Kolber and a host of others.
Trey Wingo and Todd McShay join Kiper, Riddick and Schefter for coverage of rounds two and three (Friday at 4 p.m.) and rounds four to seven (Saturday, 9 a.m.)
The Culver City-based NFL Network boasts of more than 70 hours of live coverage during the week that started last Sunday. Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock are the point men, with Charles Davis, Daniel Jeremiah, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Kurt Warner, Michael Robinson, Steve Mariucci, Brian Billick, Ian Rapoport, Melissa Stark and Rhett Lewis. Their “red carpet” special starts Thursday at 3 p.m.
At NFL.com, Matt “Money” Smith anchors the coverage starting at 5 p.m. Steve Wyche is the NFL Network reporter covering the Rams’ draft party at LA Live.

Chris Mortensen during Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft. (Photo by Rich Arden / ESPN Images)

Chris Mortensen during Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft. (Photo by Rich Arden / ESPN Images)

== As for Chris Mortensen, continuing a second round of intense treatment in Houston for Stage IV throat cancer since January, and about to miss ESPN’s coverage of the NFL Draft this weekend for the first time in 25 years.
The 64-year-old told us in a recent email that speaking right now “is somewhat painful, although I have numbing med for it. Radiation.”
He said he has at least another month of treatment to go.
“The draft was always my top calendar date,” he wrote. “It’s the first time I appeared (thank you, Fred Gaudelli) on ESPN in 1991. Can’t believe I’m going to miss it, though I am pretty wired through the magic of text messaging.”
Mortensen, a North Torrance High grad and El Camino College alum, covered high school sports and the Dodgers for the Daily Breeze before leaving to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in 1983. We tried several times this week to tackle a Q-and-A about the draft and how he might be participating, but additional treatments precluded him from being up for it.
Prayers continued as we keep him, as well as TNT side reporter and SI cover story subject Craig Sager, in our thoughts. Continue reading

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30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 27: Holy Mack-erel

June 12, 1939, Hall of Fame, opening, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Grover Alexander, Tris Speaker, Napoleon Lajoie, George Sisler, Walter Johnson.

The Baseball Hall of Fame opens on June 12, 1939, with Connie Mack (first row, second from right) sharing the billing with (front row) Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Cy Young, (back row) Honus Wagner, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Tris Speaker, Napoleon Lajoie, George Sisler and Walter Johnson.

The book: “The Grand Old Man of Baseball: Connie Mack in His Final Years, 1932-1956”
The author: Norman L. Macht
The vital statistics: University of Nebraska Press, 672 pages, $39.95. Released October, 2015
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com. And the publisher’s website

412pzQxZs9LThe pitch: Combining the 742 pages already documented for “Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball” in 2007, and 720 more for “Connie Mack: The Turbulent and Triumphant Years, 1915-1931” in 2012, Macht has managed to convince the publisher to allow 2,134 pages and hundreds of thousands of words to go beyond the summation of the life and baseball times of Cornelius McGillicuddy, a man who was managing his 50th and final year with the Philadelphia Athletics when Vin Scully began his broadcasting career in Brooklyn in 1950.
Mack died six years later, at age 93.
From exhaustion, perhaps.
The exhaustion that one would even have after reading the 5,700-word piece that Wikipedia fashioned for him.
51t3UNty6SLWe won’t pretend to say we made it through the first two editions of the “Tall Tactician” that chronicle in every-so-detailed detail his five World Series titles, his ridiculous amount of 3,731 wins — almost 1,000 more than anyone else, despite a sub-.500 record — and a 10-year-playing career before all that from 1886-96 (the last three as player-manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates).
This third deposit gets through the weight of a far less joyous time in his life than the first two – here, his sons fight over control of the Philadelphia Athletics, watch it go bankrupt at Connie Mack Stadium, then sell it off and can’t stop it from moving to Kansas City.
51g7ymMHoAL (1)We’re just pleased that having had nearly six months to get through this final volume,  we’re still not sure if the effort this time was inspiring enough to go back and dig through the first two tomes we’d previously set aside, mostly because of intimidation.
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