ESPN remembers Anthony Mormile

Aaron LaBerge (left) with Mormile. (Courtesy Aaron LaBerge)
Aaron LaBerge (left) with Anthony Mormile. (Photo courtesy of Aaron LaBerge)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Aaron LaBerge, remembers good friend and former ESPN colleague Anthony Mormile. A memorial for Mormile, a former Vice President, Digital Video, who was part of the evolution of ESPN mobile content, will be held this afternoon in Garfield, N.J.

Last week, many of us in the sports industry had to say goodbye to a friend who had a profound impact on many of our careers and lives. Former ESPNer, and my dear friend, Anthony Mormile, passed away on Friday, May 6 at the age of 50.

Anthony was one of kindest and most genuine people I’ve ever known. He exuded a rare combination of gentleness and fierce competitive spirit. He was an effortlessly funny man, had a remarkable intellect and was incredibly loyal.

My family knew and loved Anthony. And we know and love his wife, Jessica, and their son, Mikey. Like so many other families, we will never be able to fill the void he leaves.

Despite being a true innovator in the sports media world, Anthony was not well known to the general public. But within the corridors of ESPN, and across the sports media industry, he was simply a giant.

His professional legacy is extraordinary. He was one of the first to recognize the power of mobile as a platform to serve fans. He never sought accolades, but instead created a quiet legacy of innovation and dedication. He loved his work. And more than that, he loved the people he worked with.

Today, ESPN reaches tens of millions of fans every day on mobile devices, and “The Big Man,” as so many of us knew him, was a major influence — along with a core group of ESPNers — in accelerating our move into that position. Among Anthony’s long list of accomplishments:

  • He drove the creation of mobile content workflows that we still use today, and were many years ahead of their time.
  • He was one of the driving forces behind the development of ESPN’s mobile push notification system and strategy. Last year we delivered 27 billion notifications.
  • He was instrumental in identifying the need, and developing a process, for the creation of short-form content and custom graphics systems for mobile devices – including video production systems to allow the of creation high-quality, mobile highlights.
  • He was one of the first to use data to make decisions around navigation and content programming on mobile platforms, including dynamically changing interfaces.

Still, it was his impact on people that defines my memory of him.

Anthony had a gift for finding and growing talent, both on camera and behind it. He gave so many great people their first breaks in the industry, and selflessly nurtured the careers of countless others. From the newsroom to the green room, for production assistants, software engineers and even C-level executives, he was a mentor and advisor.

When news of his passing broke last week, people at ESPN and across the industry started sharing favorite memories of Anthony. The raw emotion in what was shared is a testament to his life.

John Skipper, ESPN’s president, told me, “It is pretty hard not to smile when remembering Anthony. He did great work for us and had a very big spirit, which is now an even bigger spirit in the sky.”

Stephanie Lone, a colleague of his at CBS, where Anthony had worked since 2015, said, “He challenged each of us to think big, dream big and DO big. He pushed each of us to be bigger and better than we are now. I will miss his infectious drive to push, his willingness to listen.”

Anthony was a devoted husband and father, anchored by an unwavering “family first” approach to life — which is why so many of us considered him part of our own families. He invested time in knowing what was going on with his colleagues, friends and their families. He was always there to offer help when others needed it. His door was always open, and there was nothing better than an office session with “The Big Man.” He was always happiest when surrounded by friends and family.

There is no greater example of Anthony’s character than his heartfelt support for [former ESPN Sr. Vice President, Mobile] John Zehr’s family following his accident. Anthony was a steadfast supporter and friend to the Zehr family throughout the hospitalization and eventual passing of his friend, mentor and kindred ESPN digital media pioneer.

Celeste Zehr, John’s wife, says it best: “He always wanted to make everything better for us when we were going through some of our darkest times. In addition to all the meals, visits and golf tournaments he organized, he would call regularly just to say ‘How are you doing? What can we do for you? What do you need?’ He never forgot, he never quit. He walked with us the whole way on a journey he didn’t have to take. And he always made it seem like it was no big deal. To us, it most certainly was. I will forever miss his beautiful heart, his delightful smile and the twinkle that was always in his eye.

“He was absolutely one of a kind.”

Like so many others, I will forever miss Anthony Mormile, and I can only hope he understood the depth of my respect and admiration for him. I’m proud to call him my friend.

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