Getting To Know Jerry Morelli of Mugs Media– Called a 'Sussex County Icon’ By Many
Tuesday, April 17, 2012 • 10:23pm
SPARTA, NJ – “Jerry Morelli has put Sussex County on the map,” said John Paul Beebe, Sussex County resident, and Sergeant at the Sparta Police Department, who at one time was a Freshman Football Coach at Pope John XXIII High School.
Beebe has known Morelli, who many know as “Mugs” or “Mugsy”, for about 20 years.
Morelli has been a household name on the Sussex County sports scene, and Sussex County television overall, for years.
He grew up in Union County’s Garwood, graduating from David Brearly High School in Kenilworth, NJ. Morelli majored in broadcasting at Jones College in Jacksonville, FL, completing his studies at the New York School of Broadcasting.
“I always liked sports growing up,” said Morelli, who said during his youth he took on the role as sports announcer during neighborhood Wiffle Ball games, and would sing the National Anthem.
“I always wanted to be on the radio,” Morelli continued. “That was my dream come true.”
And soon Morelli harnessed that dream and was on the airwaves, at WVRM in Hazlet, NJ first volunteering as a disc jockey, next becoming sports director, and then attaining the position of station manager.
Morelli’s recognizable voice was also heard on WJDM in Elizabeth, NJ and WERA in Plainfield, NJ. He has been seen on television on Newsport (a national sports news channel), and ESPN Scholastic Sports America.
He found his was up to Sussex County with WSUS in Franklin, NJ.
“I heard there was an opening at WSUS,” Morelli recalled. “They liked my tape, and brought me in for a first and second interview.”
Morelli was the station’s sports director from 1985 through 1992.
He also taught at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, as he was starting up Mugs Media, his own production company, in 1993.
Morelli’s company also works with MSG Varsity.
Mugs Media, LLC has overseen the shows “Sports Beat” and “Skylands Weekly”. “Skylands Weekly” had a regular spot on Service Electric Cable TV of NJ’s Channel 10 until the end of February 2012 when, after giving Mugs Media two weeks notice, Service Electric Cable TV of NJ changed their relationship with Mugs Media, Morelli said, and he is now required to lease his time on the air directly from them.
Although “Skylands Weekly” is now off the air, “Sports Beat” has been sustained.
When the future was uncertain for both “Skylands Weekly” and “Sports Beat”, Morelli sought out Bill Snouffer, General Manager at Franklin Sussex Auto Mall, Franklin Sussex Hyundai, and Nielsen Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram. Morelli came to Snouffer for a job, Snouffer instead decided to sponsor “Sports Beat” to keep it on the air.
“If we didn’t believe in his product, I wouldn’t have invested in him,” Snouffer said. “It’s a shame Service Electric didn’t see the value of his products. It’s great for the community, parents, and kids.”
“There’s no one that recognizes high school athletes like he does,” continued Snouffer. “He lives and breathes Sussex County High School sports.”
“I have told him I am upset he wasn’t around when I was younger,” Snouffer joked.
Snouffer said Morelli coordinates a twice-yearly banquet to recognize county athletes.
Snouffer also said Morelli has covered charitable golf events he has been involved with, such as the Saint Clare’s Foundation Johnny Rizzo Golf Outing.
“He’s an icon in Sussex County,” Snouffer said. “I joke with him that he’s the best-looking guy in Sussex County, and he says I am.”
Beebe, like Snouffer, is disappointed “Skylands Weekly” is off the air.
“It’s unfortunate, the real losers are the local small businesses here,” said Beebe, who was impressed with how Morelli’s reporters would visit the stores in the area, and, viewers in turn would go there. He described it as a “good source of information.”
The Sparta Police Department additionally used “Skylands Weekly” as a way to present traffic safety tips.
“It was a really strong vehicle,” Beebe said of the show, and has had difficulty finding an equal place to broadcast the traffic safety tips.
Beebe refocused on Morelli’s positive impact on reporting sports in Sussex County.
“Sussex County has had to play second cousin with youth athletics,” said Beebe. “He’s [Morelli’s] the face of Sussex County Athletics. He’s covered every sport you can imagine. The athletes love him. The coaches love him. I’ve never met anyone who’s ever said anything bad about Jerry. He’s an icon around here. He gives the sports programs justice, he’s given them positive exposure.”
Parker Space, owner of Space Farms Zoo and Museum, and, Freeholder Deputy Director for the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, had only positive things to say about Morelli.
“It seems like I’ve known him [Morelli] forever,” said Space. “He’s always been a part of the Sussex County Community. He’s a standup guy. He’s not looking for publicity for himself, but looking out for the people of Sussex County.”
Like Snouffer, Space recalled Morelli’s coverage especially of charitable events, such as the Newton Medical Center’s “An Evening of Wine & Roses” fundraiser.
Space said “Skylands Weekly” would come to the zoo, and featured happenings at the zoo several times.
“When it [“Skylands Weekly”] was on, it [the show] was an advocate for the county,” Space explained.
When asked for comment for this story about Morelli and the programming he has provided to them, Cherie Lo Presti, Assistant Manager for Service Electric Cable TV of NJ replied, “We don’t give any particular comment about anybody.”
Morelli, who has been married to his wife, Sally, since 1986 (they also have a daughter, Jeena Joy, who turns 9 in May), is grateful not only to his family, but his sponsors who have helped to keep “Sports Beat” on the air, including Franklin Sussex Auto Mall, Thorlabs, Selective Insurance, Dr. John Vitolo, Weis Markets, and DeBoer’s Auto.
“It’s great to cover high school sports, and people are honored by what you do,” said Morelli.
Click here to access Mugs Media’s website, the internet home of “Sports Beat”, where you can also view recent episodes of “Sports Beat”, and view program schedules.