Last week, Sports by Brooks reported scourge of the internet Chris Berman would step into the broadcast booth and announce a Monday Night Football game for the opening week of the season. Our reaction was less than enthused. Originally, ESPN chose not to comment. Today, ESPN finally confirmed the Brooks report with an announcement heralding Berman as a 6-time National Sportscaster of the Year.
Chris Berman will announce Chargers-Raiders on September 10th, which is the second game of the Week 1 Monday Night Football doubleheader. Trent Dilfer, who had called the game with professional play by play man Brad Nessler the last two seasons, will now partner Boomer in the booth. And, since Berman has never actually called an NFL game before, he’ll call a preseason game with Dilfer as well – Cardinals-Titans on August 23rd. A double dose of Berman in the booth! That means twice as much material! Yes!
On an ESPN Front Row podcast, Berman said his inspirations for play by play were Ray Scott and Curt Gowdy. I don’t think Berman was being ironic when talking about Scott as he said, “He did more with less words than anybody in the business.” If there’s anyone that is the antithesis of old-fashioned, straight play by play men like Scott, Gowdy, and Pat Summerall, it’s Chris Berman. I don’t think Ray Scott would ever say “THHHHHEEE RRRRRAAAAIIIIIDDDEERRRRS” during a game.
Chris Berman had a great career. He’s done more for the NFL than perhaps any other media personality in the last 25 years. He’s synonymous with the league and NFL Primetime revolutionized the industry. But there comes a time when we have to evolve and move on. “WOOP!” and “BACK… BACK… BACK… BACK” and the nicknames were fun and fresh 20 years ago. Even 15. They aren’t now. That’s not to condemn Berman entirely, his shtick became so entrenched it was impossible to move on, like any great character actor. But nothing is meant to last forever. The problem is that we collectively moved on while ESPN wants to stay in the past and pretend we’re frozen in time.
ESPN simply can’t be making this move with the best interest of its viewers and NFL fans in mind. Chris Berman stepping into the MNF booth is just another example of politics and ego depriving sports fans of a better viewing experience. Only in sports media can someone well past their prime not only continue in his or her role for all eternity, but receive big-time promotions and new assignments at the expense of well-liked professionals. This is little more than a lifetime achievement award for Bristol’s golden calf that will be met with praise and adulation within the city limits, but not elsewhere. There will be plenty of fans that voice their displeasure and horror over this decision by ESPN. Just type “Chris Berman” into your Twitter search and see for yourself.
I expect Berman’s play by play debut to go a little something like this…