Shocking news out of Bristol as The Big Lead reports the one man who is perhaps more synonymous with ESPN than anyone, Chris Berman, will be leaving the network after the 2016 NFL season when his contract expires.

Berman started at ESPN just after the network launched in 1979 and has been in Bristol for almost forty years.  Over the decades, he’s anchored SportsCenter, been an NFL studio host, and done play by play for events ranging from MLB coverage to golf’s US Open to Monday Night Football.

It’s in his role as NFL highlight anchor that Berman became one of the most recongizable individuals not just in sports, but in all of television.  Regardless of how you feel about Berman now in 2016, he is a revolutionary figure in sports television.  The way he did NFL highlights and his many years of service on ESPN’s NFL Primetime were gamechangers for the industry.  His larger than life persona, constant use of nicknames, and unique calls of highlights set the tone for an entire generation of sportscasters.

In many ways, Berman is a victim of just how immense his success and notoriety became.  He’s fallen under criticism from some younger fans and media observers for never really evolving that style no matter the venue or relevance to today’s fans.  There’s also been episodes that have gone viral in the internet age that have been less than flattering, and Berman himself makes no secret of the fact that he’s a creature of a different era.

If the news is true and this is the swan song for The Swami, expect ESPN to pull out all the stops in honoring his contributions to the network and the NFL throughout the 2016 campaign.

Moving forward, Trey Wingo has been the man-in-waiting for several years now as the future face of ESPN’s NFL studio coverage, even taking on more responsibilities like hosting the second and third days of the NFL Draft.  Given Wingo recently signed a new contract with the network, it seems that the torch may be passed sooner rather than later.

UPDATE: Well this is interesting.  Richard Sandomir of the New York Times talked to Berman’s agent, who denied the report from The Big Lead.  For what it’s worth, Berman is only 61 years old.  It might be hard to believe, but Berman is three years younger than Bob Costas!

One might describe this as A DEVELOPING…. SITUATION.

(I know that’s a Bill Pidto catchphrase, but it’s the best I could do…)

[The Big Lead]

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