Chris Berman

While he might not work quite as often as he used to, Chris Berman remains synonymous with ESPN. Having started with the sports network in 1979, the only remaining anchor from that time to still be with the company, Berman became a household name thanks to his work on Sunday NFL Countdown and NFL Primetime.

Over the years he’s signed quite a few contract extensions with The Worldwide Leader, but that doesn’t mean other networks weren’t courting him at the height of his powers. And on a recent podcast appearance, Berman shared an anecdote about the closest he ever came to leaving ESPN thanks to a massive offer from NBC.

Berman shared the story with Jimmy Traina on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast

“ESPN was a different place [in 1989]. We were only one channel then, remember,” said Berman. “(NBC and Dick Ebersol) put an offer out there that was times three or four. Which — okay — that took a while to get resolved. I did tell [EVP of Programming and Production] Steve [Bornstein], at the time…you gotta get within a nine-iron…because I don’t want to go anywhere. And he did. And we didn’t. And my god it’s the greatest move I never made.

“At the time I was gonna be the number two guy behind Bob Costas doing football. Well, football has just come to us…Just job-wise, forget money and this – I’m not in it for that anyway. I started at 16 thousand bucks…I wasn’t leveraging anything, and again thank god I’ve been here 43 years.”

Looking back at reports from the time, it seems like Berman is underplaying the intensity of the negotiations just a bit. According to a UPI story, negotiations between ESPN and the broadcaster lasted five months and were “at times more acrimonious than he ever could have imagined.”

“Would I have gotten paid more somewhere else? Yes,” said Berman at the time. “In late October, early November, it was hairy. I found out I’m only human. I wasn’t at all comfortable with all of it.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Berman said that NBC’s offer was “nearly $800,o00” a year. The broadcaster was reportedly earning $180,000 per year when NBC made that offer and ESPN eventually extended him between $500,000 and $600,000 per year. He would sign another extension just a few years later and has kept signing them ever since.

[Sports Illustrated Media Podcast]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to