In news sure to be celebrated across the land, ESPN is once again handing play-by-play duties for the late Week 1 Monday Night Football game to Chris Berman, according to SI‘s Richard Deitsch.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) August 30, 2016
The now-traditional opening week MNF doubleheader is a bit of an odd fit for ESPN. As a network with only one NFL game per week, they don’t have a nominal #2 broadcast team. Instead, it’s been a reward of sorts for staffers who don’t generally get to call games; Mike & Mike served from 2007-2009, with Mike Ditka as their third man the first two years, and the returning Steve Young as their third in 2009. The capable Brad Nessler then called the next two games alongside Trent Dilfer, before Berman took over in 2012, a role he’s retained since.
This will be the fifth year in a row ESPN has gifted us Berman for the late-night game, and at this point it seems apparent that, much like the Masters and the Home Run Derby, Berman’s going to do this as long as Berman wants to do this. He will be joined in the booth by Steve Young, who takes over from Trent Dilfer; that’s interesting in that Dilfer just re-upped with ESPN, and apparently maintaining his presence on this telecast wasn’t part of the deal.
That’s probably for the best, as the duo did not exactly endear themselves to the viewing public.
This is weird. I keep turning the volume down and Trent Dilfer is still getting louder.
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 15, 2015
“Why is Trent Dilfer yelling at me?”https://t.co/3mXa39VGRz
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) September 15, 2015
As mentioned, Steve Young returns to the booth for the first time since 2009, and it’s safe to predict he’ll bring a calmer air to proceedings. (Regardless of what happens during the broadcast, Young’s best Monday Night Football moment will likely remain when he stared incredulously at Rick Reilly after Reilly demanded to be credited for a Twitter report.)
Lindsay Czarniak will serve as the sideline reporter for the third straight year. She’s talented and versatile, and will almost assuredly do just fine.
The main disappointment is that Chris Berman will apparently get to do this as long as he wants, if he wants it. The man is an absolute legend, but at a certain point, with a deep bench of qualified play-by-play options, it’s disappointing that ESPN appeases Berman with these assignments rather than using the one-off audience to highlight a new talent.