Those who figured that ESPN would replace Chris Berman on Sunday NFL Countdown by simply moving Trey Wingo or Suzy Kolber into that chair might end up being surprised. The network might be looking at an unexpected choice instead.
According to Sporting News’ Michael McCarthy, ESPN is considering Charissa Thompson to take over the lead chair on its NFL pregame show. Thompson might be best known these days for co-hosting the syndicated entertainment show Extra, but sports fans are likely more familiar with her as the current studio host for Fox NFL Kickoff, which she’s been for the past two seasons.
So there wouldn’t be any question as to whether or not Thompson is suited for such a role. She’s already been doing just that. Actually, Thompson has been doing more than just hosting a studio show, doing reporting and getting interviews with prominent NFL figures such as coach Jeff Fisher, after he was fired by the Los Angeles Rams, and Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.
ESPN is also already familiar with Thompson from when she worked at the network from 2011 to 2013, during which she hosted Numbers Don’t Lie and SportsNation, and also filled in as moderator on First Take. Pursuing Thompson would certainly seem to indicate that ESPN president John Skipper is continuing to look beyond hiring white males to host the network’s signature studio shows.
Hiring Thompson would also achieve two other objectives for ESPN. Bringing her in to replace Berman on Sunday NFL Countdown would draw more headlines and publicity than moving Wingo or Kolber into that role. (Wingo is also under consideration to replace Mike Greenberg on ESPN Radio’s morning Mike & Mike show, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch.) But perhaps most importantly, plucking Thompson away from FS1 would be a blow to ESPN’s chief competitor, which has hired several on-air personalities and pundits away from Bristol in recent years. The duel between Skipper and Fox Sports’ Jamie Horowitz is one of the most compelling in sports media.
McCarthy reports that it may be difficult to convince Thompson to move from Los Angeles, as she grew up on the West Coast and apparently seems very comfortable in that part of the country. Perhaps hosting Sunday NFL Countdown is a job someone in her profession doesn’t turn down. But maybe that’s also a huge life change that Thompson wouldn’t want to make at this point of her career and life.