My friend and esteemed colleague Ken Fang put together a post over on Fang’s Bites entitled Why Do We Hate Chris Berman?
The post includes a lot of feedback from readers indicating just why they, in fact, hate ESPN’s Chris Berman. The first one is particularly nasty, and it continues through many of the rest of the comments.
I’m going to be in the minority among the readers of this site, and perhaps of sports media people in general, but I’ll just say it anyway.
I don’t hate Chris Berman.
Now, I’ll admit I don’t watch the Home Run Derby, which was mentioned several times in the comments from people. But let me get this straight – people are seriously annoyed at his performance during this fake sports event? Seriously? Do they want a serious announcer during this farce? Some of the criticisms about him may be valid, but do they warrent the type of hate that is generated out there?
I guess I view Berman like my Uncle George. My Uncle George is in his 70’s now, and when I saw him last week, he did all the same tricks for my two-year-old son that he did for me when I was a kid. He knocked on his head and made a noise like it was hollow. He pretended to pull off his thumb. My son laughed uproariously. You know what? I smiled too.
Maybe it’s just dumb nostalgia, but I like watching Berman on Sunday NFL Countdown. In fact, I like a lot of the older guys who have been around forever, even though they’re not what they once were. Even though they might make a lit of mistakes. Guys like Dick Stockton. Dick Enberg. Vin Scully. I actually miss John Madden.
Berman isn’t quite in that category, and it’s different because he’s not usually a play-by-play man like the above gentlemen. But he’s an institution in his own right. It’s somehow comforting to turn on the T.V. Sunday morning and hear him talking about the games that day. So much has changed in the world, yet, Berman is a constant. He’s been there through so many stages in my life. It’s hard to explain, but there will be a void when Berman, and these other sports broadcasters of my youth (and well before that) are no longer doing their thing.
I often read and hear harsh, even mean criticism against some of these veteran broadcasters, and can’t quite figure where it comes from. These guys deserve a measure of respect for what they’ve accomplished in their lives. Berman has been with ESPN almost from the beginning, and has worked himself into the position he is in now. He’s been loyal to the network, and they to him. He reportedly recently had overtures from the NFL Network, yet he signed a new deal with ESPN. From people who know him, he is a really good guy off the set as well. He doesn’t engage in the snarky criticism of everything like many of his peers, he focuses instead on the sports and games and not on made-up drama. I appreciate that.
Hearing a “Rumblin’, Bumblin’ Stumblin’” over an NFL highlight is much like my Uncle George pretending to pull off his thumb. It’s old. It is perhaps predictable. But I still smile.