Will Make On-Air and Public Appearances on Behalf of the Company
Sports broadcasting legend Chris Berman, the six-time National Sportscaster of the Year who arrived at ESPN a month after the network launched in 1979 and became one of the industry’s most popular voices during his almost four decades with the company, will assume a new role for ESPN after the NFL season.
Berman will make appearances on-air and will also serve in public-facing roles on behalf of the company, stepping away from his longtime position as the face of ESPN’s NFL studio coverage, NFL Draft and Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby.
Berman will continue to host ESPN’s NFL PrimeTime highlights show from the field after the Super Bowl as well as the NFL Conference Championship games. He will also offer opinion and perspective on historical events in the NFL, including still appearing weekly on Monday Night Countdown. In addition, he will handle play-by-play for ESPN Radio during the MLB Divisional Playoffs and participate in ESPN’s annual ESPYS Awards.
The 2016-17 season is Berman’s 31st consecutive and final year as host of Sunday NFL Countdown, more than double the previous record as the longest-running host of a weekly pro football studio show. The 2010 recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football, Berman has covered 34 Super Bowls, hosted the annual NFL Draft since 1987, and he has served as Master of Ceremony for the prestigious Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction since 1999. His “Swami” segment on SportsCenter, dubbed “The Two Minute Drill,” has been a fixture for all of his 38 years at ESPN. In fact, his regular-season game picks record this year (51-32) is the best he’s ever had.
Berman is revered among fans for his signature delivery of sports highlights, most notably on NFL Sundays. From 1987-2005, he and longtime partner Tom Jackson teamed together for NFL PrimeTime, the first show of its kind and cable television’s all-time highest-rated weekly studio show. His “Fastest Three Minutes in Television” halftime highlights has also been a staple during ESPN’s weekly NFL primetime game through the years.
“The whole experience here has been a dream come true,” Berman said. “When we started in 1979, I was just 24. Nobody knew if ESPN would make it, or, for that matter, if cable TV would make it. I certainly wasn’t sure I would make it, but I really didn’t care. We were too busy having a blast, talking sports with viewers who were just like us, even if it was during the wee hours of the morning. We got to band together here in Bristol, Connecticut, and put out a product of which we were all very proud.
“What I didn’t know I was signing up for was a lifetime of friendships and, I like to think, respect. Respect from those I have worked with and from those in sports I have covered, and respect from those viewers who welcomed us into their homes. That’s what hits me the most as I look back at these past 38 years – knowing that all of this happened while we were just having fun and trying to get it right.
“I’ve been lucky enough to spend almost two-thirds of my life at ESPN, and I am honored to have lent a small hand in laying the cornerstone for what has truly become a beacon in sports.
“I’m thrilled that this ride will continue, albeit differently. Today’s announcement allows me to fulfill perhaps my final professional goal – knowing that I will finish with the team I came in with.”
ESPN President John Skipper added: “Chris is one of a kind. His innovation, passion, preparation and on-air acumen have helped define ESPN. He wrote the book on delivering highlights which still serves as the standard to this day. ESPN’s mission is to serve fans. No one has done that with greater resonance than Chris and his dramatic connection to fans played a significant role in establishing a successful ESPN. We look forward to Chris’s continuing contributions while understanding that his place on our Mount Rushmore is assured.”
Of course, Berman’s impact on the sports world goes well beyond football. An original SportsCenter anchor, and longtime mainstay, he called Major League Baseball games and hosted Baseball Tonight studio shows for many years. Most notably, Berman voiced ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning telecast of Cal Ripken’s 2,131st consecutive game on September 6, 1995, and he became a fan favorite nationally for the nicknames he created in his sports highlights. In all, he has covered 31 MLB All Star games, including every ESPN presentation of the Home Run Derby, and 30 World Series. Berman also covered the U.S. Open golf tournament from 1986-2014, and he co-hosted ESPN and ABC’s Stanley Cup Playoff telecasts in 2003 and 2004.
“Chris is part of the fabric of ESPN, and I have tremendous respect and appreciation for him,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “He is an iconic sports commentator, who transcends sports, and even after covering thousands and thousands of sports events, his passion has never waned, nor has his enthusiasm for athletes, coaches, and the thrilling drama of athletic competition, to quote another legendary sportscaster.”
This past June, Berman was honored with another pair of prestigious awards – he was the first sportscaster to receive the Newseum Institute’s Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Media in Washington, D.C., and he was inducted into the National Sports Media Association Hall of Fame in Salisbury, N.C. In 2015, Berman was just the fifth on-air personality to be inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.
Other notable accomplishments during Berman’s legendary career:
- Six-time National Sportscaster of the Year (1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2001).
- Contributed significantly to shows that have won 10 Sports Emmy Awards and 12 CableACEs.
- 2010 Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award by Pro Football Hall of Fame for his longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.
- 2009 Pat Summerall Award for his longtime excellence in football broadcasting.
- 2001 Reds Bagnell Award from Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia for contributions to the game of football.
- 2010 star on the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame as a tribute for his more than 30 years contributing to the sports television industry.
ESPN will air an hour-long show documenting Berman’s career and impact – “He Did Go All The Way” – on Thursday, February 2, at 10:30 p.m. ET.
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