In the late 1970s, a recent graduate from Brown University ended up in a small Connecticut town with a job at a brand new cable television station. The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network had just opened shop when Chris Berman entered the doors nearly 38 years ago. Of course, better known today as ESPN, the cable network and the host have been tied at the hip for those 38 years.
As the host of many programs on the station, Berman became known for the nicknames he bestowed on baseball players of the era.
John "Tonight, let it be" Lowenstein.
Oddibe "Young again" McDowell.
Jim "Two Silhouettes on" DeShaies.
Kevin "Smallmouth" Bass.
Those last two were some of my favorites as DeShaies and Bass were members of the Houston Astros. But, six or seven years into his career at ESPN, he became the host of a show called NFL Primetime. Now, keep in mind, there was no NFL Redzone. Heck, there was no internet and no access to games outside your market. As such, if the Eagles played the Cowboys, for example, at the same time as an Oilers game, we didn't get to see any of that game.
Until Primetime came on.
Berman and longtime Broncos star Tom Jackson narrated over the highlights and were the best duo on television. It was destination, must-see television for decades. That run will end after Sunday's Super Bowl in Houston as Berman steps aside as the lead host of ESPN's NFL coverage.
As a Brown University graduate, Berman is someone I've always held in high regard. He's also someone that Coach Bill O'Brien has thought highly of as well. When we were in Mexico City for the Monday Night game against the Raiders, Berman and the entire ESPN NFL crew was on hand for the festivities. He was on a nearby mini-pop up stage during a break, so I did something I don't normally do: I walked up to re-introduce myself to him. I don't normally approach people out of the blue like that but I met him 23 years ago when I was a senior at Brown. I knew he wouldn't remember that, but it didn't matter; I just wanted to say hi. He talked with me for about 15 minutes and couldn't have been more welcoming. He wanted to know how "OB" was doing and secretly cheered for him from afar.
The news of his departure as the lead of the NFL coverage was announced a few months later so I never got the chance that night to express my appreciation, in person, for an alum who made the NFL special for millions and plenty of Texans fans. It's hard to believe that this Sunday will be the last one for Berman and all of us to share together.
Thanks, Chris, you set the standard and created millions of raving fans.