There was a time when Chris Berman earned his reputation and fame. He appeared to truly enjoy sports. We all were living the dream through him.
Imagine a guy who gets to be at all the biggest events. Then he reports it to us on an all-sports network. It was revolutionary 30 years ago.
Flash forward to 2010. Chris Berman is earning his reputation once again and the infamy that is sinking him. He appears to be more concerned about his own celebrity than actually enjoying sports.
Thursday night on ESPN's coverage of the 2010 NFL Draft, Berman seemed surly and angry. He appeared unprepared, as if he could not handle the pace at which the action was happening. It was a microcosm of where he fits into today's sports world. He doesn't.
He proved once and for all that he needs to retire now with some portion of his past self intact on screen.
Here's the line that I truly hope ESPN suits will read. For the first time ever, I actually turned off ESPN.
Now that's not all about Berman. The overall production from ESPN just felt off. They were always off, whether it be cutting off audio or flashing to a graphic. Berman was the poster boy for this.
His eyes were glassy. He looked caught off guard more than I can ever remember. In those situations -- think "Boom Goes the Dynamite" guy -- we as viewers are rooting for the guy to recover.
Thursday, Berman came off like a jerk. It was as if he was revolting that there were five guys on the set. Berman is suppose to be the traffic cop, to maximize everyone's moments to make the best possible telecast. It's something Rich Eisen did masterfully on NFL Network.
Berman acted as if it was 1989 and it was just him and Kiper doing the draft. He called on Kiper exclusively at times, like John Gruden, Steve Young and even his compadre Tom Jackson were invisible.
Regrettably, folks will focus today on Gruden cursing on air. If I was him, I would have been doing a lot worse. Berman seemingly went out of his way to erase Gruden from the broadcast.
He asked questions, like would who Minnesota take at No. 30 and when Gruden and Young said quarterback, he came off like an "SNL" parody of "The McLaughlin Group".
"WRONG! The answer is not quarterback. You are stupid for saying that. I know everything."
It was uncomfortable television. There were silences at key times, because it seemed that no one knew who should talk -- or they didn't want to because they would be cut off by Berman.
Chris, you've been there 30 years. That still doesn't make you the expert. You're not the Super Bowl winning coach. You are a high-paid traffic cop.
Whichever ESPN executive schemed this mix of talent at the table should be fired. There was zero collective chemistry. Kiper was pouting the whole night, justifying his rationale once the draft blew up around pick No. 8. He rode the Jimmy Clausen train and crashed.
Rather than saying, "Hey, I was wrong," he kept propping up Clausen - hey, there's been a lot of great second-round picks.
It was Berman's job to lighten the mood, something he used to be great at. Instead, he just kept making it more awkward. Erin Andrews couldn't even save this mess.
The worst moment was when they cut back to the table at one point mid-draft. Young and Gruden were debating who would go next in an off-camera way. They actually sounded more like the two-dudes-at-a-bar conversational style in that moment that we tune into ESPN to get.
Berman -- in a moment reminiscent of his infamous "Monday Night Football" meltdown -- shushed Gruden and Co. He waved his arms in anger as if to say, "Shut the f&^# up, you amateurs. This is my show."
The act is old. There are veterans at ESPN that continue to earn their paycheck just like they did from Day One. See Bob Ley. That's class. That's a guy I want to watch, even 30 years later. He still appears to love sports.
The fact is, ESPN had a crossroads moment a couple years back. They had to decide if they were going to re-sign Dan Patrick. I in no way know how the whole thing went down, but the end result is it appeared that ESPN had to make a choice. Patrick was clearly the star of the network. Were they finally going to treat him as such or let him go and continue to let Berman be the pompous chairman of the board.
That crossroad moment may go down in history as the moment that ESPN jumped the shark. Patrick has gone on to create a cult favorite radio show of his own on his own terms. His DIRECTV broadcast of the show is cutting edge, it's fun.
It showcases everything that is just and good and fun and relevant about Patrick. He gave his support staff the spotlight and as a result Paulie, Seton, Fritzy and McLovin' have become a runaway success. Forget must-listen. This is must-watch daily appointment television.
Patrick proves every day why ESPN blew it. Thank goodness for that. He was already likeable with the ESPN leash around his neck. Now, Patrick has pulled back the curtain to his world and shown us that he is one of the top 5 dudes of all time you want to watch sports and have beer with.
The Man Cave he created for his show is the exact kind of vicarious visual thrill we used to get from watching Berman.
At the very least, ESPN needs to fix this. They just signed him to a new deal. It might be the best of the bad scenarios for the sports fan. The rumors of him going to The NFL Network would have meant less Eisen. That's a losing proposition for the fan. At least here, we have the option to turn the channel to someone more entertaining.
Again, ESPN, I hope you're listening. Fix the draft coverage next year. Put guys like Todd McShay and Colin Cowherd on that stage -- guys that project to us daily that they're living the dream every time they're on camera and they know it.
Mike Mayock made a mockery of the once-great Kiper Thursday. Eisen did the same to Berman, simply by being understated and just getting information to us with a little personality.
This act has worn extremely thin. We have niche options now. Yes, ABC and Disney outlived CNN/SI and Fox Sports Net. But the NFL Network and MLB Network are giving us more and more reasons to click the remote.
Thursday night, I did plenty of that. I mostly watched NFL Network and saw an informative broadcast full of guys who seemed to enjoy being around each other.
What I saw on ESPN was just sad. Berman is digging his grave daily. He like most talking heads talk about athletes like Brett Favre not knowing when to quit.
It's time for Berman to look in the mirror. He is way past prime time.
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