If that movie about ESPN ever gets made, we’re pretty sure a sequel or two could be focused solely on all of the people that vacated the company between 2014-2017. The latest big name reportedly throwing in the analyst towel is Chris “Boomer” Berman, the on-air icon who could – not – go – all – the – way through another year with the network. Or could he?
This story is one where a convincing through-line is not the easiest thing to find. Sources for The Big Lead first reported that Chris Berman would be watching the end of his contract expire after the 2016-2017 NFL football season without renewing it to stay on. It’s said that he would be retiring, rather than heading out to another network. It would indeed be strange to see him randomly showing up on another cannel in anything outside of a food commercial.
But wait…there was a slightly different story coming out of Sports Illustrated, where it was claimed that Chris Berman will indeed be stepping down from his posts at Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Countdown and the NFL’s draft coverage, but that it was still up in the air (like a Joe Montana hail mary) if Berman would retire in full from the company. One possibility was that he would be granted a broadcasting emeritus role for 2017-2018 that could see him get back behind the desk for postseason football coverage.
Did you want a third side to this story? I hope so, because here’s what New York Times TV sports columnist Richard Sandomir tweeted last night.
You guys are welcome to try and make a heads or tails out of all of that, but without Berman here to loudly tell me exactly how it’s going down, I don’t know how to react! It’s easy to believe all sides of this story. Berman has been with ESPN since its earliest days, getting added to SportsCenter in 1979. He’s since been the voice behind tons of MLB games, U.S. Opens and football games, not to mention the analyzing he does on several different series. He’s the guy you think of when you think of someone hollering over sports highlights, or when you hear an athlete’s nickname. So while it seems like he’d be there forever, 37 years is a long time to stay at a job.
No one will ever be able to replace this signature screech, regardless of when Berman decides to retire.
This is just the latest potential shake-up to hit ESPN in recently months. The ratings-troubled network has booted Curt Schilling out the door for his social media posts, while other on-air personalities Skip Bayless and Mike Tirico are leaving somewhat amicably. At least ESPN gave Sean McDonough the Monday Night Football promotion, although there is still work to be done in trying to replace network vets with newer blood.
We’ll keep an ear out for echoes of Berman’s “whoops” through the trees in the coming weeks, and after we consult our tea leaves to see what they mean, we’ll pass the news on. Or maybe Berman or ESPN will release something official before then.