Game Time: ESPN, For The Sake Of High Comedy, Do Whatever It Takes To Keep Chris Berman
The late Jim Valvano put it quite well in his now legendary speech at the first ESPY Awards, where he said (paraphrasing) that every day we should be moved to laugh, think, and to cry. Valvano contended that if you laugh, you think, and you cry, then "that's a full day...that's a pretty good day."
The same concept is put differently but no less poignantly by Stringer Bell from The Wire when he gives his "Forty Degree Day" speech to the street dealers that work for him in the bad lands of Baltimores drug districts....
In short, just get our internal "entertain me"-o-meter rolling in some direction. Those who know me know that I'm just as happy watching something that is delightfully terrible, as I am watching a masterpiece like The Wire, The Sopranos, or any of the 30 for 30 documentaries thus far. But it needs to be "DELIGHTFULLY terrible" -- key word "DELIGHTFULLY." (Note to the producers and writers of 24 -- your show so far this season is merely "terrible" and not delightfully so.)
This means that I am going in expecting terribleness, and I plan to spend the entire amount of time basking in the horrific anti-glory wrought by whatever show it may be. Hell, the entire industry of "reality television" was built on this unique flavor of schadenfreude. The recipe is simple: take people who think they are legitimately funny or insightful, make sure their egos are cranked up to about thirteen on a scale of one to ten, enable them, and watch them go.
It is with this preface in mind that I am openly begging the honchos at ESPN to do whatever it takes to keep Chris Berman, and I mean WHATEVER it takes.
The rumor mill went into overdrive yesterday with whispers that the NFL Network may be courting Berman to become the face of their (depending on whom you talk to, struggling) network.
It wouldn't be entirely unprecedented for someone who is viewed as one of the "faces" of ESPN to up and leave at the peak of their exposure (see Patrick, Dan as one pretty recent example), and Berman has ties to executives with the NFL Network, specifically longtime ESPN executive Steve Bornstein.
My friends and colleagues who love the NFL Network are screaming the same tune as I am, but for different reasons. They don't want Berman's tired shtick poisoning that they feel is the best X's and O's programming out there. Me? I don't want ESPN to break up the best weekend morning cartoon in the history of television, the NFL Sunday Countdown.
To me, the comedy team of Ditka, Keyshawn, Carter, and TJ is held together by the big Boomer. The outdated rantings of Ditka, followed by Keyshawn essentially mirroring all of Ditka's predictions and picking former Trojans as "X factors" every week, followed by Cris Carter screaming a lot and saying nothing, and TJ...well, TJ being TJ -- these things are held together by the obsolete rock song references, tired one-liners, and gravely voice mumblings of one Chris Berman. Losing Berman, and moving in some innocuous ESPN suit like Steve Levy takes an unintentionally hilarious (read: DELIGHTFULLY TERRIBLE) show and makes it your typical pregame show with too many guys on the set talking over each other. In other words, it makes it CBS' pregame show. A veritable "40 degree day" of television.
To be fair, CrisShawn DitkaJackson (my collective name for the four sidekicks) are crucial to the show's DT (delightfully terrible) rating, but Boomer Berman is the straw that stirs the drink. His overexagerrated hand gestures and inane questions are like Peyton Manning's downfield bombs; you need someone to catch them and CrisShawn DitkaJackson are Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, a couple sweet targets who are nothing without their quarterback. In simple SAT form, Berman is to Manning what Levy is to Curtis Painter. (Not trying to pick on Levy, he just seems like the blandest of the ESPN guys that would be considered as Berman Backfill.)
These guys consume my Sunday morning. Don't take this from me, ESPN. I beg of you. And if my pleas are not enough, I give you these Berman video clips as my tribute. Please watch these, ESPN suits, and ask yourself...can we live without this? I say no.
Berman on smuggling drugs in from Canada...
Berman handling people walking around on set with a unique brand of "composure"....
Chris Berman, Smooooth Operator....
And if you do opt not to retain Berman, for the love of all that is sacred, NO STUART SCOTT. He is not delightful in any way, shape, or form...terrible or otherwise.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the Sean & John Show, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.