Sports fans may no longer hear the word “back” a gazillion times next year. According to reports, sportscaster Chris Berman plans on leaving ESPN or ESPN plans on leaving him behind.
One of ESPN’s longest employees—Berman started with the company in 1979—could get a send-off retirement party the likes of Kobe Bryant, reported The Big Lead. The 61-year-old who heads up Monday Night Countdown and Sunday NFL Countdown may be replaced by NFL Live host Trey Wingo or NFL sideline reporter and longtime ESPN anchor Suzy Kolber. The change may come when Berman’s contract expires after the coming NFL season.
Should Berman depart ESPN, he would follow Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, Mike Tirico, Bill Simmons, and other big personalities out the door in Bristol. But none of the recent exits would rival Berman’s, who has served as the friendly face of the network for decades.
Berman’s agent, Lou Oppenheim, denied that his client planned on ending his broadcasting career. “Chris is NOT retiring. Loves what he’s doing too much and is too young to hang ’em up,” he told the NY Times. “Perhaps people with an agenda put it out there.”
The New York Post noted that Oppenheim did not say that Berman would remain at ESPN, but only that he was not retiring. The Post suggests that the agent’s remarks “carries the whiff of a power struggle at the Worldwide Leader” and that they may “have grown weary of his over-the-top shtick.”
The network has also lost an enormous number of subscribers in recent years, making the possible high-profile departure perhaps a cost-cutting move.
So far ESPN has not officially commented on the matter and, conceivably, could be in discussion with Berman how to ease his exit without hard feelings on either side.