Last May, ESPN announced that iconic announcer Chris Berman, a sportscaster with the network since 1979, would leave after the 2016 NFL season. The network did not plan to renew his lucrative contract, in perhaps a belt-tightening move.
This NFL season has played out like a farewell tour for Berman, ESPN’s lead NFL studio anchor, with special segments on his signature show, “Sunday NFL Countdown” paying tribute to “Boomer,” as he is affectionately known.
But now it turns out he’s not leaving after all.
On Thursday, the network announced Berman would assume a new role after the NFL season.
“Berman will make appearances on-air and will also serve in public-facing roles on behalf of the company, stepping away from his longtime position as the face of ESPN’s NFL studio coverage, NFL Draft and Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby,” ESPN stated in a press release. “He will also offer opinion and perspective on historical events in the NFL, including still appearing weekly on Monday Night Countdown. In addition, he will handle play-by-play for ESPN Radio during the MLB Divisional Playoffs and participate in ESPN’s annual ESPYS Awards.”
Berman is thrilled he won’t have to leave Bristol, CT, and look for new work and can “finish with the team I came in with.”
“The whole experience here has been a dream come true,” Berman said. “When we started in 1979, I was just 24. Nobody knew if ESPN would make it, or, for that matter, if cable TV would make it. I certainly wasn’t sure I would make it, but I really didn’t care. We were too busy having a blast, talking sports with viewers who were just like us, even if it was during the wee hours of the morning. We got to band together here in Bristol, Connecticut, and put out a product of which we were all very proud.
“What I didn’t know I was signing up for was a lifetime of friendships and, I like to think, respect. Respect from those I have worked with and from those in sports I have covered, and respect from those viewers who welcomed us into their homes. That’s what hits me the most as I look back at these past 38 years – knowing that all of this happened while we were just having fun and trying to get it right. “I’ve been lucky enough to spend almost two-thirds of my life at ESPN, and I am honored to have lent a small hand in laying the cornerstone for what has truly become a beacon in sports.
“I’m thrilled that this ride will continue, albeit differently. Today’s announcement allows me to fulfill perhaps my final professional goal – knowing that I will finish with the team I came in with.”
ESPN President John Skipper expressed his happiness that Berman will still contribute to the network he joined a month after its inception.
“ESPN’s mission is to serve fans,” Skipper said. “No one has done that with greater resonance than Chris and his dramatic connection to fans played a significant role in establishing a successful ESPN. We look forward to Chris’s continuing contributions while understanding that his place on our Mount Rushmore is assured.”