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Chris Berman Reflects on Early ESPN Days

“I came in to observe October 1st. I come in on October 2nd, and I go, ‘where’s Wayne?’ And they were like, ‘oh no, he just did one show so you can see how it’s done, you’re on tonight.’ I was on October 2nd, 1979.”

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Chris Berman

Chris Berman is a name that is synonymous with ESPN. There isn’t a reader of this that hasn’t mimicked his touchdown celebration or home run derby calls. He is a rarity and he joined Kenny Mayne on a recent episode of 2400Sports’ Hey Mayne Podcast.

Mayne is embarking on a new weekly flagship conversation podcast. Mayne talked to Berman about the earliest of days for the fledgling network and how his time came to be with ESPN and how the literal birthing of that network was the reason he got to be a part so early.

“We were Lewis and Clark,” Berman said. “ESPN went on the air September, 7th, 1979. I was 24, in the area, on TV, in Hartford. Right before they went on, I had an interview, then they hired me. My first day was October 1st, 1979. They said we need a junior member — I had been on TV all of three months — which was a pretty good experience at the time. Had they been on the air for a year or two, they never would’ve hired me off that…They said we’ll pay you $16,000 to do sports every night…How about $16,500?”

Berman said the newness of everything meant he was thrown to the fire very early.

“I came in to observe October 1st. I come in on October 2nd, and I go, ‘where’s Wayne?’ And they were like, ‘oh no, he just did one show so you can see how it’s done, you’re on tonight.’ I was on October 2nd, 1979.”

ESPN’s early days are a wonderful topic because for the few people there were at the network since the beginning are essentially historians of the industry. Berman went on.

“…but here we are in 2022, and they haven’t been smart enough to get rid of me yet.” Berman signed a multiyear extension ton continue hosting NFL Primetime with Mark Jackson on ESPN+.

“That’s how it was, I was in there the first month. There were about 40 to 50 of us — in all jobs — not only to get on the air, but whatever it was,” said Berman.

“Anyone that was with us in the 80s, 90s, [and] early 2000s, there will be a bond forever in that we built something pretty good. I just happened to be there on the ground floor, I was lucky, and I guess I didn’t screw it up.” 

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Big Cat: Listening to ESPN Wisconsin After Packers Playoff Loss ‘Highlight of My NFL Season’

“For three hours, I sat in my car. I arrived home –it’s a 20-minute drive — I arrived home, and I sat for three hours listening to callers be like ‘blow up Lambeau!’, ‘get 12 (Rodgers) outta here!’, ‘we need to build a dome, this team isn’t built for the outside’, and that was the highlight of my NFL season. And I have no problem saying that.”

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During a recent interview with Barstool Sports, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a poignant question for noted Chicago Bears fan Dan “Big Cat” Katz that he then used to slam the Packers quarterback while also expressing his enjoyment for Green Bay fans.

“Is it hard, for you as a Bears fan, that some of your greatest moments are cheering against me when the Bears aren’t playing?”, the Packers quarterback half-jokingly asked.

“Very good question,” Katz responded. “No, it’s actually great, because what I’ve told everyone is — I’m very realistic about the Bears — ‘not a great franchise, (the Bears) just don’t do the right things’ for the most part. Every year I look forward to the playoffs and the game that you’re going to lose. I’ve told this story on air, but, when you guys lost to San Francisco this year we were watching the game in New Jersey and I drove back to Brooklyn — brag — and I listened to (Mark) Tauscher. For three hours, I sat in my car. I arrived home –it’s a 20-minute drive — I arrived home, and I sat for three hours listening to callers be like ‘blow up Lambeau!’, ‘get 12 (Rodgers) outta here!’, ‘we need to build a dome, this team isn’t built for the outside’, and that was the highlight of my NFL season. And I have no problem saying that.”

Rodgers laughed at Big Cat as he delivered the message, seemingly getting genuine joy out of the conversation.

“I know I’m a loser,” Katz continued. “That’s the best part. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’m a loser, so yes, watching you lose in the playoffs is…that’s my Super Bowl. And I’ve won a lot of Super Bowls if you do it that way. More than you.”

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Michael Silver Joins San Francisco Chronicle

“I’m ecstatic to join forces with some of my favorite journalists and be part of a publication I’ve been devouring for decades — in the greatest region on Earth,” Silver told The Chronicle.

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Veteran NFL reporter Michael Silver is joining The San Francisco Chronicle as their newest NFL columnist.

Silver will continue his work with The Volume, Bally Sports, and Backstage Media in addition to adding a column with the Chronicle.

“I’m ecstatic to join forces with some of my favorite journalists and be part of a publication I’ve been devouring for decades — in the greatest region on Earth,” Silver told The Chronicle. “It will be a thrill to write columns alongside Scott Ostler, a living legend, and my amazingly talented friend Ann Killion, who I’ve dreamed of working with since we were competing on the 49ers beat in the early ’90s. … As a native San Franciscan, this feels like home.

Silver has previously written for Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, GQ, NFL Network, and Yahoo! Sports, among others. He’s also authored books on Jerry Rice, Kurt Warner, and Dennis Rodman.

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Skip Bayless Tries to Win Debate Rounds ‘Like Muhammad Ali’

“I must admit I have been known upon rare occasion to try to win a debate the way Ali won rounds with a flurry at the end trying to get the last word also going through the stop or wrap sign.”

Ricky Keeler

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Skip Bayless

When people watch debate shows, they sometimes don’t want the debate to end. However, bills have to get paid and commercials have to be shown. However, when is the right time for a debate show to air a commercial? On the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show, Skip was asked in an email by a listener about when he and Shannon Sharpe know to go to a debate on UNDISPUTED on FS1. Bayless said the show has more room to roam in the first two hours, but eventually, he gets the signal from his line producer.

“We loosely plan on 22-23 minutes in what we call our A block. We block out 25-ish minutes for our B block, which is the only block in the show that has two topics in it.”

“Our line producer in the control room, Nick, who is in our ears. He tries to sense along the trail when we are winding down or when we are trying to push the clock too far. His first cue to us in our ears, he tries to avoid speaking when we are speaking, the first cue is ‘start to wrap’. Then, a minute or so later, he says ‘wrap’. If we continue to not wrap, maybe we get a much stronger ‘wrap’.”

However, it might not be easy for Bayless and Sharpe to end the debate, especially if they both want to be the one who wins the argument. So, sometimes, they can easily go past the hard wrap sign that is given.

“Sometimes the guy sitting across from me at the debate desk gets all worked up and barrels right through that stop sign. I must admit I have been known upon rare occasion to try to win a debate the way Ali won rounds with a flurry at the end trying to get the last word also going through the stop or wrap sign,” said Bayless.

If there is one thing that Bayless is proud of, it’s the fact that UNDISPUTED has never gone past the allotted time, which allows The HERD with Colin Cowherd to begin on schedule.

“I must tell you not in 6 years have we ever not finished a show right on time. Not once have we pushed Colin over the cliff as he begins his show. That is just not acceptable.” 

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