The Chris Berman detractors came out in full force again last week after his performance in the U.S. Open. Giving him such an extensive role on Thursday and Friday is wrong on so many levels, and it just magnifies all of his excesses that the critics hate.
Dan Levy of the Bleacher Report wrote a piece with this opener:
Chris Berman has lost his fastball.
Once the ace of the ESPN announcing crew, Berman—who has been with ESPN since the network first went on the air in 1979—has become the TV equivalent of a junk-ball pitcher, throwing the same stuff at audiences for years in hopes that something still works.
I say he hasn’t lost his fastball as much as he can’t control it. He goes too over the top with too much of his schtick.
John Wildhack, Executive Vice President of Production at ESPN, did respond to the criticism. Naturally, he defended Berman, although he did allow that the big man isn’t universally beloved:
Chris has been in this business for more than three decades. We recognize that his work will never be praised universally.
It seems that at times, criticizing Chris has become a pastime for some, as opposed to presenting an actual review of the work he does. What’s important is he works hard, he’s prepared, he’s extremely passionate about it and he is a huge sports fan which allows him to connect with the sports fans we serve.
Regarding his misplaced role on the U.S. Open, Wildhack said:
Currently, the event portion of Chris’ schedule is less than his NFL studio role. With that said, the U.S. Open Golf assignment is something he’s been doing for a long time. He is an avid golf fan, knows the sport and players extremely well and the USGA supports his involvement every year.
Alice Cooper is a golf nut too, but I doubt ESPN would let him anchor the U.S. Open. For such an important tournament, it’s just too jarring to hear Berman on the call. Let him do a long-drive contest.
As for whether ESPN has asked Berman to tone down his act, Wildhack said:
It’s a delicate balance for sure. Our goal as a content team is to provide an entertaining presentation with authority and personality.
Obviously, the balance may change by event. The Home Run Derby is a fun, exciting program that gets huge viewership. With that said, its popularity and significance is not essentially based on who wins or loses like events such as the BCS Championship or NBA Finals. Our production approach – including where our cameras/microphones can go and how our commentators approach the telecast – reflects that.
I have to believe behind the scenes ESPN has asked Berman to tone it down, but he won’t or just can’t do it at this point.