Chris Berman is an institution of modern day football. Every Sunday, millions of fans tune in to ESPN to watch him give analysis, make predictions and put his unique spin on the week’s highlights. But for the first time in his 30 years covering the NFL, Berman will call play-by-play alongside Trent Dilfer when the Chargers kick off their season against the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football.
“This is very cool and really different,” he said following ESPN’s production meeting in preparation for the game. “I’ve done about 400 or 500 baseball games, but this is a different animal. You think of all the times you’ve sat at your TV set when you were 10 years old watching the greats who called the games, and I know I can’t come close to those guys, but my thoughts have flashed to memories of them.”
A true student of the game, Berman is excited that his first match gets to be the classic rivalry between two historic teams.
“It’s the Chargers and the Raiders,” he said, feeling nostalgic. “It’s an old AFL game. I’ve watched these teams ever since I was a kid with the likes of Curt Gowdy calling the game. I don’t want to get caught up in that because I’ve got a game to do, but I’m definitely fired up about it.”
Even though he’s been covering the NFL since shortly after ESPN’s inception in 1979, Berman readily admits that calling the game differs from anything he’s done in his storied career thus far.
“I really enjoy football, and Trent really enjoys football, and we hope that people tune in to just hang out with us,” he explained. “Back east and in the Midwest it’s late, so just come hang out with us and Rachel (Nichols) and the whole crew. We like football. You like football. This is the caboose of the week. Before you go back and do whatever it is you have to do Tuesday morning, come hang out with us for a couple of hours. We’re going to make it fun for you, but we’re not going to make it funny. There’s a big difference. Now this won’t be a Rembrandt painting, but we’ll try not to make it finger paint either.”
In his preparation for the game, Berman has learned a lot about this year’s Chargers team. So far, he likes what he sees.
“I think what’s cool about the Chargers is that for the first time in about ten years, they’re not the favorites. They are a bit below the radar, and that’s good. But these guys are really ready to go, especially Philip (Rivers). I learned that for sure tonight, not that I’m shocked. But, and I said this during the draft and people in San Diego know that I pay close attention to the Chargers, I’m anxious to see all these young guys on defense like
Even though calling the game is a dream come true for Berman, he isn’t ready to give up his day job. In fact, he found it odd that today was the first time in as long as he could remember that he wasn’t able to watch any games since he was flying cross country after filming NFL Countdown.
“This is the first Sunday I haven’t watched a single second of football,” he said. “I feel like I came out of my house without my socks on! But this is not something I’m looking to do full time. I can’t do both, but I’m enjoying it. ESPN came to me back in May and asked if I would consider doing the second Monday night game and I thought, ‘Wow, I never really thought I’d do this.’ Now, I assume we will have a doubleheader Monday night game next year too. If all goes well and they ask me again, then yeah, I’d like to do it. But we’ll see how tomorrow goes first.”