Today SbB salutes a true pioneer in television history.
A man who over three decades ago changed our everyday lives because he was unafraid to take a chance on what - at least at the time - was far from a sure thing. A trailblazer who has entertained us with an on-air style so unique that it’s as unmistakable to Americans as baseball and apple pie.
Ben Grossman of the television industry publication BROADCASTING & CABLE has a brief Q&A with ESPN’s Chris Berman in which Berman addresses criticism of his on-air performance.
My commentary on the interview is in bold and italics after each Q&A exchange.
Broadcasting & Cable: “Do you read your press clippings?”
Berman: “I’m aware of them. I don’t really understand them, because I don’t think they’re from the people.”
Brooks: Press clippings aren’t from the ‘people.’ That’s why they’re called ‘press.’
Note how Berman gets in a passive aggressive shot at the media by not acknowledging that he would actually take the time to “read” his press clippings. Only that he’s been made “aware” of them. As if he’s above the ink-stained wretches who write about him.
Broadcasting & Cable:“Do they piss you off?”
Berman: “I’d say ‘disappointed.’ But I mean, what do they say, that I don’t try hard? No. So then, it’s OK. I know what the people think, so it’s OK. I’m broadcasting for the people and I’m broadcasting for my place. I couldn’t tell you if jealousy sneaks in or not. It doesn’t matter. If you’ve been around a long time, they’re going to shoot at high targets. I probably did it, too, when I was younger. But not quite the same way.”
Brooks: For the record, it was Berman who suggested in the interview that his critics may be jealous of him.
Does Jim Gray “try hard”? Chip Caray? Yes and yes.
If “trying hard” was the prerequisite for on-air talent in the multi-billion dollar sports broadcasting business, your Uncle Louie from Yonkers would be hosting the U.S. Open.
As for ‘the people’, apparently that doesn’t apply to the thousands of Twitter users who were savaging Berman during his hosting of ESPN’s coverage of the home run derby last week. (I was watching the comments pour in via Tweetdeck - that’s what SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s Richard Deitsch was referencing.)
Truth is, guys like Berman and Rick Reilly have no interest in what “the people” really think because they want to avoid the truth at all cost.
Though if Berman were to ever get on Twitter, he would see just how reviled by “the people” he really is, so he wouldn’t have been able to use his tired “I only care about the people” defense during this interview.
So mark one for Boomer.
Broadcasting & Cable: “You’re probably one of the most polarizing people in sports.”
Berman: “I’m not sure why. Because if you ask the players and the people in the game, I’m not.”
Brooks: Wait, what about ‘the people’? You forgot them!
Broadcasting & Cable: “So, is it just the media’s opinion?”
Berman: “I don’t know. I do the best I can; I enjoy what I do.”
Again, if the broadcasting business was only about doing “the best I can” and getting to “enjoy what I do”, your Uncle Louie in Yonkers would … you knew the rest.
Broadcasting & Cable: “A lot of people think that your personality and golf don’t go together.”
Berman: “Except that the USGA, ESPN and the golfers love it. So, who am I broadcasting for? The viewers, the people in golf, at my place and the USGA. I ask every year what can I do to change it, and they say, ‘Just do it.’ The USGA put me on golf; it was their idea to make it more regular, to make it not just golf. But I’m not trying to be funny. I follow the golf tour pretty closely. I’ve done this since 1986, so now I’m no good at it? So, I don’t know anything about golf?
“For example, they said, ‘How could he say Dustin ‘The Wind’ Johnson?’ [Citing a Berman- esque nickname for a pro golfer.] I was on for 10 hours, not 10 seconds. I said it once. It’s OK, relax a little, would you please? It’s sports. Just relax. It is 10 hours.”
Brooks: Berman’s narcissism, albeit unintentionally, finally shines through. The problem with the nicknames schtick is ‘the people’ don’t watch for 10 hours! ‘The people’ don’t care how long Berman has been on the air that day, they only care about the 30 minutes that they’re watching.
But I thought it was all about ‘the people’?
As for USGA officials relenting and allowing Berman to make a mockery of the broadcast, what else are they going to say? ‘No, you can’t use the only tired device you’ve been flogging for thirty years to fill airtime?’ ESPN is the place where the USGA is going to get the most exposure for its event in the early rounds, and Berman is ESPN’s highest profile personality. You think they’re going to tell Berman what not to say?
It’s not up to the USGA to reign in Berman, it’s up to ESPN. And that’ll never happen.
Broadcasting & Cable: “Do you see a more rabid media today?”
Berman: “I guess. People are angrier now than we were. It’s OK.”
Last week publicly-traded Nutri-System reported quarterly results to investors and, unlike the waistlines of its sports celebrity pitchmen, company profits have slimmed considerably. In the past quarter (three months), the value of the company’s stock has declined by 52%, equaling a $500 million dollar loss.
(For $500M, could they have lost the Men’s Wearhouse?)
Last Tuesday afternoon, the stock fell 16% in just a few minutes following an earnings report that included a prediction from company executives that declining sales were not expected to improve anytime soon. Previously, the company had predicted significant profits for the first quarter of ‘10, only to fall considerably short.
So as the economy slowly improves, why do Nutri-System losses continue to pile up? From what the company indicated last week, marketing expenditures are the culprit.
(Patronizing your own Hooters casino steakhouse will do that)
In other words, Nutri-System as a company has lost half its value in the past three months in part because of an overextended ad campaign featuring Don Shula, Dan Marino, Chris Berman and (previously) Mike Golic, among others.
If you watch cable television for more than three seconds a decade, you’ve seen the (unintentionally) uproarious Nutri-System ads featuring Chris Berman and Mike Golic (Pot Roast!!) that apparently target those in the market for immediate organ donation.
While worthless weight loss aids, the spots do present a compelling case study for the remarkable advancement of TV optics slimming technology, liberal Photoshop application and unforgiving abdominal binders.
Today I’m happy to report that thanks to an eagle-eyed reader, I’ve discovered another ESPN personality hawking a diet plan! This time, ESPN college basketball analyst and radio host Doug Gottlieb is weighing in with something called P90X. (Either that or he’s promoting a captcha code.)
(Gottlieb should know by now he doesn’t need that to get ripped)
Unfortunately though, it appears Gottlieb has taken all the fun out of following faux fat loss products. From his photos, P90X might actually work. (Or else T.J. Quinn recently subpoenaed Gottlieb’s phone records for an upcoming OTL episode.)
Earlier today Jason McIntyre at TheBigLead.com reported that ESPN’s Chris Berman “is being heavily pursued by the NFL Network.” McIntyre also noted that Berman’s contract with ESPN expires in three months.
(Protip: might wanna budget an on-call stylist)
Last summer I heard a random rumor floating around that Direct TV was interested in acquiring Berman’s services. Today I confirmed through two independent sources that the satellite television provider is now in full pursuit of the longtime broadcaster.
As noted by NEWSDAY’s Neil Best today, the Tiger Woods story has appeared on the front cover of the NEW YORK POST 16 straight days, three short of the record set by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
That’s unimaginable to most, considering television and newspapers are far from the fuel line for the Woods saga. Websites like TMZ.com, RadarOnline, this one and many others not only ignited the biggest sports story of our lifetime, but continue to legitimately advance a complex plot that has the world population obsessed. (Just ask the CEOs of Google and Yahoo.)
Online-only investigative reporting is almost exclusively what has driven Woods to acknowledge his infidelity to the world - forcing all mainstream sports and news outlets to not only recognize the story but also give it a reluctant follow.
The Tiger Woods story is our best example yet about how the balance of media distribution power is shifting. Used to be that a story could only get tidal traction through the so-called legitimate media gatekeepers on television and in print.
But this story is prompted by hustling, bare bones blog outlets free from the tentacles of incestuous financial arrangements with advertisers and the PGA Tour and worries over future access to Woods himself. Read more…
“There are times that I’m not very proud of my business,” Berman said. “Am I surprised that it’s being covered like this? Not really, but there are times I’m not proud of my business.”
I’m assuming Berman doesn’t consider TMZ.com and the NATIONAL ENQUIRER “my business“, yet the now-confirmed accurate reporting of those two outlets on what we now know is a legitimate story eventually led the greatest golfer of all time to suddenly halt his playing career indefinitely.
Along the way, the main media, including ESPN, has mostly stuck to reporting only material news as it pertains to Woods’ golf career. That includes Woods initial press release acknowledging “transgressions”, sponsors officially scaling back their relationships with the golfer and most importantly Woods eventual acknowledgement that reports of his infidelity were true.
I’ve watched main media coverage of the Woods story as closely as anyone and can confirm that the mainstream outlets I’ve tracked have unanimously steered cleared of unconfirmed innuendo. Of course, as the days and weeks passed, we’re learning more and more that many of those same stories that seemed impossible to believe are now entering the realm of probable. Read more…