On the latest episode of his I’m Interested podcast, Mike Greenberg was joined by one of the legends in the sports broadcasting industry, Chris Berman. For Greeny, this was a special interview for him to do considering how important Berman was to him in his career.
Greeny called Berman “one of the most important sports announcers in the industry’s history because of what ESPN was when he started and what ESPN became and the enormous role he played in that.” He would go on to tell a personal story about how Berman helped him when he started at ESPN.
“When I first came to ESPN (end of August 1996). When I moved to Bristol from Chicago where I had been working, I left behind my girlfriend then, Stacey, and it was difficult to do. As a consequence of that, I worked weekends at ESPN for about the first year. I wanted to fly to Chicago as often as I could to see my girlfriend.
“For a period of time, I questioned whether or not I was doing the right thing. One day that I will never forget, I had just landed in Providence and raced towards the studios at ESPN. I’m in the men’s room and I am shaving in the sink in the bathroom with no shirt. The door opens and here comes Chris Berman.”
Later on in the bathroom, Berman goes to him and says “how are you doing, Greeny.” After Greenberg explains his situation to him, Berman said “Well, welcome home.” It was at that moment, Greenberg mentioned, that ESPN felt like his home and where he should be.
Berman gave some great stories during this podcast, including the one on the first time that he gave his signature play-on-words after players’ names during a broadcast, which he has become famous for until this day:
“In those early days, there might be 5 games that were on TV. Here was the rest of the games and here was the score panel. You are not as much entertaining people, but you are trying to give a little flair or color and describe the game. One night, working at 2:30 in the morning, I had done these nicknames in college out of the box score and 1 or 2 of them came out. This was not a plan…People seem to really respond.”
One interesting question Greeny asked Berman during this fun podcast of looking back at old memories of when ESPN first started and famous moments in his career was Berman’s thought on the role ESPN has had on sports in America.
“In some ways, we were a microcosm of the growth of cable in the 1980s. Therefore, we helped connect sports to fans by showing as much as was out there or if someone was traveling, we were like your home radio station. I think we, in a very good and positive way, kind of brought some folks together, including those in the games, not even necessarily the players. We helped people see what was going on. In our own way, we have our own sense of community. What I never knew when I signed up for the job was that sports would be such a melting pot. I believe certainly in this day and age, we can use a little something that is common ground.”