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Berman to assume new role at ESPN, reflects on his early years

 Chris Berman in 1979

Chris Berman in 1979

Sports broadcasting legend Chris Berman, the six-time National Sportscaster of the Year who arrived at ESPN a month after the network launched in 1979 and became one of the industry’s most popular voices during his almost four decades with the company, will assume a new role for ESPN after the NFL season.

Berman will make appearances on-air and will also serve in public-facing roles on behalf of the company, stepping away from his longtime position as the face of ESPN’s NFL studio coverage, NFL Draft and Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby.

“What I didn’t know I was signing up for was a lifetime of friendships and, I like to think, respect. Respect from those I have worked with and from those in sports I have covered, and respect from those viewers who welcomed us into their homes. That’s what hits me the most as I look back at these past 38 years – knowing that all of this happened while we were just having fun and trying to get it right.

Berman is revered among fans for his signature delivery of sports highlights, most notably on NFL Sundays. From 1987-2005, he and longtime partner Tom Jackson teamed together for NFL PrimeTime, the first show of its kind and cable television’s all-time highest-rated weekly studio show. His “Fastest Three Minutes in Television” halftime highlights has also been a staple during ESPN’s weekly NFL primetime game through the years.

“The whole experience here has been a dream come true,” Berman said. “When we started in 1979, I was just 24. Nobody knew if ESPN would make it, or, for that matter, if cable TV would make it. I certainly wasn’t sure I would make it, but I really didn’t care. We were too busy having a blast, talking sports with viewers who were just like us, even if it was during the wee hours of the morning. We got to band together here in Bristol and put out a product of which we were all very proud.

ESPN President John Skipper added: “Chris is one of a kind. His innovation, passion, preparation and on-air acumen have helped define ESPN. He wrote the book on delivering highlights which still serves as the standard to this day. ESPN’s mission is to serve fans. No one has done that with greater resonance than Chris and his dramatic connection to fans played a significant role in establishing a successful ESPN. We look forward to Chris’s continuing contributions while understanding that his place on our Mount Rushmore is assured.”

“Chris is part of the fabric of ESPN, and I have tremendous respect and appreciation for him,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “He is an iconic sports commentator, who transcends sports, and even after covering thousands and thousands of sports events, his passion has never waned, nor has his enthusiasm for athletes, coaches, and the thrilling drama of athletic competition, to quote another legendary sportscaster.”

This past June, Berman was honored with another pair of prestigious awards – he was the first sportscaster to receive the Newseum Institute’s Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Media in Washington, D.C., and he was inducted into the National Sports Media Association Hall of Fame in Salisbury, N.C. In 2015, Berman was just the fifth on-air personality to be inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.

ESPN will air an hour-long show documenting Berman’s career and impact – “He Did Go All The Way” – on Thursday, February 2, at 10:30 p.m. ET.

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