Chris Berman’s Career Timeline at ESPN
October 1 – Two years after graduating from Brown University, 24 year-old Chris Berman joins ESPN just a month after the network launched. Berman previously worked at WVIT-TV (NBC/Hartford), where he gained his first television experience as a weekend sports anchor.
Berman regularly hosts SportsCenter for 11 years (until 1990), working the overnight shift during ESPN’s first four years, often teaming with Tom Mees. Using the alter-ego “The Swami,” Berman starts his weekly NFL predictions and observations on SportsCenter. He also begins to employ player nicknames when delivering game highlights.
1981 – Berman is part of ESPN’s NFL Draft for the first time, reporting from a New York City restaurant.
January 10, 1982 – After covering “The Catch” in the NFC Championship game, Berman and producer Tom Reilly edit a five-minute game report which airs on ESPN that evening. It is the first time in ESPN’s history a feature is edited on site and turned around in time for the 11 p.m. SportsCenter.
1982 – Berman covers the first of his 34 Super Bowls as San Francisco wins Super Bowl XVI – the 49ers’ first.
October 1985 – ESPN executive producer Jack Gallivan bans Berman’s use of baseball player nicknames on SportsCenter. (The ban was lifted before the start of the following season.)
1986 – Berman makes his debut on ESPN’s MLB All Star Games and Home Run Derby coverage, a position he has occupied for 31 years.
1986 – Berman hosts the U.S. Open Golf Championship for the first time, including the nightly highlights show he later dubbed the “NFL PrimeTime of golf.” In all, Berman covers golf’s second major for 29 years (until 2014).
1986 – In the second year of ESPN’s NFL GameDay pregame show (later renamed Sunday NFL Countdown), Berman is named host, alongside analysts Allie Sherman and Tony McGee.
1987 – Berman anchors ESPN’s NFL Draft for the first time, a position he has occupied for 30 years.
1987 – ESPN acquires rights to the National Football League for the first time and Berman quickly becomes one of the primary faces of the company’s pro football coverage. He and Tom Jackson launch NFL PrimeTime. The weekly one-hour Sunday night highlights show soon becomes a must-watch for NFL fans. PrimeTime airs for 19 seasons and is cable television’s all-time highest-rated studio show.
1987 – Berman also works with Jackson on NFL GameDay, the first of their 29 years together on ESPN’s signature NFL pregame show. ESPN’s new Sunday Night Football telecast also features Berman’s “Fastest Three Minutes in Television,” recapping the highlights from Sunday’s afternoon games.
1987 – Berman is voted “Best Cable Sportscaster” by The Cable Guide readers (also in 1988 and 1990).
December 2, 1988 – The 10,000th SportsCenter with Berman, Mees and Bob Ley airs at 11:30 p.m. ET. The three don red tuxedos in honor of the occasion.
October 1989 – At the Bay Area World Series, Berman is part of ESPN’s historic coverage of the San Francisco Earthquake, along with Ley, Peter Gammons and guest analyst Joe Torre. In all, Berman has covered 30 World Series for ESPN.
1989 – Members of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (now the National Sports Media Association) name Berman the National Sportscaster of the Year. He also received this honor in 1990, ‘93, ‘94, ‘96 and 2001. He ranks second among sportscasters in winning this award.
April 10, 1989 – NFL GameDay wins a Sports Emmy Award in the Studio Show category.
1989 – Sunday NFL Countdown wins the first of its five CableACEs (winning again in 1992-95).
1990 – As part of ESPN’s first agreement with Major League Baseball, Berman serves as a play-by-play commentator for MLB games and host of Baseball Tonight. Berman is part of ESPN’s divisional playoff coverage from 1996-2006.
1990 – Berman is honored with a CableACE Award as cable’s best sports host (also in 1992, ‘94 and ‘96).
1990 – Berman receives a Sports Emmy nomination as Best Sports Host (also nominated in 1991, ‘93, ‘94, ‘95, ‘96, ‘98, ‘99, 2001, ‘08 and ’10).
1990 – The SportsCenter team, including Berman, wins its first Emmy Award and a CableACE.
1992 – Berman is selected as the favorite football commentator among NFL players surveyed for the syndicated “NFL Pre-Season Special” by an overwhelming majority (43 percent).
September 6, 1995 – Berman calls Cal Ripken Jr.’s MLB record 2,131st consecutive game at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He and Buck Martinez did not speak for the 22-minute-long celebration. The telecast – which wins a win a Sports Emmy Award – includes an in-booth interview with President Bill Clinton.
1995 – The Sporting News lists Berman among its Top 100 Most Powerful People in Sports (and again in 2005).
1995 – The American Sportscasters Association names Berman “Sportscaster of the Year” in the Studio Host category (also named “Sportscaster of the Year” in 1996 and ‘97).
1996 – Berman emcees a retirement gala for Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula.
1996 – Berman becomes halftime host for ABC Sports’ Monday Night Football, a position he occupies until 1999. He also anchors ABC’s NFL Wild Card Saturday (through 2005). In 1998, he adds the Monday Night Blast pre-game show to his responsibilities.
1997 – People magazine names Berman one of “TV’s Most Fascinating Stars” of the year.
1998 – Sunday NFL Countdown wins a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Studio Show – Weekly (and again in 1991, ‘94, ‘95, 2001, ‘03 and ‘07).
May 17, 1998 – Berman hosts the 20,000th SportsCenter at 11 p.m. ET. Another “Boomer” – David Wells of the New York Yankees – throws a perfect game, which adds to the merriment.
1999 – Berman is named Master of Ceremony for the prestigious Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. He has hosted annually ever since, except 2009 when he had the honor of presenting Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. for enshrinement.
September 1999 – Honored by his boyhood team, the San Francisco Giants, Berman throws the ceremonial first pitch at one of the final MLB games at Candlestick Park.
October 2, 1999 – Berman is part of ESPN’s 20th Anniversary show.
1999 – TV Guide lists Berman as one of the “Top Stars of the 90s.”
2000 – Berman anchors ABC’s Super Bowl XXXIV pre-game show for the first time. He would also do this at Super Bowls XXXVII (2003) and XL (2006).
January 16, 2002 – Berman receives the prestigious Reds Bagnell Award from the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia for “contributions to the game of football.” Other recipients include Eddie Robinson, Pete Rozelle and Don Shula.
2003 – Berman adds play-by-play to his host role for ESPN’s first and second-round coverage of U.S. Open golf.
2003-04 – Berman co-hosts ESPN/ABC Stanley Cup Playoff NHL telecasts with friend and colleague John Saunders.
2003 – Berman is part of the Sports Emmy Award-winning Baseball Tonight team.
July 17, 2005 – Berman kicks off SportsCenter Across America – 50 States in 50 Days – which begins at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.
2005 – SI for Kids readers choose Berman as their second favorite sportscaster, behind only John Madden.
2005 – Berman provides the impetus for New England head coach Bill Belichick to allow quarterback Doug Flutie to convert a drop-kick in the Patriots’ season finale, the NFL’s first drop-kick since 1941.
2006 – Monday Night Football moves to ESPN and Berman travels to the game city each week to host the Monday Night Countdown pregame, halftime and post-game shows. Berman’s “Fastest Three Minutes in Television” becomes part of the MNF halftime.
2006-15 – On Sunday nights, Berman, Jackson, Saunders and Trent Dilfer present NFL highlights during the 7 p.m. edition of SportsCenter. Berman and Jackson also team together on “The Blitz” during the 11 p.m. edition.
May 2007 – Berman receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Brown University.
2007 – Berman serves as master of ceremonies at the public remembrance at Candlestick Park for Hall of Fame San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh.
2008 – Berman conducts the final interviews with presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain during the MNF halftime on election eve. He would do so again in 2012 with Obama and Mitt Romney.
2008 – Berman is named to the inaugural class of inductees for the CableFAX Hall of Fame.
August 2009 – Berman presents Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony.
2009 – Berman hosts ESPN’s documentary presentation of The Greatest Game Ever Played, highlighting the legendary Colts-Giants 1958 NFL Championship Game.
January 2009 – At the annual Legends for Charity dinner, Berman is honored with The Pat Summerall Award for his longtime excellence in football broadcasting.
May 24, 2010 – The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honors Berman with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a tribute to his more than 30 years in the sports television industry.
August 6, 2010 – Berman is honored with the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award by the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.
September 10, 2012 – Berman tackles NFL play-by-play for the first time in his career, working with Dilfer to call the San Diego Chargers-Oakland Raiders game in ESPN’s season-opening MNF doubleheader. Berman has called this game for five years.
2013 – Berman is featured in an extensive profile by correspondent Lara Logan on Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports.
December 23, 2013 – Berman hosts ESPN’s coverage of the final 49ers game at Candlestick Park, including the public post-game ceremony.
May 5, 2015 – Berman is the fifth on-air personality inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.
June 20, 2016 – Berman is inducted into the National Sports Media Association (formerly NSSA) Hall of Fame.
June 21, 2016 – Berman is the first sportscaster honored by the Newseum Institute in Washington, D.C., with the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Media. Past recipients include the likes of legendary newsman Walter Cronkite.
August 6, 2016 – After emceeing the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, Berman honors Jackson, his longtime TV partner who makes his final ESPN appearance. Berman and Jackson formed one of television’s longest-running on-air partnerships – 29 years, just two years shy of TV’s longest duo, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show.
2016 – This NFL season is Berman’s 31st consecutive as studio host of Sunday NFL Countdown, more than doubling Brent Musburger’s previous 15-year record as the longest-running host of a weekly pro football studio show.
2016 – During Monday Night Countdown, Berman hosts Hall of Famers, Super Bowl champions and other NFL greats as part of ESPN’s Monday Night Legends series. Guests include Joe Namath, Mike Ditka, Michael Irvin, Joe Theismann, Dick Vermeil, Mike Shanahan, Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Warren Moon, Jim Plunkett, Doug Williams, Tony Dorsett, Tedy Bruschi, Barry Sanders and, in a great reunion of two old friends, Tom Jackson.
2016 – In his 38th and final year of “The Swami” segment, Berman finishes the season with a best-ever record of 51-32.
Did you Know?
- Berman has a patch of outfield grass from both Candlestick Park and AT&T Park growing in his backyard.
- Berman has a tree statue carved in his likeness – near statues of Bills HOFers Jim Kelly and Andre Reed – in front of The Big Tree Inn near New Era Field in Buffalo.
- Berman has made appearances in 14 films, including The Longest Yard, Draft Day, and The Waterboy – and on several television shows including Sesame Street, Spin City, and Arli$$.
- Berman has appeared on a trio of late-night shows – Late Night with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
- An avid golfer, Berman’s professional partners at Pro-Am events have combined to win 35 major tournaments.
- A music aficionado, Berman has sung with Huey Lewis and the News more than a dozen times, twice with Eddie Money, and appeared in a video with Hootie and the Blowfish.
- Berman was joined by the late Glenn Frey of the Eagles for his Super Bowl XXXII edition of “The Swami” from San Diego – the “Hotel California.” He regards this as one of his career highlights.