NFL Network pursuing Chris Berman…why?

According to the Big Lead, the NFL Network is heavily pursuing ESPN talking head Chris Berman, whose contract expires at the “World Wide Leader” in three months.

If Berman were to move to the NFL Network, it would reunite him with longtime ESPN associate Steve Bornstein, who rose in the ranks alongside Berman in the 80s. A separate source says that Berman and Bornstein – currently President of the NFL Network – are very close, having known each other for almost 30 year.

The question for Berman is simple: Will the lure of more money for less work trump Berman’s love for baseball and the significantly broader audience at ESPN? In addition to Berman’s NFL duties at ESPN, he’s been calling the Home Run Derby for over 20 years and occasionally calls baseball games for the network as well as hosts Baseball Tonight from time-to-time. Two years ago, ESPN VP of production Norby Williamson said of Berman, “He is our most important person, he is the face of ESPN.”

Berman stopped being funny in the late 90s and his shtick is old. He’s a shell of his former self and I don’t know why any network would fork over tons of dough in order to woo him into their broadcasting chair. But hey, that’s just me.

The kicker is that DirecTV is also rumored to be hot and heavy for Berman, too. Apparently neither network has watched ESPN since 1998. That’s the only reason I can think of as to why both the NFL Network and DirecTV would fight (if you can even call it that) over Chris Berman.

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Kerry Collins For MVP?

Kerry CollinsWhile I was at the gym this morning, I caught some NFL highlights on ESPN including some of the taped commentary from Chris Berman and Tom Jackson. For the record, no one recaps games better than those two guys, not even the 11 or 12 characters on NBC, who just keep trying to outwit each other. Anyway, Jackson said something really, really intriguing. Something to the effect of that while no one is saying it out loud, you can make a case for Titans’ quarterback Kerry Collins for NFL MVP after nine games.

Now think about that for a minute. Yes, it’s a strange year in the NFL, and yes, the Titans are 9-0 and way out in front of the AFC pack. But when you first think about it, Collins in MVP conversations sounds ridiculous. He is somewhere toward the bottom of the pack in passing yards, with 1525 (169 per game in 8-plus games), with just 5 touchdown passes and 3 interceptions and a QB rating of just 78.8. But here’s the thing. Drew Brees is putting up Tom Brady/Peyton Manning type numbers, with 2985 yards, 17 TDs and 10 picks. But Brees’ Saints are 4-5 and bringing up the rear in the AFC South. Jay Cutler is second in passing yards with 2616, and his team is 5-4 (and leading a pathetic AFC West). In fact, in pure yardage, you have to scroll down to number 10 (Brett Favre) to find a QB with more than five wins. Eli Manning of the 8-1 Giants is 12th and has a QB rating of 88.8.

So throw the stats aside, and think purely in terms of MVP for a minute. Manning and Brandon Jacobs deserve consideration, because they lead an 8-1 team in the NFL’s toughest division. But the Giants have a whole team of great players and the G-men would still be very competitive if either of those guys missed a game or two. The Panthers are 7-2, but have also had many contributors. And among the teams that are 6-3 (Jets, Pats, Steelers, Ravens, Redskins, Bucs and Falcons), you can make a case for a handful of players–Favre, Clinton Portis, and Matt Ryan. But even Ryan has had help from Michael Turner and Roddy White and John Abraham.

Then look at the Titans themselves. Aside from Collins, you have LenDale White and Chris Johnson piling up yards behind a very underrated offensive line. You have Albert Haynesworth absolutely terrorizing offensive coordinators and Cortland Finnegan playing out of his mind. All of them Pro Bowl possibilities, but not really MVP material. Collins, though, stepped in for Vince Young and has been a steady hand leading a very talented team to an undefeated record so far. You can’t say the Titans would be better than maybe 5-4 with Young as the starter right now. 9-0 with the veteran Collins is the only number that should be mentioned in MVP talk at this point, and for that I have to say Tom Jackson is on to something.

Bookmark this page for when the real talk begins, and don’t forget you heard it here second.

Lou Holtz goes off on Mark May, rips Colt McCoy off camera

Awful Announcing has video of the humorous, yet awkward exchange between Lou Holtz and Mark May of ESPN’s College Football show, where Lou blasts Texas QB Colt McCoy in one of the network’s on-air debates because he thinks he’s off camera.

That was just amazingly awkward and somehow still hilarious! The guy never ceases to amaze me. I think I’m going to coin a new term in this spot and that is the “Trainwreckability Scale” (which has no affiliation with Simmons’ “Unintentional Comedy Scale”). Right now Lou Holtz’s trainwreckabiltiy is sitting at an easy 95 out of 100. After his pep talk this week, he could shoot past 100.

Oh and the other thing is…..he was right. Colt McCoy was not a great QB last year and there were no stipulations about the debate being just for this year or just for one game.

That’s pretty funny, although obviously nowhere near Chris Berman’s off-camera meltdowns. And as for McCoy, he might not have been a good quarterback last year, but certainly has matured this season. He’s far and away the front-runner for Heisman after his performance against Oklahoma.

Fore! Hawkins takes swipe at Chris Berman’s shtick

John Hawkins of Golf Digest isn’t too fond of Chris Berman doing live coverage of the U.S. Open Championship, which kicks off Thursday and runs through Father’s Day weekend.

But Chris Berman? He’s part of the program, too. In ESPN’s 18 hours of Thursday-Friday coverage, maybe half will be anchored by a rumblin’, bumblin’, stumblin’ earsore whose knowledge of pro golf is either severely impaired or on extended vacation. The nicknames. The clichés. The thousands of words spoken without a gram of true insight.

Isn’t this the same network that employs Mike Tirico, whose polish and knowledge suggest he was born with a microphone clipped to his lapel? Tirico handled the first two rounds of the Masters for ESPN. Is he doing pay-per-view from Torrey Pines? Is it less than $100 per hour? Where do I sign up?

I read that Berman views himself as sort of an everyman this week, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune, “I’m trying to be me and have a good time with it as someone who’s an avid follower of the game, like most of the audience. A 16 handicap, give or take, not a 3 or a scratch.” Some attempts at logic are frightening; others defy the principles of credibility that defend TV’s role as society’s most powerful medium.

Berman’s perspective captures the worst of both worlds. It’s not that a 16 handicap shouldn’t do live TV at the Open. Tirico isn’t much of a golfer—he’s too busy grinding over a stack of notes to shoot 73. With Berman, the five layers of shtick seem to camouflage a lack of preparation, proof that some disguises are better than others.

The ironic part is that at the top of Hawkins’ article reads: Golf World, in Partnership with ESPN. (ESPN obviously employees Berman.)

I’ve been saying it for two years – Berman is a shell of his former self. Worse yet, it’s apparent by his delivery that he still feels his shtick is working. He’s so over the top he makes Tom Cruise not seem like an over-actor.

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