Chris Berman, one of the few original employees remaining at ESPN, is stepping away from his role in three signature NFL programs as part of a new contract.
“I like to think of myself as an ESPN lifer,” Berman, now 61, told Sports Business Journal media reporter John Ourand, who broke the story. “There really wasn’t any thought of doing anything else. … We’ve had a great working relationship extending 38 years.”
News, Views and Reviews About Sports Books, History and Culture
Also In This Issue: The World’s Fastest Woman; Lefty Driesell; New Sports Book News; The ‘Lost Journalism’ of Ring Lardner
Upon the news, ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen tweeted out this piece by ace ESPN PR man Mike Soltys (an acquaintance of mine) about how Berman was part of the sports cable giant’s revolutionary coverage of the NFL draft.
Berman was a central figure in “Those Guys Have All the Fun,” the 2011 oral history of ESPN by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller. After this week’s news, Miller talked to former ESPN SportsCenter Dan Patrick about Berman’s future at The Worldwide Leader, such as it might be.
Berman’s reduced role is another gigantic departure of sorts for ESPN, which is repositioning itself amid declining NFL ratings and significant subscriber losses in the last couple years.
The affable Berman, nicknamed “Boomer,” is one of the few remaining personalities of the Baby Boom generation that helped make ESPN what it has become, but that is getting eclipsed by a younger generation of hosts gaining more on-air currency in Bristol.
A Few Good Reads
- Joe Nocera’s last piece for The New York Times chronicles the wheelchair-ridden struggles of Shawn Harrington, featured in the noted basketball documentary “Hoop Dreams” and who was gunned down in a shooting in Chicago in 2014;
- Nocera has moved on to Bloomberg View, where he’s returned to writing about Wall Street and business. The Observer has this interesting back story about Nocera’s involuntary move to the NYT sports pages, a stint that did yield one of Sports Biblio’s notable 2016 books, “Identured” (our review);
- Jason Gay of The Wall Street Journal goes out to the Bonneville Salt Flats to spend time with “The World’s Fastest Woman,” Denise Mueller, who peddles her bicycle at speeds exceeding 140 mph;
- Joe Posnanski on Lefty Driesell and the inexplicable matter of why he isn’t in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame;
- Baseball Hall of Fame ballots for the Class of 2017 will be fully revealed on Jan. 18, but already a number of sportswriters have been revealing how they voted. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports riffed long in one of the most transparent explanations I’ve ever read. Interestingly, he’s one of the few who’s splitting his votes on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, and he makes a thorough case;
- During World War I, and for a few fleeting moments, a Canadian infantry battalion formed one of hockey’s best teams in the days before the National Hockey League, and before they were called to service in France;
- The story of the American sportscaster who helped save Jewish families during the Berlin Olympics in 1936;
- At MMQB, Marc Sessler writes about what NFL coaches do when they’re in a state of professional limbo;
- From the National Pastime Museum, the celebrated life and rapid death of the Seattle Kingdome.
Sports Book News
- Indian author Aravind Adiga’s new cricket-themed novel “Selection Day” gets a good review in The New York Times;
- Ed Odeven talks to Steve Bitker, author of a new book about the inaugural San Francisco Giants team of 1958;
- Football Book Reviews examines “Lost in France,” the story of Leigh Roose, a Welsh-born goalkeeper and one of the best players of his era, who died in World War I;
- Missy Franklin, one of the American swimming stars of the 2012 Olympics but who struggled in Rio, has written a memoir about her struggles since London.
Off the Sporting Green
- Acclaimed civil libertarian and jazz critic Nat Hentoff, 91, wrote prodigiously, most notably dozens books on those two passionate topics for the Village Voice for more than a half-century and many other publications. In an age when the idea of free speech is becoming quaint, especially on the political left where Hentoff presided, his unwavering voice and fierce moral intellect will be desperately missed;
- This book has immediately vaulted to the top of my early 2017 reading pile: “The Lost Journalism of Ring Lardner,” compiled by Ron Rapoport, a sports book author former sports journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News. He talks with Scott Simon at NPR, where he also was a sports commentator, about this whopping (592-page) collection, which includes Lardner’s newspaper journalism from South Bend and Chicago as well as his syndicated work, sports and otherwise;
- The Lardner collection comes with a hefty price tag, too, $39.95. Yet that’s $100 less than what Ryan Holiday recently paid for a book he just had to have, but to him, that’s beside the point: “If you see a book you want, buy it;”
- Roy Peter Clark, a friend to many journalists for the last four decades as the famed writing coach at The Poynter Institute, has retired. He was very kind to me when I left the newspaper business and attended a career-change seminar at Poynter. I highly recommend his books about writing—they absolutely have broken down walls for me when I’ve felt stuck. He also served as Poynter’s connection to sportswriters, and often referenced sports, including “The Story is Never Over,” about Bobby Thomson’s home run to win the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants:
“The Shot has become a story about what constitutes triumph and tragedy in America, about how sports defines our identity, about fame, celebrity, race, scandal, myth and mystery, recounted time and again in nonfiction books, documentaries, investigations, novels and even poetry.”
The Civil War is still not over. The Depression is not over. Nor the assassination of JFK. Nor the destruction of the World Trade Center. Hang in there — for a long time — on the Gulf oil spill.”
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The Sports Biblio Digest is an e-mail newsletter delivered each Sunday. It contains commentary and links about sports books and history. You can subscribe here and search the archives. This is Digest issue No. 68, published Jan. 8, 2017. The Digest is a companion to the Sports Biblio website, which is updated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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