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(My God. Fifty million people could be hearing this. Three-hundred-odd countries. They're hearing this in Vietnam. Haven't we done enough to them?)
"... ALL THE WAY!"
(I saw this in Scanners once. Cover the bean dip, mother!)
It's a television homage, nearly all of it. The fumble call is Keith Jackson's, and the grasso profundo tribute to the sod of upper Wisconsin comes from the late John Facenda, the Delphic voice of vintage NFL Films epics. And, of course, the last utterance comes from the late Howard Cosell, who brought us the Monday-night highlights package in the first place.
"All that comes out of admiration," Berman explains. "I mean, I loved those guys."
Berman's 49 now, and yes, the Boomer is a boomer, heart and soul, as his friends Huey Lewis and the News would tell you, if you're not quick enough to get to the radio dial to change stations. For half his life he's been the most visible face, and the most audible voice (since his first year at ESPN, at least, when he earned his nickname, his voice has been louder than anyone else's), of one of cable television's most towering achievements.
Now, as ESPN celebrates itself with an endless series of specials (the silver anniversary show will be telecast on Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. ET), reminiscences, award shows, best-of lists and enough soft-focus valentines to make Ken Burns look like a director of splatter films, Chris Berman's voice is right there in the middle of most of it. The network's become such a brand name that it's hard to believe it ever was simply an acronym: Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. And the E seems to be beating the everlasting H out of the S these days.
It has the ESPY Awards now, dedicated to the dubious proposition that actors and athletes have a great deal to say to one another and to the even more dubious proposition that, together, they have something to say to the rest of us. This is only the most blatant example of the way Entertainment has seeped into the schedule. Elsewhere, Junction Boys chase each other Around the Horn. On SportsCenter, still ESPN's flagship broadcast, an ordinary home run is even money to be greeted from the anchor desk by the Nessun Dorma, a passage from Ecclesiastes or Act III of Timon of Athens. The network is lodged dead center between the first two words of its birth name. Which is where Chris Berman has always been.
"Chris probably was the predicate for that entire [ ESPN] culture," explains Olbermann, whose SportsCenters with Dan Patrick a decade ago were the saturnine obverse of Berman's life-of-the-kegger approach. "It's instructive that he was doing that 10 or 12 years before I got there, and nobody else had gone off in a humorous direction.
"To be fair, though," Olbermann continues, "it's often said that when I'm in hell, or at least in purgatory, my maker will ask me, 'Didn't you think when you were doing this that somebody else might come along and not do it well? Go sit on the bench next to Dr. Oppenheimer.' Most of it is Dan's and my fault. Chris is [all about] superficial play-on-words levity. I mean, 'Bert Be Home Blyleven?' It ain't Thurber."