Chris Berman is retiring. Unless he isn’t.
In response to a report that the George Ehhh-weeah-ashington of ESPN’s Mt. Rushmore is retiring after the 2016 NFL season, Berman’s agent tells Richard Sandomir of the New York Times that Berman isn’t calling it quits.
“Chris is NOT retiring,” Berman’s agent told Sandomir. “Loves what he’s doing too much and is too young to hang ’em up.”
Berman’s agent also suspects foul play.
“Perhaps people with an agenda put it out there,” Berman’s agent told Sandomir.
The news of Berman’s looming retirement comes at a time when ESPN is gutting its Sunday morning NFL programming. Even before TheBigLead.com reported that Berman will call it quits, rumors were rampant that Berman and Tom Jackson would eventually be joining Mike Ditka, Cris Carter, and Keyshawn Johnson as former members of the four-letter network.
If the “people with an agenda” occupy management positions at ESPN, it’s inevitable that Berman will continue his career elsewhere, if he indeed doesn’t retire following the upcoming season, when his contract expires. The last time Berman approached free agency, he reportedly was considering an offer from DirecTV.
With more and more non-traditional companies jockeying for NFL broadcasting rights both now and in the not-too-distant future, it makes plenty of sense for the likes of Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, etc. to consider Berman, who would instantly bring gravitas to any NFL-related production. Whether Berman would be interested in working for a non-traditional outlet is a much different proposition, but very large piles of money go a long way toward the defiance of expectations.
Sure, Berman has become a popular pin cushion for many, but it has happened in part because he’s a broadcasting institution — and because his approach skews toward making himself the center of attention. This doesn’t undermine his skills and his persona, both of which are still significant.
Besides, he’s only 61. At a time when Vin Scully has worked deep into his 80s and Al Michaels is as good as ever in his 70s, Berman surely has plenty of solid years left.
It’s fairly safe to say that those years won’t happen on the air at ESPN. And it’s possible that someone is hoping to provoke the kind of eruption from Mt. Berman that will trigger a possible buyout of his current deal, accelerating his exit from Bristol.