One month after ESPN launched in 1979, Chris Berman arrived at the fledgling sports network. Now 36 years later, the 60-year-old Berman is still going strong at the sports behemoth. He's a six-time National Sportscaster of the Year, recognized for his work in multiple sports in both the studio and broadcast booth. Berman will handle play-by-play for the Vikings- San Francisco game Monday on ESPN. In advance of that, he fielded questions from the Star Tribune's Michael Rand:
Q As the lead play-by-play voice for this Monday's Vikings-49ers game, what will preparation for the game look like on your end?
A I immerse myself in the media guides. I'm into where people come from, their histories, what they might have done off the field even though that doesn't have the chance to be wedged in all the time on a third-and-8 play. I've talked with coach [Mike] Zimmer and coach Norv Turner, and I'll talk with Teddy Bridgewater, and hopefully Adrian Peterson. I'll do similar stuff for the 49ers. It's a different week for me because I'm preparing for all 32 teams. I do the 'NFL Countdown' show on Sunday morning and then fly to the game. … I'm preparing for a banquet for 32 but also preparing to do a gourmet meal for two. But the bottom line is I can't wait to do it.
Q Can I get a "Swami" prediction on who you have winning the game?
A I only do [play-by-play for] one game a year, so I don't try to predict it. So I'm not going to. Here's what I will say: This Vikings team, I'm anxious to see what kind of leap they can make in Year 2 of Teddy Bridgewater, with Adrian Peterson as running back, with a defense under Coach Zimmer that grows leaps and bounds. … They're going to be in the wild-card or playoff hunt until the very end of the season. I think any Viking fan would welcome that. There's a prediction I think you'll like.
Q You're known for the nicknames you have given athletes over the years. Which one is your favorite and why?
A There are probably over a thousand of them. I'd have to say it's someone near and dear to Twins fans: Bert "Be Home" Blyleven. The reason is every parent has said it. Every kid has heard it. … You don't even have to follow baseball. You know what it means. The bonus in that is he loved it. There's a picture I have somewhere here, a snapshot from like 20 years ago, of he and I standing there looking at our watches as in "is it 11 o'clock."
Q You've been at ESPN for 36 years, a span during which countless high-profile personalities have come and gone from the network. What's been the secret to your longevity there?
A I've been loyal to ESPN and they've been loyal to me. … I felt a long time ago that if I could be fortunate enough to retire with the same jersey on my back that would be awesome. I can't thank them enough for that opportunity. I think I'm the same guy who walked in the door in 1979 — plus a lot of pounds and minus a lot of hair, maybe — and I think that's factored into it. Maybe another thing is, and I can't speak for those who left, but I like sports, I like the people in it and I like the fans who watch it. I think that's never wavered, and I think it's served me well. After all, I'm still here. I fooled them for this long.