Behind The Scenes

Chris Berman honors memory of former SC colleague Tom Mees

ESPN anchors (L-R) Tom Mees, Chris Berman and Bob Ley on the SportsCenter set during the 10,000th show. (Rick LaBranche/ESPN)

Editor’s Note: As SportsCenter approaches its 50,000th episode (expected to be Thursday, Sept. 13), ESPN Front Row will present content related to the show and the milestone. Award-winning commentator Chris Berman, who joined ESPN just weeks after the network launched in 1979, wrote this piece about his good friend and former SportsCenter anchor colleague Tom Mees, who tragically passed away 16 years ago this month.

Every time I sit at my home office . . . I look up at the picture of three young men in tuxedos, beaming at the SportsCenter desk, ready to deliver that show’s 10,000th episode.

I think between Bob Ley, Tom Mees and me . . . we must have done 5,000 or 6,000 of them. That’s the way it was back in the 1980s here at ESPN . . . a ton of work with everyone rolling up their sleeves.

That part hasn’t changed much in 2012, as we get set to present our 50,000th SportsCenter. But for me, and those of us here in the 80’s and 90’s, a lot of things changed when we lost Tom Mees in 1996. He had a spirit and energy . . .and dare I say . . .a sense of purity in his love of sports and his delivering of the evening’s news through the TV to his fellow sports fans that all of us envy to this day.

He was on SportsCenter . . . or calling his beloved NHL games . . . or on assignment to pro football, college basketball, and so much more. . . for just one reason. Tom was there to give us the sports.

I was fortunate enough to have done more shows with Tom than anyone else.

In the early days, he and I often teamed five or six nights a week on the late SportsCenter, which was an hour of rock and roll highlights at 2:30 am, or 11:30 on the West Coast. In my 33 years here, I can honestly say that I never had more fun. It was as if one of us was the “rabbit” in a dog race, and the other was the greyhound. Every night was a gas!

Much later on, we were paired on a rare SportsCenter . . .and I can remember it like it was yesterday. Unplanned, we shook hands at the end of the show . . . and he said “SportsCenter, the way God invented it.” It may have been the last time we ever worked together. God may have invented it, but Tom had a big hand in it.

So, as we get set for the 50,000th SportsCenter, I can’t help but think that Tom Mees has had a hand in every one of them. All of us — and all of you — are forever thankful that he did.

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