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A fitting tribute for Chris “Boomer” Berman

Chris Berman: He Did Go All The Way will celebrate Boomer's 38 years at ESPN.
Chris Berman: “He Did Go All The Way” will celebrate Boomer’s 38 years at ESPN.

Super Bowl LI in Houston this week is Chris Berman’s 35th Super Bowl and his final assignment as host of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown. After Sunday’s three-hour pregame (11 a.m.–2 p.m. ET) and the post-Super Bowl NFL PrimeTime, Berman will assume a new role.

In celebration of his 38 years with the company, ESPN will present Chris Berman: He Did Go All The Way tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET. The one-hour tribute will focus on Berman’s storied career – the early years at ESPN, his work on NFL PrimeTime with Tom Jackson, his call of Cal Ripken Jr.’s “Ironman” streak game and other highlights. The special will also touch upon Berman’s love of music and his family.

Many marquee names participated in interviews for the special, including Bob Ley and Scott Van Pelt, former ESPNers Dan Patrick and Robin Roberts, past ESPN presidents George Bodenheimer and Steve Bornstein, NFL stars Peyton Manning, Joe Namath and Bruce Smith, coaches Bill Belichick and Marv Levy, musical artists Bob Seger and Huey Lewis and former President Bill Clinton, to name a handful.

Coordinating producers Ben Houser and Greg Jewell, who have overseen the project, discuss the special with Front Row and share memories of working with one of the all-time greats in sports broadcasting.

Houser: “Chris’s booming, entertaining style had me hooked on ESPN from an early age. In the late ’90s, I relished the opportunity to work with him as a young production assistant on Sunday NFL Countdown and NFL Primetime. In my 20 years working with Chris, he always treated me with humor and respect. I knew I made it when he gave me a nickname. . . I have been ‘Doogie’ Houser ever since.

“This tribute to Chris is not only the right decision, it will also educate many younger viewers on how and why he became the face of ESPN for nearly four decades.”

Jewell: “I remember in the mid-’80s how on NFL Sundays the 4 p.m. game would end and your local game would go off the air. You would have no way to find out who won the other 4 p.m. games until the newspaper arrived sometime the next day. Then PrimeTime came along and it changed everything. It is a highlight of my career to work with Boomer, cutting highlights for PrimeTime, being on the road with him as a feature producer and to produce NFL Countdown.

“We had a blast with all of the different angles you could cover with Boomer in this special. While much of the show centers around his impact on the industry, some of the most fun parts were diving into the behind-the-scenes stories that only those of us here at ESPN know and enjoy about Boomer.”

Berman salutes his '2 Minute Drill' producer/editor Marc Franklin

In addition to Chris Berman’s final Countdown show, this weekend also marks his final “2 Minute Drill,” aka “The Swami” segment which airs on weekend editions of SportsCenter starting Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Berman started “Swami-ing” in 1979 and this year he finished with his best record picking NFL games in 38 years (51-32). For the past 12 years, Berman has worked on the “2 Minute Drill” with producer/editor Marc Franklin. Berman offers his thanks to Franklin in the video above.

On working with Berman, Franklin said: “My first few weeks I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the first season, but 12 years later I am so proud that I got the opportunity to spend so many crazy, exhilarating Fridays working with him. Once I got the hang of the Swami, I had a tremendously rewarding experience, learned a lot about TV and football, and got to do it all while gaining the friendship of a legend that I grew up watching on TV. It is hard to imagine an NFL season without ‘the Boomer’ and the ‘2 Minute Drill.’ My Fridays will never be the same.”

Jon McLeod produced the video above.

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