Chris Berman, the bombastic, gravelly voice of football for generations of NFL fans, will be departing ESPN’s NFL programming after the conclusion of this year’s postseason. Berman, whose whoops, yelps, and cornball nicknames were an essential part of every broadcast, will remain with the network in other capacities.
“I’m thrilled that this ride will continue, albeit differently,” Berman said in a statement announcing the move, which had been rumored for many months. “Today’s announcement allows me to fulfill perhaps my final professional goal – knowing that I will finish with the team I came in with.”
Berman started at ESPN just a month after the network began operations in 1979. He’s hosted “NFL Countdown” for 31 seasons, and participated in “SportsCenter” in various roles for 38 years. He has also worked the ESPY Awards and hosted events ranging from the Home Run Derby to the U.S. Open. That’s an awful lot of “Back! Back! Back’s! and “Jose ‘Can You See’ Canseco’s.”
Like every other element of ESPN – or, indeed, sports in general – Berman was polarizing, with some viewers appreciating the humor he brought to broadcasts, and others preferring, well … let’s just say preferring other broadcaster options. (For those in the former camp, ESPN is airing a tribute to Berman, “He Did Go All The Way,” on Feb. 2.)
Berman will continue to contribute to ESPN in a smaller capacity, though he will not be hosting NFL shows, the NFL draft, or the Home Run Derby. No replacements have been named.
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.