Chris Berman changing role at ESPN

Chris Berman isn't disappearing from in front of the cameras or from behind the microphones.

He's simply stepping to the side a bit.

The longtime ESPN fixture is giving up his regular on-air NFL and baseball spots for a new role at the network.

Berman, who joined ESPN one month after it launched in 1979, will make occasional appearances on-air and will also serve as a spokesman for the network at some of its events. He will continue to host ESPN's ''NFL PrimeTime'' highlights show from the field after the Super Bowl this year, as well as after the conference championship games, before stepping aside from his usual duties.

Berman will also offer opinions and perspective on NFL events, and will continue appearing weekly on ''Monday Night Countdown.'' He will handle play-by-play duties for ESPN Radio during the baseball divisional playoffs, and participate in the annual ESPY Awards.

''If you boil down our lives a little bit, and we all hope that we are pretty healthy to 80, and after that we take what we get,'' the 61-year-old Berman said Thursday. ''From zero to 20 is when you are in school. You work the second and third quarters, and do other stuff for the fourth quarter. I think that is a good life plan.

''It is all good, I get to stay here and be involved with football and baseball and the ESPYs and some things still to be defined. This has kind of been in the works in my head and in this place's head, and we finally figured it out.''

Best known for his work on ESPN's anchor show ''SportsCenter,'' as well as hosting the NFL draft, his descriptions of game highlights, and for making game predictions as the ''Swami,'' Berman has won six national sportscaster of the year awards. He has been the face of ESPN for more than three decades, and has made some of its most memorable calls.

And no, we don't mean ''BACK, BACK, BACK'' or ''He could go all the way!'' either. Those mantras might define Berman in the studio, but he's been present for quite a few momentous events, too.

None more so than when Cal Ripken set the consecutive games baseball record in 1995.

''The height of my professional career was probably the Cal Ripken game and passing Lou Gehrig,'' he said. ''That stood as more than even a baseball accomplishment. It was like America: go to work every day for 14 1-2 years and not call in sick. That's a night I still get tears speaking about. Frankly, that's why we did not speak for all those minutes (during the celebration) - the magnitude of what it represented.

''Then President Bill Clinton comes in the booth for an inning. And we had Joe DiMaggio as sort of representing Lou Gehrig and saying, `my teammate Lou Gehrig would be proud tonight.' Wow!''

Berman was in San Francisco when Dwight Clark made The Catch; he was just making his way in broadcasting back then. He was there in 1999 when his friend Payne Stewart won the U.S. Open and Berman handed Stewart a beer right after he signed his scorecard. Six months later, Berman recalled, he was reporting on the air about Stewart's death in a plane crash.

As he cuts back a bit, Berman hopes to spend more time in his second home.

''I live part-time in Maui,'' he said with a chuckle, ''so I'm looking forward to living more part-time in Maui.''

Still, there will be plenty of work ahead; after nearly four decades at it, Berman has no expectations of simply quitting.

''I am just changing,'' he noted. ''You will still have Chris Berman to kick around.''

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