Boom Times

Let's go back-back-back through 25 years with ESPN's Chris (Boomer) Berman, whose outsized enthusiasms have stamped his network, sports and television
Let's go back-back-back through 25 years with ESPN's Chris (Boomer) Berman, whose outsized enthusiasms have stamped his network, sports and television
August 22, 2004

Listen to me.... Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players.

—HOWARD BEALE, Network

We invited the thing into our living rooms, for the love of God.

We invited it into our living rooms, and there was a promise implicit that it would behave itself the way the rest of the furniture did. We invited it in there with the sectional sofas and the mahogany end tables. We put it there in the corner, big and square. We put the pictures of the kids on top of it, and all we asked was that it behave itself, and, for a while, it did.

It did what it was supposed to do, as dependable in its own way as the mahogany end tables. If anyone got too noisy, Paladin or Sergeant Saunders or Captain Kirk would whip out the Colt revolver or the tommy gun or the phaser-on-stun and demonstrate proper deportment to whatever rustlers or Nazis or Klingons came into our living room to make off with our cattle or invade our European allies or seize our tiny universes.

Elsewhere, politics was delivered by men with the voices of the Old Testament prophets and faces of Mount Rushmore. Chet Huntley. The younger Cronkite.

The flash, from Dallas, apparently official....

And sports was live grand opera in miniature. Mighty events brought to us by two dim cameras and described by people like Ray Scott, who occasionally even dispensed with verbs as extraneous ostentation unfit for the moment.

Starr ... touchdown.

Then, about 25 years ago, it changed on us. It started mainlining its sustenance, shooting up its programming instead of breathing it in from the sweet, clean breezes of the air. Then it started to misbehave. There were four channels full of Nazis, and Captain Kirk was on nine channels at once. Politics suddenly became the province of screeching vulpine harpies. The pictures of the kids began to shake. The sectional sofa became less comfortable. The mahogany end tables seemed less solid.

And sports?

Well, when the television began using the cable to shoot up, sports was the purest product it could find. Sports were everywhere, and so were their voices, which no longer dispensed with verbs but used them promiscuously, along with adjectives, adverbs and all manner of gallivanting orthographic fauna up to and including the lyrics to the collected works of Edison Lighthouse. And some of those voices--hell, most of those voices--were loud.

Like this one, for example, which is, in its own surpassingly friendly way, rattling coffee cups across the crowded cafeteria and, perhaps, across Sumatra, as well. Chris Berman--universally beloved and even widely respected across the sprawling campus of ESPN in Bristol, Conn.—has come into work this summer's day. People drop by the table, including Tony Valentino, who, like Berman, has worked at ESPN for 25 years, which is all the years that there's been an ESPN. Berman is talking about the great arc of things that has brought him here from the days when ESPN consisted of little more than mud and the dreams of Bill Rasmussen, who launched the network with a $10 million stake from Getty Oil.

"We're the Mercury astronauts, that's who I think I am," Berman explains. "Not me alone, but those of us who were here in the beginning were the Mercury astronauts, and I'm Alan Shepard because I've done all three stages, you know? I went up with Mercury. I was in Gemini and Apollo."

(We pause here to mention that Shepard did only two stages—Mercury and Apollo. But what the hell. Berman's rolling.)

"Or to make it more plain for everyone, it was like we had a car. We had no road map, but we had a full tank of gas, so let's go."

Says ESPN executive editor John A. Walsh of Berman, "He's the image of the network. I think he's the first national sportscaster who spoke to his audience fan-to-fan. I remember reading one time about when [founding New Yorker editor Harold] Ross was at Stars and Stripes, he said that the paper's mission was to speak soldier-to-soldier. I always remembered that, and that's the way I feel about Berman."

"He's worshipful, and I don't say that in an entirely negative way," says Keith Olbermann, the host of MSNBC's nightly Countdown, formerly the dark prince of ESPN's signature telecast, SportsCenter, and someone who's known Berman since their days together at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, N.Y. "There's always been a kind of purity about him that served to protect the idea that he was a fan.

"My theory always was that the network could get along swimmingly without Chris, but it was seen there as exactly the opposite," Olbermann continues. "[ESPN thought] if they ever lost Chris Berman, the first show afterward would appear only in black and white, and then it would just go off the air. I never understood that. It was as if Chris was the ultimate good luck charm."

Chris Berman was right there when television broke the biggest promise it made to us after we invited it in: the promise to teach us about the world. Instead, it taught about the world-on-television. Politicians learned to be politicians-on-television so that they could later learn how to be president-on-television. It taught athletes how to be athletes-on-television, and it taught celebrity to everyone, even the people who talked about the athletes. It taught us how to live our lives to the rhythm of our internal play-by-play.

Chris Berman was right there to learn from it, a child of the old television come to prosper in the new, the line between sports and entertainment, between sports and journalism, between sports and everything else, hopelessly blurred in him, all the fine distinctions drowned out by the sheer ubiquity of his voice. Fifteen years ago, he was standing in Candlestick Park as the great plates of the earth shifted beneath the World Series and the grandstands began to sway. "You see," he says, "I knew the director of operations at Candlestick. He was a friend of mine. So we had him on. And Nightline wanted him, and he said, 'F--- Nightline. I'm with Boomer.'"

And then he's talking about how deeply the New England Patriots have bought into the philosophies that have brought them two of the last three Super Bowl championships. "I mean, they've really drunk the Kool-Aid there," he says, referencing a mass suicide about which we all learned on television. "What do you suppose it was?" he continues. "Goofy Grape? Jolly Olly Orange?"

He knows the names of juice-drink flavors. He still knows the names because he learned them on television, because we invited it in and it never behaved the way it was supposed to behave.

*****

O.K., you're a sensible person, so he can make your head explode.

You've been rendered comatose by another Monday Night Football game. Cincinnati leads, say, Baltimore 10-3 at the half because it is an NFL rule that all Monday Night Football games are 10-3 at halftime. Anyway, Chris Berman comes on to do his halftime highlights package. At first you don't notice the faint, high-pitched whine in your ears.

"It's Danny (Erie) Kanell!"

(The whine gets louder.)

"FUMMMMMMBBBULLL!"

(Vibrations begin, slowly at first, but then increasing in frequency.)

"Frozen tunnnndraaaaaaaa...."

(The world is a blur. And then....)

"HE ... COULD ... GO ... "

(My God. Fifty million people could be hearing this. Three-hundred-odd countries. They're hearing this in Vietnam. Haven't we done enough to them?)

"... ALL THE WAY!"

(I saw this in Scanners once. Cover the bean dip, mother!)

It's a television homage, nearly all of it. The fumble call is Keith Jackson's, and the grasso profundo tribute to the sod of upper Wisconsin comes from the late John Facenda, the Delphic voice of vintage NFL Films epics. And, of course, the last utterance comes from the late Howard Cosell, who brought us the Monday-night highlights package in the first place.

"All that comes out of admiration," Berman explains. "I mean, I loved those guys."

Berman's 49 now, and yes, the Boomer is a boomer, heart and soul, as his friends Huey Lewis and the News would tell you, if you're not quick enough to get to the radio dial to change stations. For half his life he's been the most visible face, and the most audible voice (since his first year at ESPN, at least, when he earned his nickname, his voice has been louder than anyone else's), of one of cable television's most towering achievements.

Now, as ESPN celebrates itself with an endless series of specials (the silver anniversary show will be telecast on Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. ET), reminiscences, award shows, best-of lists and enough soft-focus valentines to make Ken Burns look like a director of splatter films, Chris Berman's voice is right there in the middle of most of it. The network's become such a brand name that it's hard to believe it ever was simply an acronym: Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. And the E seems to be beating the everlasting H out of the S these days.

It has the ESPY Awards now, dedicated to the dubious proposition that actors and athletes have a great deal to say to one another and to the even more dubious proposition that, together, they have something to say to the rest of us. This is only the most blatant example of the way Entertainment has seeped into the schedule. Elsewhere, Junction Boys chase each other Around the Horn. On SportsCenter, still ESPN's flagship broadcast, an ordinary home run is even money to be greeted from the anchor desk by the Nessun Dorma, a passage from Ecclesiastes or Act III of Timon of Athens. The network is lodged dead center between the first two words of its birth name. Which is where Chris Berman has always been.

"Chris probably was the predicate for that entire [ESPN] culture," explains Olbermann, whose SportsCenters with Dan Patrick a decade ago were the saturnine obverse of Berman's life-of-the-kegger approach. "It's instructive that he was doing that 10 or 12 years before I got there, and nobody else had gone off in a humorous direction.

"To be fair, though," Olbermann continues, "it's often said that when I'm in hell, or at least in purgatory, my maker will ask me, 'Didn't you think when you were doing this that somebody else might come along and not do it well? Go sit on the bench next to Dr. Oppenheimer.' Most of it is Dan's and my fault. Chris is [all about] superficial play-on-words levity. I mean, 'Bert Be Home Blyleven?' It ain't Thurber."

Nevertheless, as the voice and face of ESPN, Berman has become the loud, shambling exemplar of a boisterous revolution. Broadcast television raised the generation that abandoned it for cable. It taught that generation its media vocabulary. It schooled that generation in media literacy. Then, when that generation grew up and used those tools to dismantle all the old standards and practices, broadcast got caught flat-footed. Chris Berman's highlights package, then, is almost perfectly postmodern, although he likely wouldn't use the word, unless, of course, the 49ers one day draft a wideout named, say, Wiley Modern, who would thereafter become Wiley (Post) Modern on some ESPN football program or other.

Berman does bristle, however, at the suggestion that his success is based on gimmickry. "[The nicknames] get in the way of the [sportswriters], I think," he says. "I don't know why. The public, I think, takes me seriously. I think the people I cover and the people [who watch] take me seriously, which is actually why we're in this business, and so do the people I work for. So, if I'm good to those three groups, what a jealous couple of guys write—I can't affect that, you know? I mean, it pisses me off."

And it is a substantial bristle. At 6'5" and a genuine 250, Berman dominates any room he's in, even the ones containing former football players. When he wants to make a point, he uses both hands and his voice drops into a lower register that makes him sound like, of all people, comedian George Carlin.

"It's the ones that are lazy," he concludes, "or that formed an opinion 15 years ago and haven't bothered to pay attention [ever since]. I can't help that."

He's the son of a mechanical contractor and a woman who worked as a researcher at Time magazine. He went from the Hackley School to Brown, from which he graduated with a degree in history in 1977. And, truth be told, he is a bona fide pop-culture catch basin, with a quicksilver ability to make connections between what he's seeing on the screen in front of him and what appears to be a limitless reservoir of otherwise useless knowledge.

By the old broadcast standards, none of that would have mattered. All that would have counted was that Chris Berman read scores decently and that his play-by-play skills were rudimentary at best. That would have likely doomed him to a life as a personality on some Eyewitness News set in Connecticut.

Which is about where he was at age 24, in October 1979, at Channel 30 in Waterbury, doing two shows every weekend for $23 a show. Reading the paper one morning, he noticed that, a little ways up the road in Bristol, some people were toying with the lunatic notion of an all-sports television channel. He called and was hired over the phone for $16,500 a year. He started on the 2:30 a.m. shift.

The place was quite literally a mud pit when Berman got there. (One famous episode has a producer named Fred Muzzy sinking into the muck up to his chest in a ditch on the ESPN lot. Had some coworkers not happened by, Muzzy might still be mired.) There was one building on the lot. The control room was a trailer, and the place was so rural and the security so lax that a skunk once wandered into the studio during a telecast and its aroma enlivened the premises for the next month.

From the start Berman was perfectly suited to ESPN. Like all cable television, ESPN began almost wholly as an improvisation. It ran dart competitions. It made a cult sport out of Australian Rules football. Cables failed. Cameras went dark. The job required someone who could maintain good humor at top volume in the middle of unmitigated catastrophe. Berman anchored. He did reports from the field. Most of all, he thrived.

"It was my first job doing sports full time," he says. "One of my goals was to get on TV doing sports full time by the time I was 25, and I did that. So I was young enough to think that this was a no-brainer, and I thought, Well, let's see where this goes. There were a lot of people like me [at ESPN], but it was still a scary thought at the time."

One thing that has kept Berman sane is that there isn't an ounce of artifice about him. Off-screen he is pretty much what he is onscreen--or as close as he can come to it. His office is cluttered to the gunwales with snapshots, pennants and assorted sports gewgaws, including three pieces of the turf from Green Bay's Lambeau Field. He still lives, like a Brown sophomore, on Diet Coke and adrenaline. He's kept his family—wife Kathy and children Meredith, 18, and Doug, 17—as far out of the limelight as any celebrity's family can be.

"It is to Chris's everlasting credit that I have never seen any discernible change in him," Olbermann muses. "It has never been with him, 'These sweetmeats are insufficient to my palate.' When I think of how other people in this business are, how unbearable some of them are, Chris isn't even on the same radar screen.

"Of course, I once said that to someone else, and Chris read it, and he said, 'I'm glad you like me.' I told him, 'Chris, I didn't say I liked you,'" says the famously prickly Olbermann. "He was really shocked by that."

But Berman's was the perfect personality for the burgeoning enterprise, which required good cheer as much as it did stamina. Gradually, along with the rest of the industry, ESPN learned that the nature of cable television militated against the monolithic uniformity of the old broadcast networks. On cable, it seemed, someone really could be Bert (Be Home) Blyleven. Berman had a broken field on which to run.

The nicknames came gradually, beginning with his appearances on SportsCenter, which became the fulcrum of the network's programming. (This was something of a surprise to those people who watched the show in the early days, when anchors dressed like Ukrainian headwaiters wandered around a set on which Ron Popeil would never have deigned to hack a tomato.) The first Boomerism is said to have been John Mayberry (RFD), hung on one of the premier power hitters of that era.

When a producer briefly banned the nicknames, something of a national dustup ensued, which was nothing if not a measure of how deeply ESPN--and Berman--had penetrated the marketplace. It was becoming quite clear that cable gave its stars far greater range in which to display their personalities than the broadcast networks did, and nowhere was the range greater than on ESPN. "We have a saying around here, all of us old guys," says Berman. "'Could this guy have played here in the 1980s?'"

Throughout the '80s, as ESPN slowly became a force and Berman slowly became a star, he still measured success by the old broadcast standards. During the days when they shared an agent, Olbermann heard Berman more than once ask that the agent find him a job as a local sportscaster in a big market. Berman admits that in 1983 he thought seriously of taking a job at KGO in San Francisco, a city for which he maintains a serious passion. "I might've taken it," he says. "I went hard after that a couple of times. In '83 that would've been a six-figure salary, like, you know, $125,000, and in 1983, I was making maybe $40,000 here." (Today Berman is nearing the end of a contract that pays him an estimated $1 million a year, and he's negotiating a new deal with the network.)

"But I started to think, O.K., now we're getting a little bigger, and I don't have to go bing-bing-bing from one job to another to get on TV in San Francisco," he says. "Up until then it was like baseball. Maybe you started in Single A in Peoria, and eventually, you're doing weekends in Hartford and then the Number 1 job in Pittsburgh and then, 'Ooh, I got the job in Philly.'

"But it changed here. I remember all these little checkpoints along the line. Some would be personal. I'd get recognized on the West Coast. I'd like to say I was real smart and figured this all out. But I don't think anybody, except maybe Ted Turner, saw where this was headed at the beginning."

By 1987 ESPN had developed as distinct an identity as any cable network, and Berman was a vital part of it. He did every sport. He did hundreds of promotional appearances for the network, much to the amazement of people like fellow anchor Bob Ley (page 94), who, like Berman, had been present at the creation but whose personal style couldn't be more different. "I have no idea what they ask Boomer to do," says Ley. "Sponsor bulls, all those welcomes and tapings. Whatever they're paying him, it ain't nearly enough. I mean, he just works his ass off, and not just on TV, either."

Still, it wasn't until 1987, when ESPN landed its first National Football League package and beefed up its own NFL programming to match, that Berman found the place where his enthusiasm ("Chris still cares who wins the games every Sunday," says Ley) and the persona he had created over the previous decade came into perfect convergence. It was television that had brought the games from out of the bleachers and onto the sofa. It was the NFL that had first adapted its product to the rising medium, and hence, while Chris Berman and every other fan of his age was growing up, slowly but surely, America had found itself with a new national pastime.

*****

Because of how pro football had used television to transform itself into the gravitational center of the American sports universe, the acquisition of a regular NFL package was the last great step that ESPN took out of its primordial ooze. And Berman, who, like the rest of his generation, had watched the NFL come to dominate televised sports, knew it instantly. "In '84 we'd say, Well, maybe we can get the NFL in about 15 years," he explains. "I mean, man, [now it came] after we had been around for eight years, and they're going to invent a Sunday-night package for us."

Between the Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show and the highly rated NFL PrimeTime package on Sunday nights, as well as his work through 1999 on the halftime highlights on the Monday-night games carried by ESPN's synergistic big brother, ABC, Berman has come as close to being the television voice of the NFL as anyone ever has been. And, unlike Cosell, who came nearly as close, he does not bridle at the thought.

On Sundays, Berman is omnipresent on the ESPN lot. He does the morning show and then retires with his partners to watch the day's games in a raucous session that generally gets Berman chaffed for his pronounced predilection to run with the favorites. "He is without question the biggest front-runner I know," says Chris Mortensen, who works with Berman on NFL Countdown. "We're all over him about that."

It is the NFL that lights Berman up. They are mostly NFL names that he drops, one after the other, as the conversation quickens. His good friend Bill Belichick up in New England. His very good friend Eddie DeBartolo Jr., once the owner of the 49ers out there in San Francisco, who's out of football now because he had to turn state's evidence against former governor Edwin Edwards in a political scandal that was messy even by the standards of Louisiana. In 1991 Berman accepted a 49ers championship ring from DeBartolo, only to return it after taking some flak for it, within and outside ESPN. "I know one thing," Berman says of DeBartolo. "The league misses him."

Berman has become a creature of the league, and it shows. Despite all the bombast, and the nicknames, and the genuine bonhomie, he walks a professional line that can thin almost to disappearing, if he's not very careful. "Look," says Mortensen, a prize-winning newspaper reporter before he joined ESPN in 1991, "when you're a so-called reporter like me, walking into this situation, you're accustomed to taking a different approach. Chris makes no bones about it. He's a fan."

"You know," Berman explains, "these [athletes and executives] aren't enemies to us. We get into sports because we like the games and we like the people who play them. Maybe what we're supposed to be, to quote Woody Allen from Broadway Danny Rose, is friendly but never familiar.

"It almost goes to, you know, 'Are you a journalist?' With the stuff [I] learn all the time, it isn't like, 'I have a scoop' or anything like that. I may not have a scoop, but I [get it] right. I mean, ask the people I work with. Go ask Belichick or [Philadelphia Eagles coach] Andy Reid. My job is different from the guys at the network who have to be pit bulls. I mean, I've got information that can sink countries. I just don't need to bury banana republics every day. It's not my M.O."

The question of Berman's friendship with some of those about whom he bellows on a Sunday seems these days almost as quaint as asking whether or not he has rabbit ears atop his TV or an antenna on the roof. The question has always been central to the hiring of ex-athletes and ex-coaches as commentators, a practice that nearly drove Cosell mad, but one which ESPN has refined into high art. Moreover, the question isn't even unique to Berman, to ESPN, or to sports television, for all that.

In August, Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned MSNBC host, showed up at a rally at which he was seen applauding President George W. Bush. In response to complaints, MSNBC president Rick Kaplan split a preposterously delicate hair, stating that there were different rules for "opinion hosts" than there were for "news hosts." Elsewhere, Fox News has as one of its principal anchors Tony Snow, a former speechwriter for the first President Bush. And within the same conglomerate that employs Berman, ABC handed its Sunday morning news program over to George Stephanopolous, who once spun for President Bill Clinton. On that same show one of the regular analysts—the Chris Mortensen of the Beltway, as it were—is columnist George Will, who, in 1980, just as Chris Berman was establishing himself in Bristol, once famously prepped Ronald Reagan for a debate with President Jimmy Carter, and then turned up on television essentially praising his own handiwork. In fact, the television news universe is now replete with former flacks, hacks and political quacks, all performing in reportorial drag, and on issues infinitely more important than who might be starting at running back this weekend for the 49ers. Given that unruly menagerie elsewhere, the question of whether Chris Berman is a "journalist" seems pretty much like locking the barn after the horse was stolen, then escaped from hiscaptors and set himself up in life with a new job pulling a beer truck in St. Louis.

Perhaps what's left is the performance. Berman says he'll know it's time to leave for the land he already owns on Maui when his references to the Rolling Stones fall dumbly on hip-hop ears. Already there are signs that ESPN is getting away from him a bit. He claims not to have seen an NBA game in 10 years, and at this year's major league All-Star Game, when SportsCenter led with the trade of Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat instead of baseball, an open microphone caught Berman telling broadcast partner Harold Reynolds, "Now you know why I don't watch our show anymore." And there's an awful lot of ESPN programming now aimed at kids who look at Chris Berman the way he once looked at Ray Scott.

"I'll be gone quicker than people think," he says. "I still see Willie Mays, falling down in centerfield. But I do know this, I'm not going to sour on sports. I'm going to watch the games. I could walk right now—for about a year and a half, and then I wouldn't know what to do."

*****

So when did it happen? It never stopped happening, not since the day when all of us, even the Bermans of Rye, N.Y., invited the thing into our living room after it promised to behave like the rest of the furniture, and then it didn't. We are passing out of that first generation now, out of the generation that learned about cable television by watching broadcast television.

"Nobody here draws a distinction between cable television and over-the-air television except people as old as me," says Bob Ley, who's been carried along on the great arc of it himself. "We recognize that the world is changing."

And perhaps that will be Chris Berman's legacy--that he remembers when television pulled its programming out of the sweet, free air, and that he's one of the first people who learned his life's work 500 channels at a time, the way we all would come to learn so many things, good and bad, and keep learning them today. Chris Berman learned his lesson well, and he learned how to be a television star from the only teacher that really counts. He learned it from television.

But Serious Ley, Folks

Renowned for his reporting and anchor work, this esteemed veteran has found a niche outside the merriment

Bob Ley stranded. He's out on the North Carolina seacoast, and the first demihurricane of the season has come to call, and Ley's hanging out there on the edge of the continent as the tide rises and the winds do blow.

"We're not worried," he says. "As long as the women and tequila hold out."

This would be a funny line in any case. But to anyone who's been paying attention over the past quarter century, hearing 49-year-old Bob Ley talk about women and tequila is roughly akin to having Alan Greenspan stop by to share his recipe for electric brownies. Over the past 25 years, as ESPN has expanded and exploded and boo-yahed its way into the heart of the national consciousness, Ley occasionally seems to have been dragooned into the post of hall monitor. "A friend of mine always tells me, 'You know, you really suck all the life out of sports,'" says Ley, who joined the network when it was three days old. "Some people are cursed to have a point of view that takes them toward the more serious stuff. I mean, I manage to anesthetize my brain and do SportsCenter for 21/2 hours on Sunday, and I have fun doing it, but SportsCenter has evolved into something different from what it used to be."

Ley--"the General," to most longtime ESPN employees--wasn't always the sober conscience of the sporty things. In the early days he was so identified with ESPN that, in 1979, it was he who got a letter and a demo tape from an ambitious University of Dayton senior named Dan Patrick. For quite a while in the 1980s, he traveled the college basketball circuit with Dick Vitale, who had not yet achieved the market penetration of Dutch elm disease. Many were the cold, snowy mornings in which Ley and Vitale would be by themselves, sitting at a gate on the airport concourse in Syracuse. A lone writer would appear, and Vitale, who had gone six hours without having anyone else to talk to, would pounce. Ley would put his hat over his eyes and pretend to be asleep.

While Chris Berman got famous with his nicknames and his bombast, Ley was developing into the nearest thing ESPN had to Jim McKay. It was Ley, for instance, who held things together at the desk at Candlestick Park when the earthquake hit the Bay Area during the 1989 World Series. A decade later, though, Ley was thinking about leaving a network at which he increasingly felt he had no place. "If someone had come around with the right offer then," Ley says, "I would have actively considered it."

In 1999, however, ESPN executives approached Ley to expand his issue-oriented series called Outside the Lines, which premiered in the mid-'80s. Ley jumped at the chance. OTL began as a weekly show on April 1, 2000, and on May 12, 2003, went nightly, telecast after the late SportsCenter. Ley has followed stories to Vietnam, investigating conditions in athletic-shoe factories, and to Russia, where, while reporting on sports there after the fall of the Soviet Union, Ley and his producer nearly got stampeded during a Boris Yeltsin rally. The show mixes in lighter material as well, such as the feature this year on the rise of sports websites, in which viewers met people who differ from some of the higher forms of fungi only in their ability to type. "There are stories where we make a conscious effort to go a little light," Ley says. "We're not simon pure."

He has stayed in the background during ESPN's ongoing celebration of itself this year. "The best memories," he says, "are the ones that you never could put on the air." Instead, he's on the Outer Banks, waiting for the storm to blow itself out. Could be worse. Could be Syracuse, and the high wind could be Dickie V. --C.P.P.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)