Dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnah, dun dun dun dun dun dunnah, ifwecouldonlybringBoomerandTJoutofretirementforonemoregowithaclassicprogram
– Chris Berman whenever Marc Bulger (also the name of the actor who played the Tin Man on The Wizard of Oz) dropped back to pass
I don’t care about your disdain for Chris Berman. I don’t care that his shtick “got old”. I don’t care if you somehow hate Tom Jackson.
Chris Berman’s place as a broadcaster cannot be changed, removed, etc., he is permanently etched on a Wall of Fame that not even the biggest detractors can chisel through. A large reason for that, to me, is because of the work he did with NFL Primetime.
NFL Primetime was a Sunday evening staple that ran on ESPN starting in 1987, staying in that timeslot (before Sunday Night Football) until after the 2005 season. Primetime featured a recap of all the games played that Sunday, offering to show even the more minor plays that had an impact later on. For example, in a low scoring affair, part of the package would show a player avoiding a safety, or running a seemingly safe play to setup a victory. It gave you a full sense of what unfolded during the game. For example, in 2000 when T.O. broke the most catches in a game record, I distinctly remember Primetime showing ALL 20 of his catches. It was a dedication to showing the viewer what transpired that put Primetime above a lot of other recap programs. It was also the music.
NFL Primetime focused on using recurring themes for their highlights with certain teams even getting their own distinct theme (Bills embedded above). A range of about 30-35 different themes were used during the show’s run, giving it its own unique flavor. While most highlight shows use/used themes as background music, Berman’s intensity and Jackson’s commentary helped take the themes used during Primetime to a new level.
The above highlight gives you a nice microcosm of Primetime in its heyday, which I would say was anywhere between 98 and 2006 when Berman and TJ found their groove in the current era of the league. Berman was polished with his accounts of the game, the nicknames he chose (oh God the nicknames), the producers arranged the highlights in such a manner that you felt as if you had seen the biggest events of the game truly unfold instead of being told about them and just thrown a highlight or two.
The current format of the program ended in 2006 once NBC acquired the rights to the Sunday Night game and the exclusive rights to showcase the day’s highlights in that Sunday evening timeslot. With “Football Night in America” debuting, NFL Primetime would have to move. ESPN removed Boomer and TJ from the program and refocused them to Sunday late nights on SportsCenter segments called “The Blitz”. They’ve also gotten some airtime with NFL Playoff games. Trey Wingo (who is good in his own right, but not what Berman was for Primetime) has taken over the Primetime hosting duties with the program also becoming more storyline driven, focusing on player accomplishments rather than the game itself.
That being said, I think I can speak for everyone who grew up in the original primetime era when I say that it’s sorely missed. I would love to hear Chris Berman call highlights for today’s NFL and hear the nicknames he provides for today’s class as well. It’s a shame he’s taken on a reduced role with ESPN, but it’s also understandable. But if ESPN could somehow convince him and TJ to lace it up one more time, it would truly be epic.
By the way, there are a few people who have uploaded ENTIRE Primetime episodes on Youtube, here you go, I’ve linked to the three biggest channels with several episodes. Have fun.