Career goals, Tom Brady, the growth of ESPN and the top five quarterbacks in National Football League history.
Those are some of the topics SportsCenter anchor Chris Berman covered while speaking to a group of students and faculty at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale last month.
Berman spoke to the students in a “fireside chat” setting before his announced appearance at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, which wrapped up the school’s 2015 speaker series that started in January.
Broward College sophomore Fernando Pesantes, who attended the event after a last-minute invitation, liked the intimacy of the setting and was glad he made time for the event.
“This was awesome,” Pesantes said. “It’s a lot better than what I expected and a lot better than advertised. It definitely kept me captivated the whole time and it was really cool. [Berman] is inspirational, especially as he talks about his past experiences and his answers for the questions were all really good.”
Students and faculty asked Berman questions about his life and experiences during his visit, which was moderated by Willis Holcombe Center Associate Dean of Academics Thomas Nguyen. Below are excerpts of Berman’s time with the students. The questions and answers have been edited for clarity.
Nguyen: Do you have any general comments for our students?
Berman: There were 70 or 80 of us at the time [when ESPN started] … A lot can happen in 35 years; it seems like a long time, but it’s not really. In that time we’ve gone from about 70 people to 7,000 and from one station to everything that we have now. For me, it was very interesting being there because we didn’t know what the hell was going to happen. I was 24, so it didn’t matter to me. I was doing what I wanted to do and it wasn’t about the money. I was making about $16,000 [doing] the 3 a.m. show …
I know it seems impossible that ESPN was a question mark, once upon a time. But we didn’t know, and I didn’t know that I was going to be good at it … But my message to students is you have time. If you’re good at it, it’s fun to do, just go for it, whatever it is that you want to do. It doesn’t always work out, and life isn’t totally fair, but it’s worth finding out. The rest of your life you know you gave it an honest shot.
Nguyen: You’ve interviewed many sports legends over the years. Can you share with us some of the favorite folks that you’ve interviewed, or maybe those that were more difficult to interview?
Berman: Let’s just take football. The ones who are still playing in their 30s, and that’s late in their careers [in football terms], they want to do it. They want to be great at it. They [don’t do it for the money because they] have enough money after 10 years if they are fortunate enough to play pro football. There is a drive and a commitment.
I remember the late Walter Payton, you wouldn’t know that he was the all-time rushing leader [at the time]. When you sat and talked with him [he was always about practicing].
Joe Montana is a good friend of mine. He is another soft-spoken one. I asked him, ‘What is it about winning, Joe?’ He goes, ‘Well I’m just like a little kid. I’m afraid to lose.’ I was [surprised] because he had won [a lot].
So I don’t know who was the best. There are athletes that have such a joy to play the game, even though they know they could get hurt any minute and it’s tough work though the years.
Nguyen: What’s Dan Marino like and where do you rank him in top NFL quarterbacks?
Berman: First, Dan is a great guy, like you all know in this community. When Dan was early in his career, he was pretty standoffish to the media. I think because of all the stuff in the draft … I think he was stung by it – and rightly so. So I think he was a little guarded. At the time, I thought he was a pain in the butt. Now he’s grown into a great friend.
Where does he rank? … He’s good. If anyone put him in the top five, no one would argue. That’s pretty good when they’ve been playing football for almost 100 years.
Nguyen: What’s your take on ‘deflategate’?
Berman: Because no one has played a game [since it happened], and we haven’t moved on from it yet, it seems like, ‘Oh my God.’ But in the big picture, it probably won’t [factor in] very much. I don’t have the answers, and I haven’t read the 243 pages [of the investigation report], yet. It’s hard to connect the dots.
Here’s what we don’t know: If it was going on, how long it was going on – and what I really don’t know but by the time the season starts I’ll have my own opinion – how long has this been going on with how many other teams? I don’t know that. I’d like to think that what they are being penalized for didn’t actually happen the way it went down. If it did, that’s disappointing. It’s too bad because of what they just accomplished. In regards to [Tom Brady’s] legacy, I don’t think we’ll be talking about this in two years. It’ll be remembered, but that’s not why he won four Super Bowls.
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