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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Chris Berman’s ‘NFL Primetime’ Returns to ESPN TV Sunday

  • Berman to host after NFL Conference Championships, Super Bowl.
  • Berman and Booger McFarland normally stream their show on ESPN+.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best sports shows of all time is coming back to TV this weekend — for a limited engagement.

After Sunday’s two NFL Championship Games and Super Bowl LVII, ESPN will put the classic “NFL Primetime” back on its flagship TV network.

Chris Berman and former Super Bowl champion Booger McFarland will dissect the action. 

Their weekly show typically streams on the ESPN+ platform. But as part of his semi-retirement, the legendary Berman gets to bring it back to TV every season for the NFL’s three most important games.

Berman and McFarland will also offer ESPN’s first preview of Super Bowl LVII. Once Super Bowl LVII broadcast Fox Sports goes off the air, the duo will recap all the highlights and actions from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 12.

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If fans tune in Sunday night after 10 p.m. ET, they’ll step into a time machine and get a dose of old-school ESPN. 

“NFL Primetime” is right up there with ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and TNT’s “Inside the NBA” as the best sports studio shows in TV history. Before “NFL RedZone,” before cell phones and social media, before even the Internet, there was “NFL Primetime.”

Premiering in 1987, Berman and longtime partner Tom Jackson colorfully recounted highlights from the day’s NFL games during the hour-long program.

Nicknamed “Boomer,” Berman was the fun-loving, high-energy host with his signature nicknames (Jake “Daylight Come and You Gotta” Delhomme). 

Jackson, or “TJ,” brought his gravitas and analysis as a former linebacker for the Denver Broncos’ “Orange Crush” Super Bowl defense. 

Besides the chemistry between the duo, the show boasted the best football highlights music since composer Sam Spence turned spiraling footballs into poetry for NFL Films.

If you were a hard-core football fan, fantasy football player, or sports bettor, you watched “NFL Primetime” back in the day. 

It was one of the only places fans could get game highlights besides a quick halftime recap on “Monday Night Football.” The cable TV show became one of the long-running sports series ever, running nearly 20 years.

It could have run forever. But NBC Sports scored the rights to “Sunday Night Football” in 2006. As part of the negotiations, NBC Sports boss Dick Ebersol wangled highlight rights to the TV window following the conclusion of Sunday afternoon games. 

NBC then launched its own highlight show, “Football Night in America.” While ESPN gained the rights to “Monday Night Football,” it had to put “NFL Primetime” on the bench. 

The show labored on, in truncated forms, and on different days at different times. But nothing equaled its old Sunday night slot’s reach and prominence. 

Jackson retired in 2016. Then Berman turned over his stewardship of “Sunday NFL Countdown” to Samantha Ponder after 31 years in 2017. 

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Of course, ESPN had its own business reasons for giving up “NFL Primetime.” But the decision has always ticked off Berman, ESPN’s NFL coverage’s longtime face and voice.

In James Andrew Miller’s ESPN book, Berman called the network losing “NFL Primetime” a “f—up of the tenth magnitude.” 

He’s publicly said that “NFL Primetime” will be at the top when his professional tombstone is written.

During an interview with Sporting News in 2018, Berman reminisced about the reaction to the show. 

Some fans wrote him letters saying the show turned them and their kids into football fans. Others said it brought feuding family members together, at least for one hour a week.

“It was a gathering place. It was appointment TV beyond what we knew we were doing,” said Berman.

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