ESPN'S CHRIS BERMAN PICKS RAVENS TO WIN SUPER BOWL
Take 10 steps and see the space you cover in those movements.
At its base, that's what football is about. That space of 10 yards. Winners and losers in most games are determined by how well you can move 10 yards in three plays and how well you stop the opponent from gaining those 10 yards in three plays.
Now imagine M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday. It's the Ravens' 11 players against the Steelers' 11 in a constant battle over 10 yards at a time.
Sure, there are other elements of the game: special teams, turnovers and big plays that go beyond those 10 hard-fought yards.
But football, fundamentally, is all about 10 yards of real estate at a time. And in no game this weekend will the fight over those 10 yards be fought more intensely – more brutally – than in the Baltimore/Pittsburgh clash.
As ESPN's Chris Berman told me Wednesday afternoon: "Ravens and Steelers…old fashion football. This is a game played the way it used to be played. This is a game played the way football was invented.
"You have to buckle up for a game like this. Front seats and back seats. Buckle up on your couch, in the stands, on the field. Are you kidding me? Ravens and Steelers at 1 o'clock on Sunday. No prime time. Football at 1 p.m., the way it used to be. The game should only be on radio. That's the respect I have for this game. Maybe I'll have them turn off the monitor, and I'll only listen to the game, just like when I was growing up." Berman added.
BERMAN LOVES PRO FOOTBALL
There are many people who work in the NFL who love the game. Some of you fans feel the same way. But, I have never met any person who loves the game more than Chris "Boomer" Berman. To me, he shows it with every telecast he hosts on ESPN. I believe ESPN's "Primetime," which ran for years on Sunday nights with Chris and Tom Jackson, was the best show in the history of NFL coverage. The nicknames, the sound effects, the calling of the plays … It was informative and entertaining. When NBC-TV bought the rights for Sunday Night Football, ESPN lost the rights for the Sunday "Primetime" show.
That's a loss for fans.
"To me, you love the game of pro football more than anyone outside of a team," I said to "Boomer" in our conversation. "I do love the game," was his response. "Tell me why," I asked.
I couldn't write fast enough. It was Berman at his best.
"It's the ultimate team game where the sum total is always greater than the individual parts. The game itself is a spectacle on a large scale that also includes the small: one-on-one battles between players," the Brown University graduate explained.
"There is a throwback element to the games that takes people back to their youth. All the games are important. I grew up on it. One game a week, each one carrying such significance. None unimportant.
"Think about this," Berman continued, "It's the coming together of a whole community that has been waiting for a week for this event. It's the relationships in the stands of people coming together for a common cause. The conversations: who do you think will win? Can we stop him? Can they stop so-and-so? It's strategy, and we talk about it, sometimes with complete strangers."
"Football is appointment driven," the ESPN star added. "Where are we watching the game? We come together over the game. 'Let's watch it at my house. Let's go to this bar. Let's find a way to get tickets and go to the game.' It's about family and friends coming together and sharing the weekly event.
"I also respect the strategy, the effort every day by coaches and players to get ready. The planning, I enjoy that. I enjoy the people in your business: the players, the coaches, the general managers, the front office. You have such loyalty to each other. That doesn't happen in every business. You close ranks. You circle the wagons. That's admirable. Fans can connect to that. I can go on and on, but we both have work to do," Berman said.
Actually, I could have listened a lot more.
BERMAN PICKS RAVENS TO WIN SUPER BOWL
Our conversation started because Chris wanted to let us know that he, also known as "The Swami," was picking us to win the Super Bowl this year. "I've been going between you guys and the 'Powder Blues' (the Chargers). In the end, I'm picking the purple."
We like that, Chris. "Is the Swami picking the winner of the Ravens/Steelers this week?" I asked. "I am," Berman answered. "But, it can't be a normal score. Can't be 14-10, or 17-13, 20-13 or anything like that. How's this, Ravens win, 16-11. No, make that 15-11 in what we all know will be a throwback game."
We'll take it, Chris. Don't care what the score is. Let's beat those Steelers. It will be a spectacular day at M&T Bank Stadium. Ravens and Steelers. Can it get any better than this for a season opener? Enjoy the game!
Talk with you next week,
Kevin Byrne, a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.