Boomer brings his best

ESPN host Chris Berman jokes around with Bomber slotback Milt Stegall yesterday. SUN MEDIA/Brian...

ESPN host Chris Berman jokes around with Bomber slotback Milt Stegall yesterday. SUN MEDIA/Brian Donogh

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

It was a Sunday in mid-November, last year, and broadcaster Chris Berman is in the ESPN studios, TV monitors showing NFL games all around him.

But it was a CFL game on the monitor in the corner that caught Berman's attention that day: the East semifinal between the Blue Bombers and Montreal.

The game is winding down, 1:35 to go and the Alouettes clinging to a one-point lead, when we witnessed a coaching decision that helped produce an unlikely Bomber victory.

Yesterday, the most recognizable face in U.S. sports broadcasting walked onto the field at Bomber training camp, shook hands with head coach Doug Berry and immediately remembered what happened here, more than six months ago.

"I stood on the field and went, 'Wait a minute, Montreal went for it on third and one, didn't they, with a one-point lead with two minutes to go -- what the hell was that?' " Berman said of his conversation with Berry. "We actually talked about that for five minutes."

It was part of a whirlwind day for the man who's been named the U.S.'s National Sportscaster of the Year six times, in town to speak at last night's Y Sports Dinner.

The man drew some 1,300 people, an all-time high for the 36-year fundraiser.

"We've sold 1,300 tickets in June in Winnipeg -- you guys have nothing to do?" Berman cracked, showing the trademark sense of humour that's served him so well that he's marking his 29th year on ESPN.

Here are just a few of the "Bermanisms" produced yesterday.

- On the best nickname he ever gave a player: "The best one ever was Bert Blyleven: 'Bert Be Home Blyleven.' You don't have to know sports or anything to get that."

-On which athlete was most upset about his nickname: "Kevin Bass, Astros. He said, 'You called me a largemouth bass -- it makes me sound like a complainer.' I said, 'How's smallmouth?' He said, 'Perfect.' So that was an easy negotiation."

- On how he comes up with the names: "Some days you're in a creative mood, some days you're not. Some days you've had three beers, some days you haven't."

- On what he knows about Bomber history: "I know Bud Grant coached here. And he brought Joe Kapp with him. It was hard for us to understand that anybody came south to Minnesota. What do you mean they came south -- from where?"

- On Bomber receiver Milt Stegall: "I kind of wondered why we never saw him in the NFL. Anybody that can catch 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, or whatever the hell he did five years ago, I don't care if you're a midget -- that's good."

- On what he knows about curling: "It's a big thing, it goes slow, you sweep it with a broom. But don't ask me to dissect the World Curling Championship. We don't know the rules."

- On criticism he's taken because of an internet video that shows him ranting at ESPN staff in the studio: "I was a quarterback yelling at his linemen. It's disappointing someone would think that's important. And then for someone to go and write, 'See, that proves he's a phony.' Phony about what? That I got upset once in 28 years?"

- On his first gig at ESPN: "They put me on at three o'clock in the morning. I had hair down to my shoulders, had a nice Fu Manchu moustache. It was 1979. I shouldn't have been on any earlier than midnight, and I wasn't."

And so it went.

Oh, and what would a day with Berman be without a prediction from the Swami, say, for the next Super Bowl?

"Winnipeg against B.C." he said. "Why not -- your season's closer to starting than mine, so let's go with it."

We know there will be one person watching it from an ESPN studio on a Sunday in November.

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BERMANISMS, OFF THE CUFF

ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman is known for playing with names, so we handed him a Blue Bomber training camp roster and asked him to go to town. Here's five of his better off-the-cuff creations:

- Aaron "Tooth" Fairooz

- Ryan "He Dinwiddie Could" in the Grey Cup.

- Anthony "the Malbrough Man"

- Greg "A Rolling Stone Gathers No" Moss

- Dominic "Should Have Been a First-Round" Picard


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