SBD/November 6, 2012/Media

Berman's "MNF" Interviews With Obama, Romney Fail To Stir The Masses

ESPN’s Chris Berman interviewed both President Obama and Mitt Romney during halftime of ESPN’s Eagles-Saints "MNF" game last night, but a large number of Twitter users were ambivalent about the segment. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Schultz wrote, "Oh goody, just what we all wanted and needed on this night: Chris Berman breaking down the election." Dallas Morning News Evan Grant wrote, "Chris Berman interviewing Obama and Romney? OK, the election is officially a farce." The Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti wrote, "I turned off the sound when Chris Berman started his interviews with the presidential candidates." SB Nation's Jeff Gluck wrote, "Just goes to show you how clueless upper management TV execs are that they think we want to see Chris Berman interview candidates." WFAN-AM's Sweeny Murti wrote, "Wow. Those Berman interviews were awesome. Can't wait until the tables are turned when A-Rod guests on Meet The Press." Newsday's Erik Boland wrote, "I wonder how many people will, at the last minute, decide to vote because Chris Berman and Mike Tirico told them they should."

WEIGHING IN: Berman during the segment asked Obama what “does he now know about America and Americans that he may not have known four years ago.” Obama said, “This is a big, diverse country. People have a lot of strong opinions, there are a lot of differences but at their core Americans are hard-working, they are self-reliant, they are decent, they look after one another. ... One of the big unifiers in this country is sports, and football in particular. You don’t go anyplace where folks don’t talk about some football.” Berman noted Obama four years ago called for a college football playoff, something that will happen in beginning in '14. Obama jokingly said, “Promises made, promises kept. ... This is the kind of change you can believe in." He added he would "like to see it actually go to eight” teams in a playoff instead of four. Romney during his interview said if he could change one thing in sports it would be to remove the “specter” of performance-enhancing drugs because “that’s the biggest concern in sport.” Romney said when he was serving as SLOC President & CEO for the ’02 Salt Lake Games, “that was always the issue that clouded a potential accomplishment.” Romney said at the Salt Lake Games he saw the “great qualities of the human spirit,” which will help him if he is elected president. Romney: “Most people watch the Olympics not just because of the interest in the sport itself. I mean, how many people were avid fans of women’s bobsled, for instance, before the Olympics. But they watch the bobsled event because they get to see the character of human beings in the crucible of sport” (“MNF," ESPN, 11/5). Berman also interviewed Obama and John McCain the Monday night prior to the '08 election (THE DAILY).

THE RIGHT CHOICE? SI.com’s Richard Deitsch prior to the interviews wrote the selection of Berman to conduct the discussions was a "poor choice in my opinion given the network has at least 100 staffers better suited for the role.” Deitsch: “Will Berman ask relevant questions? Of course he will. A posse of smart and journalistically sound people led by ESPN senior vice president and director of news Vince Doria will aid Berman with tangible queries.” But ESPN has “plenty of people on staff ... who have far more journalistic bona fides than Berman, still solid as a host on ‘Sunday NFL Countdown’ but better suited at soft-balling Roger Goodell and NFL owners with ice cream sundaes when it comes to serious interviewing” (SI.com, 11/5). S.F. Chronicle’s C.W. Nevius said before the interviews, “Sporting events like this are like the ultimate live reality show. You’ve got a built-in audience, you’ve got people there. All I would say is don't fumble. You’ve got a lot of potential to mess up in front of a big audience. If it goes as planned, it’ll be fine” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 11/5). 

"MNF" RATING: ESPN earned a 9.5 overnight Nielsen rating for the Saints' 28-13 win over the Eagles last night. The game does not include ratings for the greater N.Y. area due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Last year's comparable Bears-Eagles game drew an 11.7 overnight rating. Last night's game peaked with an 11.1 rating in the 9:30-9:45pm ET quarter hour (THE DAILY).
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