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Berman still shows loyalty to CFL Add to ...

He has the best-known face in the world of professional football.

And every season at this time of year, ESPN football host Chris Berman turns his attention north of the border to shed the spotlight for his millions of viewers on the Canadian Football League.

Berman's showcasing of CFL playoff highlights during his Monday night "Fastest Three Minutes in Sports" segment has become destination viewing for CFL players, coaches and fans.

And just as he's done the past two weeks for the division semi-finals and finals, Berman promises the Grey Cup will figure prominently when he and studio partner Tom Jackson go to air during halftime of Monday night's game between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.

Which begs the question of why an American sports media icon devotes such exposure to a league most Americans know absolutely nothing about?

"With the highlights, it's my decision," Berman said. "I do it because it's good pictures and good fun. The folks in Canada know I follow their game. I'm tickled that the players appreciate it. I do it because I respect what they do without a lot of fanfare in this country."

Berman's affinity for the CFL began in the early day of ESPN when the network used to air CFL games.

"Warren Moon was with Edmonton, they were winning and we watched a lot of the games," said Berman. "It was among the more legitimate stuff we had. It was a little jarring to our eyes but I just liked the game. I've always enjoyed the game. I can't say I follow it as closely as you might think but I've always enjoyed the game. And I can tell you who's had a good year and who hasn't had a good one."

The other thing that fed Berman's curiosity about Canadian football was his relationships with former Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy and current Indianapolis general manager Bill Polian, both of whom worked in the CFL.

"We sat and talked quite a bit about the distinctiveness of the CFL," Berman said. "All along the way we've had people who've legitimized the CFL for me."

Though Berman said his dedication to following the CFL has fluctuated over the years, there have always been players to draw his interest back to the three-down game.

After Moon, there was Doug Flutie and then Jeff Garcia. More recently, Berman has followed the exploits of Winnipeg receiver Milt Stegall, whose record-setting catch he featured during halftime of a Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game on Sept, 15th, the highest rated cable telecast of any kind in U.S. history.

Though Berman's enthusiasm for the CFL spills out on air, studio partner Jackson can appear a little lost after Berman rolls his three-down highlights.

"He loves it," Berman said. "He just doesn't know what's going on. And he hopes I don't turn to him and say 'Who do you like?' "

Berman's pick for this year's Grey Cup? He's got the Alouettes by six points.

What he's really looking forward to, however, is calling out the highlight of a Montreal touchdown in French during his halftime show Monday.

"If someone for Montreal goes a long way on a play you will hear me say, 'Il pourrait aller toute la distance!' I don't care if they lose 38-7. You'll hear it. It's in. You can make a bet on it."

 

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