Week 2 of the NFL season produced plenty of highlights and for the first time in a long time, every one of them was presented by Chris Berman and Tom Jackson.
NFL Primetime was a weekly staple in the fall on ESPN from 1987 to 2005 and it’s made the occasional special appearance in the years since, but from this past Sunday through the rest of the season, the band is back together in Bristol for the rebirth of the show on ESPN+. The show’s return was announced officially late last week, and for a certain segment of football fans (including myself) it was cause for celebration.
I grew up watching Boom and Teej, because in the years before Red Zone and Sunday Ticket (and Sunday Night Football), the way to see everything that happened in the NFL on Sunday was to tune in to Primetime. The world’s consumption habits have changed in terms of how they see highlights, and no longer are there only a few games available to you each week based on your market. By the time 7:30 p.m. ET has rolled around, you’ve probably seen the biggest plays of the day on social media and know every score and how they happened.
That’s not what the current iteration of NFL Primetime is about, though. It’s for those that have missed Berman and Jackson, the music we know so well, and, of course, all of the puns and nicknames, singing and sound effects. That’s why the show isn’t on ESPN proper, but on ESPN+. It’s available for you on demand whenever you’re able to carve out 45 minutes — or a few 15 minute breaks to come back to it — which might be the perfect set up for a highlight show in 2019. You can’t run Primetime on TV up against an actual football game, but having it available for those that want to fire it up at work on Monday or, like me, during halftime of the Sunday Night game, is perfect.
As for the content, it’s exactly what you want and expect from Primetime. Berman is still one of the best in the business at reading a highlight, even if sometimes he’s rumblin’, bumblin’, and stumblin’ over his words in his first week back at it. The music is perfect and belongs only on highlights that feature Boom’s voice. They played the hits, but showed some restraint — we’re still waiting for our first big “WHOOOOOOP”. The first highlight of the first show back was Kyler Murray against Lamar Jackson, which meant we opened the show with a “FROM?…Louisville!” Boomer might not have as much on his fastball anymore, but him dubbing Raheem Mostert, “Dijon,” got an audible laugh out of me. Tom is still the perfect foil for Berman’s bombast, delivering level-headed analysis and breakdowns of big plays.
It’s been 32 years since the premiere of Primetime. Plenty has changed over the years in the NFL and at ESPN that has made a weekly highlight show, on its own, a relic. But nostalgia is a helluva drug, and for this year, fans of a certain age will cherish the return of Primetime. We’ll watch highlights we’ve already seen, wanting to see how Chris and Tom will deliver them. We’ll laugh at old bits and new nicknames, and bask in what amounts to a victory lap for the best sports highlight show in history.