Growing up as a sports fan in Buffalo and beginning my career as a sports writer for the Tonawanda News and then the Buffalo Courier-Express, it was obvious my favorite television show was ESPN’s SportsCenter and it did not take long for my favorite broadcaster to become Chris “Boomer” Berman.
Fast forward to 1988 when I was Vice President/General Manager of the Buffalo Bisons and we had just opened Pilot Field in downtown Buffalo and were solidly behind the Rich family’s effort to secure a major league expansion franchise for the Queen City. Back then, we used every connection we had and looked for any opportunity to tell the successful story of the Bisons and baseball in Buffalo to the nation.
One of those opportunities came when we learned Berman was in town for his pal, Jim Kelly’s annual golf tournament. We invited him to throw out the first pitch before a Bison game and being the fan of Buffalo sports that he is, he accepted. It was a thrill for myself and current GM, Mike Buczkowski to present him with his official Bison jersey before he fired a strike to home plate and addressed the sold out crowd to a thunderous applause.
Known for creating nicknames for players, he immediately called me Mike “Your Not Full Of” Billoni and he signed a photo of himself, Buczkowski and I: “Mike—Of Course I’ll Be Back Back Back!!! Your Friend, Chris “I’ll Never Be Your Beast Or Berman.”
When Therese Forton-Barnes, the President of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, Dave Gillan, President of the Buffalo Broadcasters Assn., and Howie Green of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and all members of the BFLO Hall of Fame Experience, were looking for a keynote speaker to raise funds and awareness for the future home and single location of the three Halls dedicated to Buffalo’s sports, music and broadcasting history, Berman’s name was at the top of the list.
Boomer will once again be here for Kelly’s annual golf tournament on Monday and he has agreed to stay for a BFLO Experience 2018 fundraiser luncheon on Tuesday, June 5 at noon in the Adam’s Mark Buffalo.
Tickets for the event are $75.00 and can be purchased at bfloexperience.org/buy-tickets Also available are exclusive meet and greet sponsorship packages. For more information about this initiative to house these three halls and much memorabilia under one roof, visit bfloexperience.org.
“Chris is one of the biggest supporters of Buffalo as a non- Buffolanian,” Ms. Forton-Barnes says. “He has forever been a fan of our city and of our sports teams. Chris is all about sports, broadcasting and music and is a great fit to help us launch the BFLO Hall of Fame Experience fundraising efforts. He wanted to help us and speaking at this luncheon is a big boost to our efforts.
“Our goal on Tuesday is to let WNY and all fans around the world of Buffalo Sports, Music and Broadcasting be a part of this fabulous facility soon to be built. We need the support of everyone to help us get this off the ground,” she adds.
Berman, also known as “The Swami” when he hosted the Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN, is often asked why he publicly supports Buffalo’s sports teams, especially the Bills during their run of four straight Super Bowl seasons. He answers simply, “The City of Buffalo is one of my favorite places in the United States. Why? Because the residents of Western New York and their sports fans ask for very little — hard work and loyalty and you’re theirs for life. I know.
“In 1988, I picked the Buffalo Bills to make it to the Super Bowl. They finished just short, losing the AFC title game to the Bengals. But I was already taken in as if I was one of them, drinking Genny Cream Ale as if I’d done it for years and years and years,” he continues. “And you know what, the Buffalo Bills of the ’90s were the kind of team we’ll never see again. A team built the old fashioned way with teamwork, friendship and hard work. They never complained when they lost four straight Super Bowls. But they gave us memories like the greatest comeback of all-time. Down 35-3 to Houston in the ’92 playoffs, the Bills rallied for a 41-38 OT win.”
Proving that he is well read on all Buffalo sports history, Berman adds: “Their brethren, a generation before, won back-to-back AFL championships in the ’60s. They played the same way — with a hard working blue collar defense and Jack Kemp at quarterback. They were a fun team.
“And the Sabres, they showed a little flare,” he continues. “The Sabres that we know and love, not so much the Dominik Haseks, but the “French Connection” with Gil Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert playing in that fog game in the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals against the Flyers.
“In basketball, no wonder Buffalo fans loved the Braves’ Randy Smith. Game after game he used to go out there and guard and feed Bob McAdoo. In college basketball, down the road a piece, Bob Lanier, he of the big feet, he of the hard work, got it done for St. Bonaventure. Unfortunately, he got hurt as his team made the Final Four.”
The BFLO Hall of Fame Experience is a 501(c)(3) with a Board of Directors that is comprised of representatives from three Buffalo Halls of Fame: Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and Buffalo Broadcasters Association. They have been collaborating to bring one Hall of Fame to Buffalo that would feature these three genres. It will feature the history from each organization, enhanced with iconic memorabilia and interactive participation. Children and adults alike will be able to call the game from a broadcast booth, jam on stage, try on pads from a Bills locker room and much much more – a true Buffalo experience!
Rattling off that memorable history of Buffalo’s finest years in sports should qualify Berman as the master of ceremony when the BFLO Experience finally finds a home in Buffalo to share some amazing stories and memories of our sports, broadcast and music history. He is so beloved here that he presented the late Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2009.
Tuesday’s keynote speaker began at the ESPN anchor desk in 1979 and he hosted the Sunday NFL Countdown program from 1985-2016. A six-time honoree of the National Sports Media Assn.’s “National Sportscaster of the Year,” he was instrumental in establishing ESPN’s lasting popularity during some of the network’s best years.
Known for such iconic catchphrases as “Rumblin’ Bumblin’ Stumblin’” and “He Could Go All The Way,” the most memorable for Bills’ fans is how he would end his report on the Bills, “And remember, no one circles the wagons like the City of Buffalo.”
For more information, contact Ms. Forton-Barnes at 716.868.8868.
Photos provided by Therese Forton-Barnes | Lead image – Berman stands with Kelly