This is John Berman‘s weekend. The die-hard Boston sports fan will see his New England Patriots back in the playoffs, though he’s not feeling so optimistic this year.
Berman, the co-anchor of CNN’s Early Start (with Christine Romans) and At This Hour (with Kate Bolduan) is also a regular on CNN Quiz Show. He is a Harvard grad after all. We caught up with Berman for his thoughts on some hot-button football issues, CNN’s big December, and his Super Bowl 50 prediction.
TVNewser: You’re an outspoken Patriots fan. Why do you think the media has essentially pushed aside Al Jazeera’s report linking Peyton Manning’s wife to HGH when the same media made a huge spectacle of Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” scandal?
Berman: I think history has a lot to do with it. People were poised and ready to jump on the Patriots. Anything the Patriots did. I mean, look, the Patriots have become the Yankees of football. People love to hate them. With what happened with the, quote/unquote, “Spygate” thing that any sign of a flaw people were ready to jump on. I don’t think the cases are created exactly equal, either. The way that the Brady thing was reported, when it came out, the facts were cloudier than they ultimately became. I think it looked worse for Tom Brady than it turned out to be. so I think that’s why people jumped so hard. Even if you take the Al Jazeera report at its word to the most extreme, there is not a complete smoking gun.
TVNewser: If this was reported on 60 Minutes or CNN, as opposed to Al Jazeera, would it be treated differently by the media?
Berman: I don’t think it’s about who is reporting it. I think it’s about what exactly was reported that’s the issue. 60 Minutes has had some of their reports questioned. So yes, I think had 60 Minutes reported this exactly the same way, it would be treated exactly the same way.
TVNewser: CNN won the prime time demo for the month of December. It just so happens that between filling in for Anderson Cooper and the All the Best All the Worst 2015 special, you appeared on prime time in December more than usual. Is this a coincidence or does Jeff Zucker need to move you to prime?
Berman: [Laughing] I think it was a strategy. Clearly, Jeff did this on purpose to seal the deal at the end of the year. He brought in the closer. He brought in Mariano Rivera. That aside, I think it was probably a coincidence.
TVNewser: What does CNN need to do to keep its ratings up?
Berman: I really feel, and I only see first-hand the stuff that I’m involved in, I feel like we hit our stride. It’s a high news environment. And by that I mean, there is a lot of news. When something happens, we hit it hard and stay with it. I think that’s what viewers want. Viewers respond to that. There has been a lot of consistency at CNN for a while now with the basic lineup and the cast of characters you see if fairly consistent. I think maybe, just maybe people are deciding they like us and they’re getting to like us more and more. It’s a smart move, America. It’s also a big political year and we do politics well.
TVNewser: Your CNN bio page mentions that you’ve reported on everything from the war in Iraq to the best way to catch a catfish bare-handed. So, what’s the best way to catch a catfish bare-handed?
Berman: Bare-handed cat fishing, there is a name for it, noodling. There are a bunch of states in the middle of the country where noodling is pretty popular. I did, it was a long time ago now, a report when noodling was outlawed. It was made illegal. Some rogue noodlers who refused to obey the law and would go out catfishing barehanded. It was awesome. I got to walk down this river with people who were trying to catch these giant catfish. It’s was totally cool.
TVNewser: How long did it take you to develop chemistry with Kate Bolduan?
Berman: I think for her it was love at first sight. I don’t know exactly how long. Doing a duel-anchor show is a really interesting dynamic. It’s like dancing with someone. You have to know when to step forward, you have to know when to step back. You have to know when to let the other person have their solo. You start to learn someone else’s tendencies. You both need to feel confident and shine in order for it to work for either of you. You can’t have just one person succeed in that type of format. It’s fun to see how it changes and develops over time.
TVNewser: Super Bowl prediction?
Berman: It breaks my heart to say that I don’t feel like the Patriots are playing well enough to win right now. I’m hoping that Bill Belichick proves me wrong. If there is anyone that can make it happen, it’s Belichick. I’m gonna go Seahawks to win it all.
TVNewser: What AFC team makes it?
Berman: Here is the thing. If the Patriots get there, they win. But I think there is a chance the Patriots lose the first game. It gets complicated. I think… the Steelers. I’m going to go Seahawks over Steelers. A rematch of Super Bowl XL.