HOUSTON (FOX 26) - When starting a new job, many have hopes of blazing a new trail, but very few pull it off. FOX 26 Sports Director Mark Berman did, and he's been doing it for 30 years.
In 1986, after just a few weeks on the job at KRIV-TV, Berman flew to Boston to cover the Houston Rockets as the team faced the Celtics in the NBA Finals. He started building relationships with all the big names in the Houston sports scene right away.
Whether it was Bud Adams, Jose Cruz, or Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston icons welcomed Berman to their homes to discuss the business of sports. Of course, Berman has always done the obligatory highlights and scoreboards that come with being a sports broadcaster, but to him sports is news. Give him a lead, and he'll tell you he's "all over it like white on rice." He is passionate about getting the story first.
His exclusive reports and big scoops are too many to count over his 30-year career at FOX 26, but he set a standard in sports reporting that no one has been able to keep up with.
"Mark Berman, to me, is like a brother," said John McClain, the Houston Chronicle's NFL writer, who says he's known Berman for 35 years. "He and I have been in friendly competition with each other, but he and I know each other inside and out."
"He is the best reporter I've ever seen, print or broadcast," added McClain.
Berman's nickname when covering the Houston Oilers was "Scoop."
"One time, he got so mad at me," said McClain as he laughed. "We acted like he was the only one that didn't have a scoop. Then all of a sudden he found out it was a joke. He got so mad. If he'd have been bigger, I would have been worried."
To break as many stories as he has, you have to have a lot of contacts, and Berman's phone list is more protected than Colonel Sanders' secret recipe. He's also on the job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
"Nobody works harder," wrote Houston Astros owner Jim Crane in a statement about Berman. "He is consistent, persistent and resilient in his pursuit of a story, but is always professional, accurate and fair, which is something all of the sports teams respect and appreciate."
"I know players, coaches, owners, general managers, personnel directors," said McClain. "They watch Berman on Twitter, watch KRIV's web site, and they watch the TV station, all the sportscasts, because they want to know what Mark Berman knows."
And somehow, Berman never loses the energy it takes to be the best.
"To this day, after all these years, 30 years at KRIV, almost 40 in the business," said McClain. "It. KILLS. Him. If he gets beat on a story.
Houston Texans star defensive end JJ Watt contributed a video message that he dedicated to Berman's 30-year career:
"Mark, I understand you've been in this business about 30 years now, and let's be honest with ourselves, you don't look like you're more than 30 years old," said Watt says with completely straight face. He continued giving Berman the business. "I mean that body, that physique, I don't know how you stay in such incredible shape. You look like a 27-year-old kid. It's incredible."
McClain then shared a funny story that he said Mark would never want disclosed.
"One time, Mark Berman's late father, Hi Berman, told me that Mark liked to come over to his house, he'd be limping, and he'd say 'Son, what's the matter? Are you OK?' He'd say, 'Dad, I'm limping because I just kicked somebody's butt on a story.'"
Over the years, Berman's been showered with ice in the "Ice Bucket Challenge." He's been showered with Champagne in locker rooms, most recently by the Astros' Marwin Gonzales after a American League Wild Card game win over the New York Yankees.
On this special occasion, FOX 26 is showering him with recognition.
John McClain looked at the FOX 26 camera and said the following: "Congratulations to Mark Berman for being there 30 years at KRIV. Congratulations to all the KRIV viewers who have watched him through the decades, because he is the best."
"Congratulations from the Astros on 30 years at FOX 26," added Jim Crane in his statement. "You are truly one-of-a-kind in the television sports industry."
"I want to congratulate Mark for 30 years at KRIV, and I want to congratulate his bosses for recognizing what a great asset he is to their station and the city of Houston," wrote Houston Texans owner Bob McNair in a statement to FOX 26. "Mark is the hardest worker I’ve seen. When players and coaches arrive in Houston, Mark is at the airport interviewing them. He’s honest and fair. He makes sure to get the facts before he reports something. Congratulations, Mark, on 30 great years."
"Mark is the best at what he does, a true professional, and the City of Houston is lucky to have him," said Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, who also wanted to recognize Berman's accomplishments. "He's always fair, cares deeply about the Teams and players he covers, and works very hard to get his stories right. Congratulations, Mark, on 30 incredible years!"
Houston Astros President Reid Ryan said the following in a recorded video message for Berman: "Hello, Mark Berman. Congratulations on 30 years working in Houston in the sports business. On behalf of the Houston Astros, I have to say, you are one of the most professional and persistent guys in all of the sports business. Congratulations on your 30 years."
Pete Rose, the Major League Baseball 'Hit King,' congratulated Berman this way: "Mark Berman. Happy 30th anniversary, you old fart!"
Rose then proceeded to bust out laughing.
"I just want to say, sincerely, congratulations on all the success over 30 years," added JJ Watt in his video statement to Berman. "Hopefully you have a bunch more left in the tank. You're great to work with. You're really good at your job. It's always a pleasure. I appreciate it. Best wishes to you brother. Congratulations."
This reporter adds her own comments for Berman: "I'd say, 'Don't let it go to your head, Mark, but there's no need for that. So thank you from all of us at FOX 26 for your tireless effort that continues to this day. You did change the way sports is covered in Houston, and you did it for FOX 26."