Well, the day you've been dreading has arrived: It's Chris Berman's yearly night to shine. Of all Berman's glucose-drenched warblings, he is never worse than he is tonight, during the Home Run Derby. It's the event that Berman was born to host: Nothing but spectacle, thunder and bluster. Home runs and Nutrasweet injected repeatedly, monotonously, endlessly, directly into the bloodstream, a series of whacks to the frontal lobe.
Honestly, Berman is never more in his element. The Home Run Derby, like The Wave, appeals primarily to children, and the same goes for Berman: His droning huffing seems designed to stimulate the drool synapses of kids ... very ... small ... kids. Like, preemies. He's Barney, really.
Berman, of course, has been doing these Home Run Derbys for a while, and, just to be mean, ESPN Classic has been running old Derbys all day. Because, deep down, we hate ourselves, we've been watching them all morning; we have heard the word "back" approximately four million times. After the jump, some observations of our morning of terror.
(By the way ... ATTENTION PITTSBURGH. Get thee to the park tonight and get a "You're With Me Leather" sign/shirt/mention on the air. There's never a better time for it than tonight. Heck, if CBS Sportsline is getting into it, surely you can.)
First off, it is impossible to prepare yourself for how many times Berman will say "back" tonight. He's like a child who has just learned his first word. And he never gets tired of it. You know this, but to watch it for hours in a row still shakes us to our core. Our favorite moment was, after a Jay Buhner line drive homer in 1996, Berman, chagrined, said, "I only had time for two 'Backs." Oy.
Also: Berman insists on saying the word "foul" as if he were just one number away from winning the lotto: fowwwwwwwlllll. He will not waver in this; every time is like the first time. Other signatures:
• Particularly long home runs: fuhgetaboudit!
• Balls off the foul pole: doink!
• When Jim Thome is around: Thome Can You Hear Me?, which is the biggest groaner of his we've ever heard. Honestly, what do you think the last album Berman bought was? Huey Lewis' "Sports?"
Watching these home run derbys now is like taking a time machine back to a time when everyone pretended no one was on steroids. One of Berman's common phrases in the early years was to say that ball was "juiced" out of the park. He stopped saying that around 2002, and that's probably for the best. Not that it makes up for Brady Anderson almost winning the event two years in a row. But hey, look: Sammy Sosa's doing that fist-to-chest-pound thing he does! He's so cute!
Other gruesome quotes:
• "The Big Hurt has us all on our Big Feet."
• "Does this one have the mustard to center field? Oh, my, a double dog!"
• "There's a plane up there, look out for the ball, plane!"
• "This shot is beachwood aged ... it went off the Budweiser sign in center!
• "People jump on Barry Bonds the way he JUMPED ON THAT PITCH!"
Actually, the Bonds thing was great; the year was 1996, and Berman was boasting of how he'd hung out with Barry all week. Money quote: "I spent some time with Barry this week, and he's very serious about making a run at 500 homers."
Yeah. We'll be honest: We kind of hate the Home Run Derby.
(UPDATE: We're hardly alone here.)