Blogging Himself To Live

He no longer appears on the news every night at 11 p.m., and so Len Berman, the sportscaster turned blogger, no longer has a formal office, either.

Instead, he works from home, writing items for Len Berman Sports, his daily newsletter that goes out to thousands of subscribers. Still, on the day we meet in a sterile, otherwise empty room in his daughter's office suite, he questions why I'm here.

"You explain to me why this would be of interest to Deadspin," Berman says.

"I just think that it's interesting that someone who did what you did for so long is now blogging. And I do think that the Spanning the World segments were a form of blogging before blogging exists."

"Well that's an interesting point. That's fair. I guess it's all in your headline."

"Yeah, we'll see."

"'OLD GUY TRIES TO REINVENT HIMSELF.'"

"Do you want that to be the headline?"

******

Ten years ago, even 18 months ago, Berman never would have envisioned himself as a full-time blogger, even when his most-known segments concerned the whimsical aspect of sports, partially directed at his viewers who weren't sports fans. He's convinced that most people — including integral parts of his audience, like his mother and his son — aren't sports fans, and he wrote with them in mind.

Since Berman lost his job, he has simply transitioned that accessible tone to his newsletter. It started last August with 22 subscribers, and it has slowly ballooned, doubling in popularity when he mentioned it on his last show in April. ("That's a great marketing tool," he jokes. "Get fired, build a Web site.") He has more leeway on the blog, but his preferred format of a list has remained rigid. News, context, cheeky one-liner. Breezy, concise and inviting. He was that way on the news, too, but when his contract ran out, Berman stopped tuning into Channel 4 at night.

"What do you watch?" I ask.

"11:00 at night?" he counters, as if setting up a kicker. "Will & Grace re-runs with my wife. She is a Will & Graceaholic."

Blogging Himself To Live

Berman is more recognizable and more accomplished than most bloggers, but it's his site's demographics, more than anything else, that distinguish him. It's an older crowd, probably with more casual fans and more women, because the real draw of LenBermanSports.com is not the news — most of which is recycled anyway — but Berman, even if he's not wearing a tie with his dark checkered suit, even if his recognizable tenor, which booms when he makes a crack, doesn't translate to a computer screen. (It might soon. He's contemplated adding video, but he's still not sold on the idea.)

There are plenty of commentators wading through the Web, but Len Berman's Top 5 has Len Berman, and people know Len Berman. They trust Len Berman, they respect Len Berman and they want to keep up with Len Berman. So they visit his newsletter. Not millions, like he attracted on Channel 4 on a slow night, but one day, maybe. He hopes.

In the meantime, Len's Top 5 (TGIF edition at the end of the week) appears every day in my inbox between 10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. I've seen most of the linkless news before, because Berman and I monitor the same Web sites and because no blogger waits until 10 a.m. the next day to publish. But I read it, and so do other people — because for Berman, it turns out, blogging was a natural progression. He'd like to get back into television, but on the Web, Berman doesn't have to reinvent himself. He's just going to do what he did for all those years on the set, albeit without all that makeup and, of course, all those viewers.

*******

Instead, Len Berman and I are discussing headline possibilities in an office that isn't his.

"You can do whatever you want," he says. "I'd love to see you tell people to go sign up for my top 5. Whatever else you write is up to you. You can say whatever bad things you want in the headline. 'HE'S NO ERIN ANDREWS!'"

"You want us to Photoshop you with a picture of Erin Andrews?"

"There you go. I've walked past her a couple times, and I don't think she has any idea who I am."

"But do other people recognize you on the street?"

"Oh sure."

"And do they ask you now where you've been?"

"No," Len Berman says with a smile. "People say, 'I watch you every night.'"

PHOTO: Gothamist. (No, this is no longer his office.)