BRISTOL, CT—Weeks following the announcement of his move to ESPN, renowned statistician Nate Silver told reporters Friday that he has made it his personal goal to teach his coworker and fellow analyst Chris Berman how to read.
Silver confirmed that he has been committed to helping Berman develop the skills necessary to attain proficiency in reading and writing ever since he learned of the veteran sports commenter’s functional illiteracy.
“When I met Chris for the first time, I had a strange feeling there was something he was hiding from me, but it wasn’t until I saw him anchor SportsCenter in person that it hit me: He can’t read,” said Silver, referring to the 58-year-old Berman, who, according to the politics blogger, has for years managed to conceal his illiteracy from his peers by mumbling or slurring the words that appear on his teleprompter. “When I confronted him about it after the taping, he got real defensive and shouted at me to leave him alone. But at the same time, you could tell that he really wanted to learn.”
“I swore then and there that I wouldn't rest until Christopher James Berman was a proud, literate member of the ESPN family,” Silver continued.
According to Silver, Berman currently possesses what the sabermetrician has “generously assessed” as a second-grade reading level, despite having held a full-time position at ESPN since 1979. In order to bridge the extensive gap between the Sunday NFL Countdown host’s current abilities and the language skills expected of a high-profile media pundit, Silver claimed that he has developed a customized curriculum consisting of phonics, flashcards, and basic reading comprehension drills.
Additionally, the FiveThirtyEight blog founder said that teaching method has included running through basic vowel and consonant patterns, as well as exercises in which Berman identifies and recites short, simple words such as “cat,” “house,” and “back.”
However, despite this gentle, elementary approach, Silver admitted that his latest project has so far been an uphill battle.
“I’ve been putting a lot of time into helping Chris sound out words and print his name on handwriting paper, but his progress honestly hasn't been as rapid as I would have hoped,” said Silver, who reportedly has devoted hours to sitting with Berman as he grinds his way through simple texts such as Hop On Pop, Goodnight Moon, and the Jose Canseco-penned steroids tell-all Juiced. “I mean, it took us more than two weeks to get through the entire alphabet, and it truthfully seems like he only has a firm handle on a few of the letters at this point. We’ve obviously got a lot of work to do.”
“I keep telling myself that this will all be worth it in the end,” Silver added.
Silver additionally confirmed that the growing frustrations accompanying his attempts to coach Berman are shared by the sportscaster himself, who reportedly has exploded into extended, tearful temper tantrums when challenged by the difficulties of reading and writing.
“Yesterday, he stormed out of the room when I told him that the 'h' in 'whistle' is silent,” said Silver, admitting that his pupil will oftentimes become enraged and overturn his desk when confronted with complex, multi-syllabic words unrelated to sports. “I keep telling him that his illiteracy is nothing to be ashamed of, but he just gets madder and madder until he’s on the ground bellowing and kicking his legs. I swear, nothing about this has been easy, but I just know that, with enough hard work and commitment, Chris will someday be able to read at something approaching a high school level.”
“But, then again, if that turns out not to be the case, at least he’ll hardly be alone around here,” Silver added.