Fox Sports’ Kevin Burkhardt goes from Tecmo to technician
Burkhardt, who will call the Packers-Bears game Sunday, recorded himself calling Tecmo Bowl games on Nintendo as a kid. Now he’s living his dream as a broadcaster.
Fox Sports’ Kevin Burkhardt knew he wanted to be a broadcaster when he was a kid. He watched and listened to anything he could. But he needed a way to simulate the experience for himself.
One day, Burkhardt, his brother and his best friend recorded themselves calling a game of Tecmo Bowl on a Nintendo Entertainment System. It soon became a regular occurrence and included a postgame show.
And though he grew up in Bloomfield, New Jersey, a Bears connection had a profound effect on him.
“I played Tecmo [Bowl] and Tecmo Super Bowl, and Neal Anderson used to kick my ass every time I played him,” Burkhardt, 46, said of the Bears running back from the late 1980s and early ’90s. “It drove me nuts. He was unstoppable. As good as Bo [Jackson] was . . .”
One only can imagine how Burkhardt must’ve sounded calling those games. But he has come a long way since then, rising to the No. 2 crew on Fox’s NFL coverage. Burkhardt and analyst Daryl “Moose” Johnston will be in the booth Sunday at Soldier Field, where the Bears will face the Packers looking to clinch a playoff spot in the season finale.
But Burkhardt also will be following action elsewhere. The Cardinals-Rams game could affect the Bears’ hopes, and the Seahawks-49ers and Saints-Panthers games could affect the Packers’ seeding.
Last season in Week 17, CBS Sports’ Kevin Harlan famously called pivotal moments in two games at once: Chargers-Chiefs in front of him and Dolphins-Patriots on a monitor. Just after the Chiefs scored a late touchdown to seal their victory, the Dolphins took the lead in the final half-minute to give the Chiefs a first-round bye. Harlan described it all.
“He’s something else,” Burkhardt said. “I don’t envision doing that.”
Burkhardt said he’ll keep the focus on what’s in front of him, though he’ll check the other scores to provide updates. The crew in Fox’s Los Angeles studios will chime in with game breaks, too. But Burkhardt doesn’t want to take away from the game.
“I grew up with [John] Madden and [Pat] Summerall. We were a big football household,” he said. “I dreamt about doing NFL games on Fox. So trust me when I tell you there’s not a single Sunday that’s even remotely taken for granted.”
As for the game itself, Burkhardt has been impressed with the Bears’ offensive adjustments. After averaging 19.6 points in their first 11 games, the Bears have averaged 35 in their last four. The debate rages on whether the success is more a byproduct of a soft schedule or better play from quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
“I don’t know the answer to either of those, but what I do know is they’ve clearly changed their priorities,” Burkhardt said. “Their priorities are running the ball and play-action off running the ball. It’s really the first time David Montgomery has been a featured guy since he’s been there. I think that has been the difference.”
A Bears victory in this rivalry would be a rare one of late. Since the last time they swept a season series, in 2007, the Bears are 5-21 against the Packers, including the playoffs.
One of the things rarer in sports is a Cubs World Series title, and Burkhardt experienced that up close.
When he’s not calling NFL games, Burkhardt is the studio host for Fox’s MLB coverage. In 2016, he might as well have taken up residence in Chicago, considering the time he spent at Wrigley Field during the postseason.
“Nothing will ever top that in my career, I’m pretty confident of that,” Burkhardt said. “I just don’t think we’ll ever experience anything like that.”
He remembers vividly what he experienced after the Cubs beat the Dodgers to win the National League pennant. After hosting the trophy presentation on the field, he had to get to the set at the corner of Sheffield and Waveland avenues.
“Everyone’s singing ‘Go, Cubs, Go’ and the place is rocking, and I just looked around and took it in, like, this is unbelievable,” he said. “Then I went out the center-field wall, and there was a sea of people.
“I grabbed one of the officers at the center-field gate. I said, ‘Officer, my name’s Kevin. I’m the host of that show.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, get out of here.’ I was like, ‘I swear. Can you help me?’ He’s like, ‘Hang on.’ He led me like a fullback, and I was on the set. I’ll never forget that.”