Talkin’ Shop With Showtime’s Dynamic Duo: Bernstein and Farhood

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    The term dynamic-duo often refers to a combination of two men that reflect a relationship adjacent to that of Batman and Robin. However, when using that term to describe the relationship between Al Bernstein and Steve Farhood the correlation with Batman and Robin doesn’t really fit perfectly because the superhero latter has a predominant figure that acts as a mentor to the sidekick. With Bernstein and Farhood you have a mutual respect as well as a perception of equality between the two as it relates to talent and knowledge.

    The only inference that I’m making with the term dynamic-duo as it relates to the announcing team is their ability to be dynamic together. For years now, Bernstein and Farhood have provided fans with articulate and intellectual coverage as they sat alongside each other during their tenure with Showtime.

    Seeing these two in action over the years has made it pretty obvious that the rapport between the two is as authentic as it comes, but the dynamic wasn’t fully understood to me until they were both guests on Thaboxingvoice.com’s radio show. There we got the chance to see just how captivating the relationship they share really is as well as the extent of the knowledge they’ve garnered over years in the sport.

    “There is nobody who is more fun to work with than Steve Farhood, he is a real joy and I’d say that even if he wasn’t on the line, but it helps that he’s there, (laughs)” Bernstein said of Farhood during our interview on the radio show.  To suggest that the dialogue between these two was humorous would be an understatement, to say the least it was downright entertaining.

    Farhood’s initial comments about his friend Al came at a point in the show when we asked how much longer Bernstein would keep his active role in boxing.

    “Al better never kick back, because boxing wouldn’t be boxing without Al Bernstein.”

    Al answered the question with the kind of hope that suggests he still has a strong desire to keep his flag firmly planted in boxing and desires to plant new ones as well.

    “Boxing is a sport that now, because the main stream media doesn’t cover like they should or have [in the past], the internet is the future of boxing. That is one of the areas that I’ve very much gotten involved in, both with boxingchannel.tv and also with the social media, which I think is interesting. I’m probably of an age where not all the people my age are involved in the social media, but I am because I think it’s a big part of sending boxing’s message out there and I think one of the things I’d like to be very involved in at the latter portion of my career is helping boxing again expand its borders a bit. Boxing in America has become more of a niche sport and I think the idea is to just let people know about the sport,” Bernstein said.

    I think most boxing fans would consider Bernstein’s job with Showtime as a dream. While I myself believe it would be an amazing experience, I am not naive enough to believe that it wouldn’t still be a job equipped with hard work and a demanding schedule. Al broke it down fairly well for those inquiring into his life around boxing and the demands that keep him as one of the most active voices in boxing.

    “I enjoy my [work with Showtime] and I did enjoy writing the book a lot and I would like to write another one, maybe next year. The boxingchannel is a big endeavor for me, I want to get the boxingchannel going and make sure it works over the next few years and continually do Showtime and then I’ll see where it goes from there. I enjoy what I’m doing and I really enjoy interacting with the fans. I like broadcasting and some parts don’t really feel like a job to me.”

    Bernstein’s book was phenomenal. Just a tremendous piece of writing that displays a side that we’ve come accustomed to from Al, combined with another side that I myself wasn’t too familiar with; perhaps those that know Al best could attest to his ability to tell stories, but if you weren’t aware than reading the book allows you a glimpse inside the literary depths that Bernstein is capable of displaying.

    What I enjoyed about Al’s book, 30 Years, 30 Undeniable Truths about Boxing, Sports, and TV, was the fact that it was easy to read and at the same time he provides the kind of intellectual insight that has been lost amongst the “new generation” of boxing insiders.

    What I admire about Bernstein is that he has found a way to bridge the gap between the best of old school boxing theology with a sense of new age analysis and commentary. Bernstein is that link that resonates with the older boxing fan that relishes in the sport’s “heyday” and the youthful boxing fan whose memories of the sport are as recent as they are inevitable.

    I can’t perfectly put into words what kind of figure Al really is, but the best way to understand is to pick up a copy of his book and let the magic inflect you.

    The relationship with Bernstein and Farhood was a subject that played out over the air waves. It was immediately transcended as only two men with years of familiarity could portray and it was Farhood who recognized the relationship as a catalyst for success.

    “Al and I have known each other about 30 years. It’s not just because we work at Showtime together, Al worked for me, notice I say ‘worked for me’ (laughs) as a columnist at KO Magazine, we paid him an exorbitant fee and he was a great columnist.

    “I think that Al and I kind of have a similar sense of humor and I think we like ribbing each other on air, which is not something a lot of announcers can do. We do it, and you can’t do it with someone unless it’s understood that you’re coming from the same place in terms of understanding what you’re doing and what’s being said and I think that we just have that freedom. Aside from being good friends off the air, I think from the feedback I’ve gotten fans really like when they can tell the announcers are having a good time, it’s never about us, but the audience appreciates when the announcers are buddies,” Farhood said.

    There is a common idea amongst boxing fans that a network will intentionally favor a particular fighter throughout their career, especially at the prospect stage where information on the fighter can be thin. It has been suggested that HBO will commonly push their agenda with fighters through the commentators so as to give the listeners predisposed ideals concerning a fighter. We asked the duo their thoughts on the subject and whether or not they’ve ever come across that kind of dilemma with Showtime.

    “I’m sure Al will agree with me, I’ve never been told once, no one would have the nerve to tell Al or I which way to lean in calling a fight. There is a reason they hired us and if they want that kind of announcer they’ll go get that kind of announcer.

    “Al and I both have journalism backgrounds and they understood what they were hiring when they hired us. I think that a lot of viewers fail to understand is that 99% of the time I don’t care who wins the fight. Do I have favorites? Of course, you know you mesh well with one guy at the fighter meetings more than the other, but when it comes to the fight, we don’t care who wins and it enables us to be objective when calling a fight,” Farhood said.

    Bernstein added to Farhood’s sentiments with the kind of analysis that relates to what I alluded to in describing his book; he articulated the point in a way that correlates with his ability to put a defining spin on a subject by using both intelligent and easily understood detail.

    “We all hope that when we walk into traffic court or worse than that — criminal court — we want that judge to see us all the same, we don’t want him or her to see us in a different light and that’s how we should be with fighters. The thing about it is you’re just there to serve the viewer; Steve’s 100% right that we’ve never been told that there is a network agenda, I can’t speak for anyone at any other network because I’m not there, I can only speak for Showtime,” Bernstein said.

    While it was great to have the kind of outlook on both men professional, the interview did eventually turn to the upcoming boxing schedule. We asked about the September 15th date and the competing HBO-Showtime cards and which fight they would watch if they weren’t tied to a particular network.

    “I’m going to say it upfront to get us both off the hook, we would TiVo both of them and watch both of them,” Bernstein said.

    Farhood added, “Also, we would attend which ever fight someone gave us free tickets to.” To which Bernstein replied,” and had a free buffet in the press-room.”

    The Chavez fight is must watch TV. Sergio Martinez is one of the greatest fighters in the world there is no doubt about that. That’s a fight that every fight fan wants to see, but ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has become must-see TV too at this point. [Alvarez] is charismatic and he’s the future, so I think both fights have a lot of reasons to watch,” Farhood said.

    We also asked about the Andre Ward-Chad Dawson fight and whether or not the weight would become an issue with Dawson coming down a full weight class from 175lbs to 168lbs.

    “I think that Ward getting Dawson to come down to 168lbs was certainly a good move for Ward only because he didn’t have to move up to 175lbs, Dawson is capable of making 168lbs, but I think anytime you get the other fighter to make a change and you don’t have to your doing well. To me, that was the first kind of victory in this fight. Having said that, Chad Dawson is perfectly capable of fighting at 168lbs, I just think that Ward is the more disciplined mentally and physically of the two. While we’ve seen Dawson have lapses, we’ve never seen Ward have lapses. I’m hard pressed to not pick Andre Ward in that fight,” Bernstein said.

    “I think it is going to be a very competitive fight, its two drastically different styles. I think Ward is more of a chameleon he can fight more different ways than Dawson can, Dawson’s never going to be in fighter or a physical guy, that’s not his game nor should it be given his talent. The Andre Ward we saw with Bika and Ward we saw at times with Froch when he gets on the inside and likes to mix it up and at times when he’s a little physical that side of him, as good as boxer and as fast of a boxer he is, that side of him is a very effective side and clearly that is the kind of fight he is going to have to fight against Dawson. Will Dawson be a little slowed by losing the weight? Probably not, but Dawson volunteered to lose the weight, it wasn’t like Ward out-negotiated him. That was either very clever of Dawson because he knew he could lose the weight or a mistake, but either way I don’t think it will affect him much physically. I think it’s going to be a very interesting fight and the terms of the fight, you know, how the fight is fought, is going to determine who wins it. If it’s an outside fight Dawson has a great chance because he’s very fast and very difficult to fight and if the fights on the inside I don’t have a doubt that Ward will win,” said Farhood.

    The fact that both of these men even agreed to come on the show at the same time was a pleasure. There are plenty of knowledgeable boxing insiders, but what separates these two men is the ability to entertain in a manner that is inadvertent. Both men spoke avidly about not making the telecast about them, but I for one believe that without them the quality of show we’ve grown accustomed to would not be as possible.

     

    For Audio Of This Interview Click Here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thaboxingvoiceradioshow/2012/08/05/al-bernstein-steve-farhood-showtime-announcers-talk-boxing