January 2008 Show Us Your Green
The television was tuned to a football game on Jan. 12, 1969. Kevin Berg, a youngster who grew up a New Englander and spent his childhood between Maine and Massachusetts, watched intently as a young, brash quarterback led his AFL upstarts against the NFL's Baltimore Colts. The Jets, 18-point underdogs, not only scored the biggest upset in football history with a 16-7 win but also won a boy's heart.
"My dad and my brother weren't football fans. But I remember for some reason Super Bowl III was on at my house," said Berg. "And literally watching that game, I just fell in love with the sport and fell in love with the Jets and Joe Namath."
Berg, who now resides in Los Angeles and is the executive vice president of production for the CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group, has turned his Studio City office into a Jets shrine.
It's a wall-to-wall Green & White paradise filled with goodies such as helmets and Bobblehead dolls, paintings and posters, every Jets book written since the mid-Sixties, a 1998 Jets draft-day phone, a pair of unwrapped tube socks from the early Seventies with a Namath label on them, a Namath yo-yo still in the package, and even an ashtray from Namath's former East Side bar, Bachelors III. Berg cautions that a bat lying on his green couch is actually a Namath-autographed Big Stick that was obtained at a Pediatrics/AIDS Foundation event.
"It's the kind of office where you come in here and the more you look, the more you can find," said Berg, the winner of the January Show Us Your Green award in the home or office design category. "There is unbelievable stuff all over the place."
One of the helmets is a Franklin that Berg received on Christmas Day 1970. He used to make his dad take him to the Jets-Patriots games at New England each season and brought the Franklin with him in the hopes of getting No. 12 to sign after the contests.
"I stood outside the fence waiting for Namath to come out and autograph the ball. Every year the entire team came out and got on the bus. Then they would open the gate, the bus would come in and they'd pick up Namath at the door," he said. "Every year I stood there from '70 to '76, and every year the bus drove through the fence and picked him up."
Berg moved to Los Angeles in 1983 and became a freelance producer on a number of television series and shows, including the Emmys, the Grammys and Disney and network specials. He was the recipient of several Emmy nominations and winner of multi-ACE awards for his work on "In Living Color," "Tracey Takes On" and "Dharma and Greg." He's been at CBS since 1998 and was promoted to his executive post in 2004.
"It's basically the handling of the day-to-day operations of all the entertainment programming for CBS and CW," he said.
Most Jets fans probably had a fondness for the CBS comedy "The King of Queens," which aired on CBS from 1998-2007. On the show, Mineola, N.Y., native Kevin James played the working-class character Doug Heffernan. Both James and his character are diehard Jets fans.
"There are actually some items in this office that came off of that set," Berg said. "One of the helmets came off of that set and there's a blanket around here somewhere that came off of that set."
Taking his fandom to the another level, Berg incorporated the team name when his now 7-year-old daughter was born.
"Laurent Jet is the ultimate collectible. When she was 4, she realized she was named after the Jets and she got so mad," he said. "She didn't talk to me for weeks. She didn't know why I would name her after a football team. And now she has so embraced it — it's funny. She is the first to tell everybody that she's a Jet and she was really excited to hear that the Jets got cheerleaders."
Even thought they're out on the West Coast, gamedays are no less special for the Berg family. Kevin and his wife, Donna, have also raised Jets fans in Man, 12, and Raquel, 14. They'll throw on their favorite jerseys (Berg says he gets a new jersey ever time the Jets get a new QB but he likes his Mitchell & Ness Namath production) and root the team on at home or even from Berg's office.
"Sometimes I'm in here. What I like about this office is with CBS I get the New York feed in here," he said. "I just come in here and watch the New York feed. My son comes in and sometimes a few other guys come in. It's comfortable in here, it's nice in here."
So nice that Berg, who has been in the office for a year and a half, said his Jets showcase has created competition among his coworkers. The NFL really does live at CBS and Berg actually had a better display at the Paramount lot.
"I had a ground-floor office at the administration building over there. It laid out a lot different and it displayed a lot better," he said. "My office was one of the stops on the studio tour. People would stop and take pictures and boy, it was funny."
While Berg tackled Hollywood and sits on top of a fiercely competitive industry, he still has yet to meet Namath.
"Everybody always asks that same question. We shared an elevator once back in the early Eighties and I froze," he said. "Believe me, I've met every superstar in the entertainment industry that you can possibly think of and had conversations and hung out with them. I got on the elevator with him and I froze."
Not unlike those couple of hours back in January 1969 when Berg was introduced to "Broadway Joe" and the Jets. They captivated him and continue to do so today. The Jets '08 schedule has a West Coast swing next season and Berg, who usually attends one game per season with his son, will be there for all four games.
"All Jets, all the time," he said.