I'd like to preface this story by saying I love listening to Gus Johnson's dramatic play calling of N.F.L. games. In fact, his downright exuberance isa welcome relief to thedroning way Joe Buck sleepwalks an audience through a game.
With that being said, keep Johnson on the gridiron and away from the football pitch. As excitable a Johnson is in his play-by-play, his lack of experiencewith the game will undoubtedly lead to the kind of broadcasting that cost ABC dearlywith their selection ofDennis Miller or even Tony Kornheiseras Monday Night Football commentators.
This is not to detract from Johnson's quality as a sports journalist. I mention it simply from the perspective of a soccer fan who doesn't want to be bombarded with awkward terminology and over-embellishment at the wrong point in a match; the same way American football fans grew tired of Miller's drawing parallels betweenBrett Favre and some an unknown Elizabethan poet whose name could stump Ken Jennings.
American soccer fans have maturedbeyond thepoint where Fox needs to"amp" up the commentary with overlyboisterous calls and gimmicky catchphrases. The game itself has steadily won over the American audience.Just give them what they want to see inthe smooth, eloquentand most importantly accurate manner in which they are accustomed.
As you can hear from the following MLS game, Johnson, while ever emphatic,sounds unsure andfar fromsmooth:
Johnson's stop-and-go style is perfectly suited for a game like American football that's played out in short bursts. But it simply doesn't work for a sport that flows nonstop for 45 minutes at a time.
World football is a different game to American football and college basketball (which Johnson also calls) and therefore requires a different approach to describing. If Fox wants to bring more Americans to the game, they should utilize an experienced commentator who not only describes the game in the subtle, near-poetic dialect perfected through years of experience,but can also explain the intricate nuances of the game to the soccer newbie.
Perhaps I'm wrong and Gus Johnson will be fantastic in his transition from football to football. I would happily feast on a large plate of crow. As I said, I'm a big Johnson fan.
But commentators have historicallystruggled to make the switch. And lest George Santayana's epic quote be ironically forgotten, Fox could be doomed to repeat the failures ofbroadcasting's past by not paying credence tohistory.
Johnson's first assignment is the Manchester United - Real Madrid Champion's League match on Feb. 13.