Johnson called his final European game of the season Saturday for Fox Sports. His critics wish it was his final soccer game, period.
Johnson admits it hasn’t been easy. He discussed his first season with Sam Borden of the New York Times:
Johnson understands the seeming absurdity of the situation; he was a star basketball and football announcer, known for his spasmodic eruptions during CBS’s coverage of the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament. Then he left for Fox and in his second year was thrust into an international sport with a rabid and passionate fan base that was used to hearing a British accent call the action. “I knew I’d get shot before I walked in the door,” he said. “Maybe justifiably.”
He went on: “But it’s like the Jack Kent Cooke quote, ‘Criticism is like walking in the rain — once you’re wet, what’s another drop?’ Plus, all I can worry about is preparing. …”
I am not a soccer guy. So I am going to leave it to others to weigh in about Gus after Season 1. Much of the reaction has been like Tom Jones in the Tampa Bay Tribune:
What bothers me about Gus Johnson as a football and basketball announcer is the same thing that bothers me about him as Fox’s featured soccer announcer. His speaker-busting volume is so over-the-top ridiculous that I honestly don’t understand what he’s yelling half the time. During one of Johnson’s explosions Saturday during the Champions League soccer final, I think I might have heard the words “London” and “Wembley,” but I’m really not sure. And if he’s screaming a name? Forget it. Whatever the name is, it comes off as, “Ayaaamaaaanreeeaaee.”
Many people out there love Johnson’s passion. They dig all the screaming. I’m just not one of those people.
However, way over on the other end of the Gus meter, Marc Tracy of the New Republic thinks the grand experiment could work in enticing American viewers to soccer:
Enter Gus Johnson. Whether or not the Law of Gus leads to more dramatic moments, he can certainly make the moments—those wonderfully drawn-out, attenuated soccer moments—more dramatic. Or maybe the Law of Gus is valid? Check out his call from a tilt in England’s FA Cup tournament that he announced earlier this month. In the second injury time,2 underdog (and soon-to-be-relegated) Wigan scored the game’s only goal, defeating the reigning Premier League champion, Manchester City. It was an incredibly exciting moment, and Johnson rightly let loose a vintage scream while his color man, the Englishman Ian Wright, could only giggle.3 Johnson is making soccer his own; which is to say, American; which is to say, kind of fun!
Meanwhile, ever the voice of reason, Richard Deitsch of SI.com, says more time is needed for the experiment to play out.
Johnson is still slow on name recognition — you saw that on the goal by Bayern striker Mario Mandzukic– but I think that will improve with more reps and more familiarity with world soccer. The one thing I hope Fox Sports executives learned from Johnson’s debut season is he needs a consistent partner. Of all the broadcasters the network floated his way, I thought Barton was the best fit. He complements Johnson stylistically, and allows the game to breath.