Right move: Gus Johnson steps asides as Fox’s lead soccer announcer

I’m not a big soccer guy, but Fox Sports trying to make Gus Johnson its lead soccer announcer always seemed like a bad idea. The sports’ fans are a highly discerning bunch. With Fox Sports slated to do the Women’s World Cup next year and the World Cup in 2018, not to mention many important matches in between, Johnson was set up to vilified as the lead voice.

Now it won’t happen. Johnson said the demands of getting up to speed were taking a toll on him from a personal standpoint. From Richard Deitsch at SI.com.

Depending on your soccer broadcasting orthodoxy, the following news will be received as a cause for celebration or bitter disappointment:

Gus Johnson has stepped down as Fox’s No. 1 soccer broadcaster.

Johnson told Sports Illustrated on Sunday that he called Fox Sports president Eric Shanks last week and explained that with a full schedule of college football and college basketball, he could not give soccer the attention it deserved and that viewers demanded of a lead broadcaster. Shanks agreed to pull Johnson off the assignment.

“I think that it was a mutual decision, but maybe I was the guy who came to it first,” Johnson said.

Later Deitsch wrote:

Asked by SI if the external criticism of Johnson’s soccer work impacted his decision, (Fox Sports president Eric Shanks) said no, but added, “I am not going to lie and say we were unaware of it. We make decisions based on how we feel, and in this case, in consultation with Gus.”

As for the replacement:

Shanks said Fox has a relationship with the acclaimed British soccer broadcaster Martin Tyler, so look to see if that connection increases over the next year.

“I would not say we are running around here like the sky is falling and we need to fill this position tomorrow,” Shanks said. “We believe Fox has some work to do and we will look at every possible candidate that is out there.”

One thought on “Right move: Gus Johnson steps asides as Fox’s lead soccer announcer

  1. Johnson was set up to fail partially because everyone already knew him from mainly basketball, so every time he made a mistake it’s ‘ugh, that basketball guy, trying to talk soccer.’ He was never going to get a completely fair shot. Which is not necessarily to say that he would be the best choice or anything, just that if you’re going to replace him, you’ll have to do it with a guy that doesn’t have an extensive track record in other sports.

    I’m sure Fox will concede defeat on the idea of an American for their No.1 broadcast team, and will hire someone like Tyler to call the biggest games, including the Final. I hope they’ll find an American voice for the No. 2 or 3 team though (I think, due to logistics, there actually has to be 4 total broadcast teams for a World Cup).

    I would be kind of curious to see Rob Stone do play-by-play again. It’s been years, but long before he was a Fox studio analyst, he used to do PbP for MLS games. Back in those days, he came off as a little to ‘young’ for the weight of a big event, but like I say that was a long time ago, and as he gets more to the ‘distinguished’ phase of a man’s life (to use a euphemism), he might have grown into it.

    Another name to consider is NBC Sports Net’s John Strong. He comes to them from the Portland Timbers, he knows the game, he’s smooth on the mic, has that authoritative way of speaking that tends to lend gravitas. The NBC MLS contract runs out this year and moves to Fox next season, so I suspect that NBC won’t really need him. If Fox is looking for someone, he’ll be available.

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