Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gus Johnson's First Day- By a Soccer Nerd

If you were watching the Real Madrid-Manchester United Champions League tie from Madrid on FOX Soccer, you may have heard a familiar voice. "RISE AND FIRE" is now calling soccer, and the soccer community on the internet was about to do the same when they heard the news. Gus Johnson's voice is forever tied with March Madness, and other crazy sports moments, but never has he done something like this. In preparation for him to become FOX's soccer voice, he needed to call big games, and a Champions League tie at the Santiago Bernabeu is certainly that. The vociferous soccer community on the internet was worried that the GuJo experiment would go the way of Dave O'Brien (Trust me that's not a compliment). So... did it?

He was surprisingly contained for his calls, especially the goals by Danny Welbeck and Ronaldo. He was on point in identifying players... most of the time... and maintained a good flow with the progression of the game. He didn't interact very much with Warren Barton, who helped him out by providing good analysis, even if the terminology both used was different. Speaking of that...

The one complaint I do have was that Gus doesn't yet know a lot in the soccer lexicon, meaning that his vocabulary and terminology was pretty static and not varied. For instance, he said "in the area" often, but not phrases like "penalty area" or "inside the 18", but that will come with time. The difference in the terminology between the play-by-play guy and the color commentator was a bit jarring at times, but considering this was one of the first times Warren Barton ever did this, and Gus Johnson in calling a live match with tons of ears perked, it could have been far worse.

Was it perfect? No. The best announcers for soccer, like Martin Tyler, Ian Darke, Arlo White, etc. have a certain familiarity with the game that takes time to form, and Gus Johnson does not have that yet. He'll certainly develop it, but it could take awhile. Interactions with his color commentator also need to be developed, since it did sound at times that he and Warren Barton weren't really in the same both.

GuJo's next game is at the Emirates for Arsenal- Bayern Munich, and hopefully this game will be a step up for both Barton and Johnson. Expect to hear this duo call more Champions League games this season on the way to the Final at Wembley, and I expect to hear Johnson call one or two Premier League games before the season is out.

2018 in Russia is a long time away, but for Gus Johnson, the learning process began with a baptism by fire. He performed admirably, and the soccer community should (hopefully) back off a bit as a result.

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