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Gus Johnson: good enough for now

Feb 14, 2013, 1:04 PM EDT

FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2012 Getty Images

Gus Johnson calling his first Champions League match was a big enough occasion to spawn a running diary of a running diary. So how did he do?

Well, okay. Not great, but he was solid and excitable, if occasionally behind the action. A friend of mine who works in television noticed that he talked a bit too much during some of the action, not allowing colorman Warren Barton a chance to offer an observation. Unlike American football and basketball where Johnson made his name, soccer offers fewer replays and breaks in the action, so the play-by-play man needs to allow his partner more time to speak as the play is developing. That’s the type of understanding that can only come with experience.

Fox’s overlords liked Johnson enough to add the March 5 Real Madrid-Manchester United redux at Old Trafford to his schedule in addition to Arsenal-Bayern Munich (Feb. 19) and Manchester City-Chelsea (Feb. 24).

For me, one of the biggest things was the fact that Johnson and partner Barton were on site. That allowed them to give a feel for the game that was happening off-camera, which they relayed effectively to the viewing audience. They could have been better, they could have been quicker, but at least they were there. Calling soccer is hard enough when you’re not handicapped by working off of monitors. (Yes, I’m taking to you, BeinSport.)

All in all: not the best debut in the world, but hardly the worst.

(Want more Johnson? Here’s a brilliant 90-second mashup from the crew at

In an interview with’s Richard Deitsch, Johnson said: “The key for me is to try to take it — and I don’t mean to sound cliché — but literally one match at a time. Learn everything I can about that one match and the two sides that are playing and go with it from there and allow my knowledge to grow.”

Some people can’t stand later-stage Johnson, but as long as he stays away from phrases like the ones above, we’ll all be in a better place football watching-wise.

  1. dfstell - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    I thought he was fine. I’ve heard better and I’ve heard worse. Amazed at what a big deal it is. Honestly, I care more about the color guy than the play-by-play person because I already know the players and where the ball is on the field. I want more analysis of what is going on….

  2. charliej11 - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    The only thing that I didn’t like about Johnson’s calling of the game was that he felt a need to appease idiots that care whether he says nil or zero. He did say nil, but he didn’t say brilliant or clever….probably huge strikes against him.

    He was great and he will be better if they let him continue and he feels like he is not on trial.

    He really could use a different color guy….was he explaining what offsides is ? Who did he think he was talking to ? my kids have understood offside since they were 7.

  3. unclemosesgreen - Feb 14, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    He didn’t do very well, and I’m a Gus Johnson fan and will miss him for the NCAA Tourney this year. Too much backstory, really poor description. Lots of calling out names without any words in between. Often the wrong names.

    To be fair – this was an incredibly fast-paced and high-level game to break your cherry on. But to be honest – really not very good.

  4. boscoesworld - Feb 14, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    He did ok for the first try. I think Americans will actually take to an announcer that doesn’t speak 100% soccerese. Just as long as it is not Alexi Lalas speaking I will be fine. That guy is usually wrong and obnoxious while being so.

  5. joeyt360 - Feb 14, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    I wish I could say I was able to see Gus call the game, rather than a hacked stream in a foreign language. But based on that mashup, I have to say–I’m digging it. I see the potential there.

  6. dws110 - Feb 14, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    I haven’t watched NCAA basketball in over a decade, but Mr. Johnson has his work cut out for him as he transitions to commenting soccer.

  7. pensfan603 - Feb 14, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    From knowing gus’s calls from other sports i really like him for this, just needs more practice have him do like concacaf champions league for now

    • charliej11 - Feb 14, 2013 at 7:56 PM

      That is right, he should be doing the CCL games…man I hope he does the Sounder’s game on the 6th. The Sounder’s announcer is like white noise without a much charisma. I don’t even think I would recognize his voice after 20 games or so last year.

  8. mdac1012 - Feb 14, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    Gus Johnson is a professional with a good reputation. He is the type of guy who will work at it and get better. Soccer, like every sport has certain nuances when it comes to announcing that the fans come to expect in a play by play guy. Things like that can only really come with experience and time.

  9. sdbeisbol - Feb 16, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    Thank god FOX is using him instead of Joe Buck.

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