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FOX Grooms Basketball Commentator to be its New Voice of Soccer

gus johnson FOX Grooms Basketball Commentator to be its New Voice of Soccer

FOX Soccer today announced that basketball announcer Gus Johnson will be the lead commentator for several high profile Premier League and Champions League matches over the next few months. Plus, Sports Illustrated have revealed that Johnson is being groomed by FOX to be the voice of FOX’s World Cup coverage for 2018 and 2022.

The former CBS Sports announcer, best known for his work as the energetic commentator for March Madness games, will call his first-ever match for FOX Soccer on Wednesday February 13 when he’ll get behind the mic for Real Madrid against Manchester United alongside co-commentator Warren Barton.

Not only that, but FOX has decided that Gus Johnson will also commentate on Arsenal vs Bayern Munich (February 19 with co-commentator Ray Clemence), Manchester City vs Chelsea (February 24 with co-commentator Lee Dixon), the FA Cup Final (May 11), Champions League Final (May 25), as well as several other Premier League matches.

“This is not something that is temporary,” Fox Sports president Eric Shanks told Sports Illustrated. “This is something we are going to work at. It isn’t an Olympic assignment where he does the luge for two weeks and then we don’t hear from that announcer for the next four years. This is something we are serious about and something we will continue to work at. Based on the radio games and the practice games Gus has done, I think this is going to work.”

FOX Soccer’s own press release admits that Johnson calling soccer is “a relatively new undertaking.”

Executive Vice President and General Manager of FOX Soccer David Nathanson said, “Gus has spent the last year-and-a-half getting ready to call what is a new sport for him, and I applaud the work, study and time he’s devoted to his preparation. He respects how passionate and knowledgeable the soccer fan is, and while his education continues, he’s ready to lend his classic American voice to the world’s biggest sport.”

According to FOX, Johnson has called over a dozen MLS games on radio, played pick-up soccer games in a park, spent several weeks in Europe last season attending games and conversing at length with Sky Sports executives and announcer Martin Tyler.

“In Madrid, Johnson is partnering with FOX Soccer analyst Warren Barton,” said the FOX statement. “Barton, along with former players Eric Wynalda and Cobi Jones have aided Johnson tremendously in his soccer broadcasting education, collaborating with him on numerous practice telecasts under the tutelage of FOX Soccer Executive Producer Jonty Whitehead.”

“No doubt that the followers of this sport are among the most passionate, knowledgeable fans in the world, and I’m a newcomer,” said Johnson. “The effort to learn the sport and absorb its nuance has been a humbling experience. While I’ve put a lot of time into my preparation thus far, it’s definitely going to take a lot of reps before I’ve mastered soccer’s rhythm and pace, but I am determined to do so, and with all the support I’m receiving I have no doubt that I will.”

This is a smack in the face by FOX Soccer at the die-hard soccer fans who have subscribed and supported the network for years. I understand FOX’s vision to add an American voice behind the mic, but FOX Soccer loses instant credibility by putting someone in there who knows very little about the game. He has the voice. He has the energy. But he doesn’t know the history or the intricacies of the game. This will come over time, but he should use training wheels on broadcasts of Europa League games or SPL games before being thrown in the deep end for such high profile matches featuring Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal and the FA Cup Final.

One plus to be drawn from the announcement is that Johnson will be on-site at the games. But even the co-commentators that FOX Soccer have selected for a couple of the games are not up to the standards of what we’re used to hearing on television. Ray Clemence and Lee Dixon were excellent players in their day, but their quality as co-commentators is pretty weak.

In 2011, when FOX Sports announced that they had won the TV rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, many soccer fans raised concerns about what FOX would do with the coverage. I reassured them that FOX had 7 years to get it right and build a team that would be world-class. While I don’t doubt that Gus Johnson is an excellent basketball announcer, my concern here is that this will be another shambolic World Cup experience similar to how ABC/ESPN screwed up in 2006 when they turned baseball commentator Dave O’Brien into a soccer expert.

It’s not just a new announcer that will cause shockwaves through the soccer viewing experience in the United States. The fact that FOX Soccer has decided to switch its strategy by having its own voice commentate games instead of using the world feed from TWI/IMG is massive. It changes everything. ESPN did it a few years ago, but they put their own two men behind the mic that they knew would rival some of the best commentators in the game — Ian Darke and pundit Steve McManaman.

It’s not so much the new talent that FOX has hired, but it’s their decision to place its own talent in the gantry to commentate on games that is misguided. Who is FOX pandering to? The advertisers?? If it’s the TV viewer, instead, you would think they would pick the best person to do the commentating — i.e. a Martin Tyler, Alan Parry, Jon Champion or whoever the person would be doing the commentary for the world feed. These are men who have spent decades, not weeks, commentating on the game and researching and interviewing the footballers. Maybe by FIFA World Cup 2018 (or the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup), Johnson will be much better behind the mic to provide a commentary that would rival some of the up-and-coming commentators. But I find it unconscionable that FOX Sports and FOX Soccer have decided that they’re going to give a basketball announcer his experience in such high profile matches as the Premier League and Champions League this season. Thank heavens that FOX Soccer doesn’t have the rights to the Premier League after May, 2013.

The fact that Johnson is American doesn’t bother me. If FOX wanted to change their strategy to put their own man behind the mic, I’m OK with that as long as the talent is top notch, especially given the high profile games that FOX has. But to choose someone who has essentially little to no experience and who defines himself as a soccer “novice,” this is an absolutely awful decision by FOX and one that dirties their affiliation with the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.

I wish Gus Johnson the best of luck. I’m optimistic that he’ll work as hard as he possibly can to learn and improve, and to be the best that he can be. I’ll most certainly give him a chance, but he — and FOX Sports and FOX Soccer — must realize that this is an incredibly risky decision and one that could come back to haunt them if it doesn’t go well.

This entry was posted in FOX Soccer, Leagues: EPL, World Cup. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

159 Responses to FOX Grooms Basketball Commentator to be its New Voice of Soccer

  1. gary says:

    Gus & Barton? Thems quality! NOT!

  2. Matt says:

    This is terrible news.

  3. Matt says:

    I’m a big fan of Gus Johnson when it comes to Basketball and Football. He really gets into the games and it shows with how he commentates. This definitely will be hit or miss, but i’m pulling for him. In my opinion he is one of the best in his field.

  4. David says:

    Fortunately we will only have to endure him for a short time sinc NBC will be taking over EPL coverage next season. However, he will still be around to do Champions League and World Cup games.

    I have been quite supportive of Fox because they have allowed us to watch EPL games, even if I didn’t care much for their pre-game and post-game programming, and the commentators were from England. With this move I am glad NBC has won the rights to the EPL and let’s hope NBC doen’t pull off the same stunt and groom one of their “football” play-by-play guys to do soccer. That would be a disaster.

    • BA14 says:

      Don’t worry, people on this site will start complaining about NBC and their staff.

    • Morgan Wick says:

      NBC doesn’t do more than a couple American football games per week, and NBCSN only adds one more FBS game; they only have a handful of “football” guys available. I’m fairly certain Arlo White will handle the play-by-play for the majority of NBC’s Premier League games, with JP Dellacamera handling most of the rest.

  5. leafsfan1967 says:

    To the reader who said we don’t need to worry to much since NBC is taking over the EPL. The scary thing is will NBC do the same thing? English football through the eyes and voices of American announcers will not grow the game. This is a mess.

    • Marc says:

      I remember reading a previous article by the Gaffer saying that NBC Sports reads the posts on this site to see what the viewers want. Or somthing to that nature. I hope he is right.

  6. Stephen says:

    Gaffer, take a breath and calm down. Gus Johnson will do just fine. He will take the beautiful game to the next level in the United States.

  7. cmasia says:

    I cannot find the words to describe how horrible this decision is.

    If Fox wants Johnson to be the lead guy in 2018, fine. Let the “novice” call games on site for practice, not going over the air.

    But foisting him upon us as a training exercise, diminishing the broadcasts of the Champions League and the FA Cup is an absolute disgrace.

    Fox is telling us they don’t care one whit for its current audience.

    This truly is deplorable.

    Who’s next? Paula Abdul???

  8. Les says:

    The great English announcers aren’t good enough, huh?

  9. Cantona says:

    This guy has NO BUSINESS doing such high profile matches Gaffer is SPOT ON with this article.. You groom someone with the lesser leagues and learn your trade.., so you think Martin Tyler jumped into doing European Cup matches? Again we have another US voice faking it … Knows nothing about he leagues the players… What the hell is Fox playing at!! They made some great decisions in the past regarding commentary feeds and in one swoop have take a us back ten years. This guy could have started with A league or women’s Nats games… This is just Stupidity. I guess it’s back to illegal streams again

    Shocking .. Shocking decision

    Cantona–

  10. nickp says:

    ESPN has done a great job with their World Cup coverage by hiring career-long soccer announcers such as Ian Darke and Martin Tyler to do their play-by-play What’s wrong with using the Sky Sports commentators for the Champions League matches?

    • Morgan Wick says:

      It makes you look cheap to bum commentators from someone else? Forced to choose between Martin Tyler on the world feed and Dave O’Brien, I’m fairly certain ESPN would still choose DOB.

  11. Cantona says:

    Anyone have link to email fox soccer?

  12. RBP says:

    Well after this year, I won’t even really need to watch Fox Soccer any more. Just the nail in the coffin I suppose.

  13. Angry says:

    Are you ****ing kidding me??????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They are going to make us listen to that moron instead of MArtin Tyler?!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I dont even know what to say except that these execs lose their jobs for hatching such an idiotic idea!!!!!

  14. Wongo123 says:

    I guess Fox ignored my resume. This guy knows nothing about the game as far as I can tell, how will he explain things as intricate as the offside rule? I know exactly how this will go, numerous basketball and American football analogies, numerous comments like he is the Michael Jordan of soccer. Lots of shouting because that is how Americans like to listen to sports and very little intelligent commentary. Say what you will about Ray Clemens but he knows football and gives good insights. FFS why do this to the Champions League!!!! I will now have to find a stream online to watch the Madrid v United game.

  15. BA14 says:

    Nothing pleases you guys, seriously.

    • Chris in Dallas says:

      This.

    • Wongo123 says:

      You are inaccurate with that comment BA, as football fans we are not stupid and expect the guys doing the commentary to know as much as we do at a minimum. Most of us have been following our teams for ever and a day, we love and respect our sport. Fox has just showed us that they do not appreciate or respect us as fans. I don’t know your sport of choice BA but imagine Ian Darke doing colour commentary for an ice hockey game just because he watch hockey for 2 weeks and played a couple pick-up games. I just snorted laughing as I wrote that because it is so ridiculous!!

      • BA14 says:

        and I bet if you give Ian a little time he could call hockey games. I think you underestimate the talent Gus and Ian have.

        • Wongo123 says:

          I underestimate nothing, would you have Ian call the NHL finals or playoff games before he knew the game well? That is the issue here BA not the fact that he can learn the game.

  16. BA14 says:

    I think Eurosnob fits for most of the responses.

    • Marc says:

      You must work for Fox?

    • Cantona says:

      Damage control by the Fox minions….

    • Mufc77 says:

      Gus is that you?

    • Wongo123 says:

      BA Please read my earlier response to your earlier comment.

    • The Gaffer says:

      If all else fails and someone can’t think of anything logical to say, throw out the ‘ol “Eurosnob” comment and walk away.

      The Eurosnob tag, to me, is childish and silly.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • BA14 says:

        And yet you threw Gus under the bus without giving him much of a chance. How silly is that???????

        • The Gaffer says:

          Like I said in the article, I’m going to give Gus a chance and wish him the best of luck. I’m not throwing him under the bus. I’m questioning FOX’s decisionmaking, which – in this case — is very poor in my opinion.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • BA14 says:

            You’ve been on a FOX bashing rant for the last 6-8 months. Gus is an exciting play-by-play announcer.

          • The Gaffer says:

            That’s simply not true in regards to FOX.

            Let’s give Gus a chance and see how he does next week in the Real Madrid-Man United match.

            Cheers,
            The Gaffer

          • dust says:

            If anything Gaffer is being kind about this guy giving him a chance… has anyone listened to the above commentary? It is terrible. Its nothing personal he could be a great guy, just doesn’t sound good.

            His commentary will be on the broadcast on fox not on foxsoccer2go, with all due respect, I will be listening to the english commentator on that feed.. (Hopefully Tyler)

            To suggest its unfair to like english commentators that understand the game, have passion and add to the experience instead of detracting and calling people eurosnobs is ridiculous.

            Sorry, but it just doesn’t sound right having an american as lead commentator.

            Eurosnobs? what a load of rubbish

          • King Eric says:

            agreed, although i really would have liked if they had the sense to have him start in a less profiled match as this. i’m been looking forward to this tie since the day of the draw and now i’m afraid that it will be tarnished by this. i really hope i’m wrong.

    • RBP says:

      Yeah, when I think Eurosnob, I think Houston Dynamo season ticket holder. You don’t know any of us, so don’t act like it.

    • Wongo123 says:

      Gaffer I agree that we should give him a chance but not with what could be the stand out game of the CL this year.

  17. Mufc77 says:

    Somebody at Fox is really taking the pi$$ with this decision. This is the equivalent of Martin Tyler trying to call the NFL playoffs after watching 16 regular season games.

    Time to bombard FSC with emails and get this $hit stopped ASAP.

    It’s nothing personal against Gus Johnson he’s just doing what he’s told but even he’s got to know he’s not ready for this.

  18. Funkhowseer says:

    EPIC FAIL!

  19. Court says:

    If FOX had to have their own on-air talent call the games, then they should have followed ESPN’s lead with hiring a long time pro like Ian Darke and a charismatic and tenured veteran of the EPL, la liga, and Champions league Champion in Steve McManaman.

    You cannot walk off the streets and call a sport that you havent consciously and unconsciously entrenched yourself into for decades. No matter your resume.

    This is idiocracy at it’s finiest. Gus will be a total disaster and he’ll be out by May.

    Until then my volume will be turned down or I’ll find a Sky Sports stream online to watch these matches.

  20. ed of course says:

    May I quote: “Thank heavens that FOX Soccer doesn’t have the rights to the Premier League after May, 2013.” or “Why do some soccer fans dislike FOX Soccer so much?”

    • Wongo123 says:

      Ed it is not a dislike for Fox Soccer but a dislike for the insult they have just offered up to fans who have supported them. I get that they want to get a wider audience but this is not the way to do it.

      If they want an American voice that is fine but send him to Sky Sports in the UK so that he can apprentice, learn the game, learn the tactics and then put him on air. Don’t tell us that some guy who played a few pick up games is qualified to call a game as big as Real vs United it does not fly. Fox is about to see a good chunk of their audience vanish.

  21. Mufc77 says:

    If FSC want to get Gus Johnson involved in soccer they should put him in the studio instead of Rob stone, let him learn the game that way.

  22. Mufc77 says:

    To hell with rival fans uniting over ticket prices the only way to make sure this doesn’t happen is for everyone here to come together and voice their concerns to FSC. Between emails, phone calls and twitter they should get the message loud and clear that we don’t want this right now.

  23. Jessica says:

    Really wish Fox Soccer hired him to be on Fox Soccer News. Only announcer I like from that show is Bobby McMahon. I used to watch it all the time when it was Fox Soccer Report. The show they have on now is annoying. They need new announcers!!!!

  24. Simon Burke says:

    Yikes, this is concerning though thankfully not for eternity as NBC takes the reins in a few months. (though no telling yet what they’ll do).

    I don’t know the fella so I cant abuse him like some have but I would rather they put in a guy who knew the history of the game at least. It doesn’t bother me that he’s American but it bothers me that I will know much more than him about the game. I shouldn’t.

    If we are to have an American voice doing the games then who would we want? I never minded JP Delacamara (sp?) but I am sure others hated him. I totally understand an American network trying to find an American voice, are there that few out there to pick from that we have to get a basketball guy in?

    Best of luck to the guy – at least by 2018 he should have enough knowledge to do a world cup. Alas I don’t want to be a guinea pig who has to witness it all.

    Lee Dixon is a good pundit, very knowledgeable though I cant say I have heard him do a 90 minute game as co-commentator.

  25. Purd says:

    Gotta say I am very excited about this. Sure I’d rather listen to two British guys any day, but if they were set on going American, there is no better choice than Gus Johnson. Can’t wait to hear him explode on a dramatic goal.

  26. SpH says:

    Worst possible decision. Why?!?! Just give us the English feed. Please! Gus Johnson is simply an actor playing the role of “Gus Johnson” whenever he is involved. Such a phony.

  27. Mufc77 says:

    Anybody who watches that video above can tell within the first 15 seconds he has no clue what he’s doing. Saying a player is deep in the left wing when he’s barley 10 yards past the halfway line is all you need to hear.

  28. Earl Reed says:

    At some point American vocal talent must be groomed. Will any American announcer ever be good enough for Europhiles? Is Phil Schoen even accepted? J.P. Dellacamera? Probably not entirely. If you want the game to eventually reach everyday people, eventually someone who can put it in their terms needs to be nurtured.

    Or every announcer will always be British, and the NFL, NBA, and MLB can dominate American sports forever. Have it your way.

    • Mufc77 says:

      You don’t groom new talent on the biggest stage in world football. You start at the bottom and learn the trade and work your way up just like in any job.

      Martin Tyler has spent the majority of his career building his reputation just to get where he is today but he’s earned that right by serving his time learning the game from the bottom up.

      For FSC to do this is a insult to the fans who have made the channel what it is today.

      • Earl Reed says:

        And soccer fans are supposed to be progressive. Haha. Just look at the comments section here, basically, “Just do it like it is because…” Progressive until utopia gets ruined.

        • john marzan says:

          Rick: “This is a wrong decision by Fox. How about the network try Martin Tyler on a nfl game? See the reaction you would get.?

          It’d work if the target audience is British. Gus Johnson can work because his target audience is mainstream america, who as a collective are slowly learning the game and loving the game like him.

          the majority of americans are ignorant of soccer, so they really can’t tell the difference. most americans prefer to listen to american play by play announcers. this is a way to fox soccer to reach a wider audience.

          besides, he just does play by play, most of the time identifying players by names. let his british sidekick do the analysis for the american viewers.

          • Jay says:

            “most americans prefer to listen to american play by play announcers.”

            Never heard that. You have a source?

          • Earl Reed says:

            Jay:

            The audience on this site is very specific IMO. Most of us have paid close attention to the sport for years, and really get something from a British announcer who has the breadth of knowledge to speak to the hardcore fan.

            When you’re talking Joe Schmo American Sports Fan who’s popping the top on a Bud on a Saturday afternoon, I’m not sure that kind of in-depth information gets him going. He actually might turn on a game, hear a foreign accent, and say, “WTF?”

            And the hardcore soccer fans might say, “Who cares? We don’t want those kinds of closeminded people as fans anyway!” That kind of attitude will end up stifling the growth of the sport in this country. It’s going to get there eventually because of the shift in youth sports as well as the greater exposure via television.

            What I want to find is the balance. The only way that will happen is through on-the-job training. You can’t back-program a guy like Al Michaels or Bob Costas to know everything about the EPL. At some point you have to look to the future, and hope that in 10 years someone young may remember the things that happened when they began their journey, while also picking up a lot of the factoids that they don’t have right now.

    • Wongo123 says:

      Earl like I pointed out to BA earlier, the issue is not that he is an American; believe me I think we can groom some awesome colour men and women. The issue is that he knows f all about football and they had him some of the most prestigious games to call. This guy should be sent to Europe to work under the best and then work the smaller games as he hones his skill. You don’t give a kid who just got their drivers license an Aston Martin do you?

      • Earl Reed says:

        Very few know anything about football. He spent a year doing radio work for San Jose Earthquakes. FFS you guys, you would bitch about anybody because hardly any PBP announcers in America know anything about football.

        Make some suggestions who should do it instead of Gus Johnson. I dare you. Glenn Davis? You’d poo poo him about being this or that. Christian Miles? He was lampooned and seemed to have some knowledge.

        It’s just a joke. It’s your sport, and that’s it. Nobody else need apply, maybe you should apply for the job.

        • Cantona says:

          How about you just LEAVE IT AS IT IS!!!!

          Cantona—

          • Earl Reed says:

            There you go Cantona, thanks for proving my point. Who cares about the coverage in this country improving, as long as YOU get YOUR short term gratification?

            Better yet, why don’t you pony up all your dough and buy up the rights to these games? Then you can pipe in whichever British announcer you choose. Oh yeah, that’s right, you don’t have that kind of money. Let the people who invest decide which direction is best for them. Maybe by 2026 we’ll have an American soccer announcer that compares to your vaunted British voices.

          • Cantona says:

            How is having a basketball announcer with zero knowledge of soccer IMPROVING the game… Are you really that thick? Rating have dramatically improved.. Why because of increased visibility ie national network coverage… The current announcers are the best in the English speaking world … If you want to grow European football in the USA leave it Alone and make it more accessible to mainstream America ie get off niche channels hidden on high cable tiers… But your rationale to having a screaming US voice to grow the game is idiotic, truly idiotic

            Cantona—

    • Eplnfl says:

      A key pointing that the growth of the game here requires American home grown announcers. Also mentioned above is that Fox has to build towards 2018 and they best get someone young.

      It has been my thought that US production and announcers would increase interest here. While ESPN has not quite done that it is close to the mark. I home Ian and Macca get picked up as a team by NBC.

      In my opinion it a good move.

    • Jay says:

      “If you want the game to eventually reach everyday people, eventually someone who can put it in their terms needs to be nurtured.”

      What are you talking about? Are Americans to incompetent to follow a British voice during a Champions League match? They need to be nurtured and put in their terms??

    • David says:

      How about grooming someone with knowledge of the sport. There are lots of college soccer commentators out there who could be groomed for the job. Yes, they are not well known but at least they would have some understanding of the game.

  29. Stephen says:

    Now I’m just excited because they’re trolling all the butthurt spazzes here. This thread is awesome!

  30. Rick says:

    This is a wrong decision by Fox. How about the network try Martin Tyler on a nfl game? See the reaction you would get. Let the seasoned veterans handle this not someone who knows nothing about the history of the “beautiful game”.

  31. IanCransonsKnees says:

    You’re welcome to John Motson, he can’t be much worse. Whilst you’re at it take Andy Townsend, Martin Keown, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen, Pat Nevin (can’t stand him), and umpteen other no marks.

  32. Randy says:

    Bad move by FSC.

    As an early FSC subscriber and long time fan of the EPL, I relish the insight of the British commentators. This move is the 2nd nail in the coffin of FSC…the first being losing the EPL broadcast rights.

  33. Matt says:

    I seriously cannot get over what a terrible decision this was.

  34. Justin says:

    Let’s all take a quick marketing lesson.

    Fox wants to tap into the millions of American viewers that aren’t already watching. Pandering to the smaller audience that is already on board with the game doesn’t get them anywhere. Hence, they hire one of the most well-known American voices that is willing to put in extensive work to make himself a more knowledgable.

    This is an experiment, and one that may not work out as well as we would want, but you certainly can’t fault Fox for trying to get into the untapped market.

    • Justin says:

      a more knowledgable commentator*

      • Mufc77 says:

        So they bring in This guy to attract new fans but they lose the fans that have been their bread and butter fir the last 5/6 seasons.

        Hate to break it to you but new fans aren’t going to go rushing out to order FSC because Gus Johnson happens to be calling the game.

        • Randy says:

          5/6 seasons? Many of us have been subscribers since the channel was originally launched as Fox Sports World in 1997. I dumped my cable service and got DirecTV because it was the only carrier at the time. Got all my friends to do the same way back when as well.

          It’s a shame really. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.

        • Earl Reed says:

          MUFC: That’s too bad that you’re going to turn away from the sport because of a green announcer. Maybe you can turn into a Yankee fan or something.

    • The Gaffer says:

      I understand that FOX wants to spread the game to larger numbers, but they refuse to pay attention to the mistakes that others have made. ESPN made a huge mistake in 2006 with their World Cup coverage by hiring Dave O’Brien. After the World Cup, ESPN decided that they were going to focus on talent rather than shoehorning an American voice into their commentators’ booth. FOX looks set to repeat the same mistake that ESPN made.

      ESPN’s coverage of Euro 2012 and World Cup 2010 had record breaking viewing figures. And how many Emmys did they win for their superb coverage? I lost count.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Justin says:

        I agree, but Dave O’Brien isn’t even respected for his baseball and basketball work. ESPN really screwed the pooch with that decision, and everyone knew it.

        At least based on the article, it seems like Gus is going to put in a lot of work to prepare himself for this role.

        We automatically assume that better talent was available for Fox to immediately hire, but what if their wasn’t? We have to consider all scenarios.

        Mistakes will evidently be made, but let’s give him a few telecasts first to see how it goes.

        • The Gaffer says:

          Dave O’Brien went through training too in the lead-up to World Cup 2006. He commentated on US games before he did the World Cup matches. We all know how that turned out.

          Better talent is available to FOX. But for whatever reason, they made this risky move.

          I’m all for giving Gus a chance, but I’m really upset at FOX Soccer for this poor decision.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • Justin says:

            Dave O’Brien could get an unlimited amount of training and still be terrible. The guy just isn’t any good at his job.

            What talent? And for what price? Most of the best commentators are currently under contract I would guess.

            Not all of the world feed announcers are gems to begin with. There are only a select few people that I regularly enjoy listening to.

            It is highly risky, and strange that he would get big matches so early, but the odds are he is more familiar with the big clubs at this point in his education.

            We can’t say it’s poor until we hear the results.

  35. Rob says:

    The biggest game in the biggest competition in the sport and they give the job to a complete novice who shouts so loud into the mic that he distorts the sound, oh dear.
    Why we need a co commentator is beyond me anyway, can’t we just watch a game without having to listen to two guys talking to each other, we wouldn’t put up with it in the stadium.

  36. WhyAlwaysMe-Lan says:

    Where UFCs Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan not available.

    ‘There’es the final whistle and IT IS ALL OVER!!!!”

  37. Mufc77 says:

    I suppose I better get used to hearing the name Man U repeatedly for the next 4 months.

  38. Randy says:

    The Gaffer,

    Have you heard anything about NBC Sports and how they will approach EPL weekend programming?

  39. Dean Stell says:

    I’m of two minds about this….. On one hand, it seems like there are some really good soccer commentators who would be available. It’s kinda a slap in the face of those guys that a guy can just jump in from another sport and take a nice job like this one.

    On there other…. I’ve heard some interviews with Gus Johnson and he seems very earnest about enjoying the hell out of soccer and also how much he needs has to learn. The guy seems like a totally obsessive workaholic, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get very good very fast. He’s probably locked in a room 20 hours per day with soccer on TV and someone knowledgeable helping him understand nuances of what he’s seeing.

    Plus….he DOES have a little crossover appeal from doing so many NCAA tournaments. He has a gift for making things seem just a little more exciting than they really are. IF some non-fans flip through the channels and hear Gus Johnson, they might linger AND IF that games turns out to be a firecracker of a game, Gus will milk it for all it’s worth. Now….if the game is some stinker, it won’t matter who is commentating.

    But….in general….I share the concern.

  40. Scott Greenberg says:

    For what it’s worth, he did some San Jose Earthquakes games on the radio last season.

  41. Scott Greenberg says:

    Also, Stoner can’t do it?

  42. Matt says:

    First I say this: Bring on the down votes. My comment is about to be as poorly rated as Dust’s are on a weekly basis. Let me be clear: I have often voiced my dissatisfaction with Fox and the way they run their business, from the absurd billing of FS2G to wishing for MOTD live streamed every weekend.

    I think he is going to grow into this role well. Obviously Gus needs work, but he has learned from his experiences in other sports and he will do the same for soccer. He became the voice of March Madness and if CBS didn’t have their collective noses so far up Jim Nantz’s arse he would be calling Final Four games and Super Bowls now. Instead they kept him away from big games, and Fox wisely snatched him. He has been excellent for Fox in two sports that require much more description than soccer.

    Regardless of your favorite announcer (Tyler, Darke etc), one common thread they all share is understanding the simple fact that soccer commentary is an exercise in minimalism. Letting the game do the talking is just as important as emphasizing the moments that require commentary. If he can do this (which will be difficult considering basketball commentary is exactly the opposite), he will be a massive success. His emotion in big moments will rival Neville’s Chelsea calls from the Champion’s League or Tyler’s “AGUEEEROOOOOOOOOOOO!” Nobody was complaining about mic distortion then, were they.

  43. Chris says:

    I’m honestly tired of the xenophobic British announce teams that we have to suffer through. If Jon Champion is on, I usually put my TV on mute. I’ll give Gus a chance.

  44. Fog says:

    ARMAGEDDON!!

    I do not believe that Gus Johnson’s “in your face” machinegun delivery is a good match for soccer…regardless of his knowledge of the sport.

    If Fox wants an American voice, I suggest Jon Miller. Miller is best known for his baseball commentary, but he was also the first radio voice of the San Jose Earthquakes of the NASL in 1974.

    Who next Fox? Howard Stern???

    • Earl Reed says:

      Thank you Fog, for at least picking an alternative that could be considered. Miller does have some sophistication to his style. Maybe NBC will consider him come the fall when they take over EPL…

      I want to give Johnson a chance. Take actors for example – some have a very broad range of parts they can play (Kevin Spacey comes to mind). Some don’t. Announcers can as well – Jim Nantz can be upbeat during NFL coverage, but tones it back for the Masters. Let’s see what Johnson does…he may botch it big time. Then again, maybe he has another gear that suits a less frenetic sport.

  45. anon says:

    next thing you know fox will start trying to incorporate curt menefee into every pregame show like the ucl final. we might as well have “talents” like dellacamera and harkes call nfl games.

  46. Rbone68 says:

    Am I the only one who is more worried about having to listen to Barton for 90 minutes? His studio “analysis” is laughable. I dread that translating to live action when he doesn’t have as much time to think about his words.

    As far as Gus goes, I do believe it is too early and unfair to call the decision by Fox “horrible, disgusting”, etc. until we actually give him a chance and hear him. It’s only a poor decision and he’s only bad once he’s actually poor and bad. You can say you’re giving him a chance, but with this fearful talk I find it hard to believe pre-conceived notions will not get in the way.

    And it’s not as if every single game by a British duo is a masterpiece of commentating. Would I rather hear Martin Tyler? Probably. But I would love for there to finally be a successful American soccer announcer. What gives me hope is quotes from Gus and that the guy seems genuinely invested in doing right by us. Never felt that way with O’Brien. And yes, I do believe once college-aged guys and others hear Gus coming out of the tv while their friends are watching games, they may be more inclined to sit down and take interest.

  47. Smokey Bacon says:

    I’ve no idea who this guy is but the fact he is new to the sport should tell you all you need to know. I expect we’ll be hearing about pk’s, overtime etc etc. It will be as irritating as hearing Rob Stone refer to Clint Dempsey as The American in that ridiculous excitable tone.

    Yet again, a us network tries to Americanize that which doesn’t need Americanizing. The results will be predictable. Hopefully he fails miserably and is gone long before the World Cup.

    This has nothing to do with him being American. It’s just a fact that the British commentators are better. They are far more experienced and know the game inside out. You can’t just insert a basketball guy and expect it to go well. Espn tried that and got slaughtered. They eventually saw the light with Ian Darke.

    • Smokey Bacon says:

      And before anyone accuses me of being biased I happen to think there some decent American commentators out there. I particularly enjoyed Chris Fowler of espn during the last World Cup. A fine anchor who would be 100 times better than Rob Stone. And Phil Schoen is ok too.

      The problem is the Americans always feel the need to fill every second of airtime. They can’t just let the game speak for itself. It’s probably due to the stop-start nature of American sports. There is a lot of dead time when nothing is going on unlike soccer where the play is constantly evolving.

      American commentators also seem unable to capture the moment in the same way as Ian Darke did when Donovan scored that last minute winner against Algeria. Recall the excitement in the build up and the goal itself. And that was by a Brit!

      No offense to this bloke but he needs to go and spend 10 yearsin the UK before he will be remotely any good.

  48. Matt says:

    Dislike most of the biased English commentators (especially on CL duty where they cheerlead for the EPL clubs) so I will give Gus a chance

  49. I like Gus and I think he will be a great soccer announcer. He’s one of the few announcers I like even though he does get extra enthusiastic at times.

  50. Womble says:

    Hate to break it to you but the British commentary/punditry that most of you guys seem to long for and eulogise generally sucks. With the exceptions of Tyler, Neville and I’d also say Darke it’s a very low talent pool over here and football is regarded by most people as being the most poorly covered sport we have (in terms of punditry). The fact that a relative novice like Neville has been more or less hailed as a saviour says an awful lot…

  51. David says:

    I have nothing against Gus Johnson but he’s not qualified to be the announcer at high profile matches such as the Champions League. It’s actually pretty insulting to the American soccer public hiring a guy that knows nothing of the sport. This decision by Fox is mind-boggling. What’s next? Joe Buck in the booth for matches. Once the Premier League season is done, I’m cutting the cord to Fox. No need for Fox Soccer Plus anymore. I’m hoping NBC doesn’t follow suit when they start airing matches next season.

    • Marc L says:

      Watch it – after this the prospect of JOE FREAKING BUCK in the booth for a UCL match has become depressingly realistic.

  52. Jack Tomczuk says:

    Fox has made a bold decision, but I think it could be turn out to be a great move. Unlike some others, I’m definitely willing to give Johnson a chance. Commentators often switch sports in the US, and professionals usually do proper research, unlike some commentators and pundits in England (watch any UCL match involving a Premier League club and a non-mega club).

    Americans are never going to develop into great soccer commentators if they aren’t given a chance. Hopefully, Gus captitalizes and becomes the voice of the game in America.

    Of course, it could turn out terribly, but I’m not going to judge the decision yet.

  53. NotTheNoob says:

    A few years back, CBS brought Gus Johnson in for mixed martial arts broadcasts. His mma knowledge level was novice, as was his mma announcing talent. I am not looking forward to hearing his voice call the action for the world’s greatest football teams.

  54. The Gaffer says:

    If anyone is interested, I’ll be on World Soccer Radio tonight with Nick Geber at 9:15pm ET to share my thoughts regarding Gus Johnson becoming the voice of FOX’s soccer coverage.

    It’s on SportsByLine Radio on radio stations nationwide, or you can listen live via Ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ngeber

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  55. Frill Artist says:

    Is this a joke???

  56. Marc L says:

    Were you linking to a story in the Onion for this “news”?

    Oh wait, then so was deadspin (palm to face.)

    Just completely stupid on every level. And an utter and total insult to the fans of the most popular sport in the world. And saying that is not being a “eurosnob.” It is speaking the truth.

    I think of how much a guy like Martin Tyler adds to my enjoyment of a match. Blue dippers v. Saints becomes like a Champions League final when you hear that guy’s voice describing it. Can’t put my finger on it. Just something about a lifetime of love and knowledge and wisdom and talent flowing through every sentence.

    Now? What, are we going to have the ACTUAL Champions League final called by some american basketball announcer?

    The analogy that comes to mind was back in the day in the business world (1960′s-era) when the notion took hold that you didn’t need any industry-specific knowledge to run a company. You just needed sound, fundamental, technocratic principles of “management” to be applied. Lots of conglomerates were built up around this theory – just buy every disparate business you could find and use the same management techniques to run them.

    And to anyone who never heard of this whole idea – there’s a good reason. It failed miserably. Expertise counts. An aircraft manufacturer isn’t the same thing as a bakery. Just as football (the real kind) is not the same damn thing as the NCAA tournament.

    • jtm371 says:

      could not agree with you anymore Marc L. talk about Fox jumping the shark. maybe next year we can have Darke or Tyler call the SB.F YOU Fox glad you will be gone soon.

    • Earl Reed says:

      Wow, an aircraft manufacturer isn’t the same thing as a bakery? Holy shit, I wondered why the Learjet I bought at Little Jim’s had too much icing on it.

  57. gillyrosh says:

    Not sure why this is a big deal. Commentators aren’t integral to my enjoyment of a televised match. If they’re good, I hardly notice them; if they’re bad, I have fun rolling my eyes at their silliness then mute them. Win-Win.

    As long as they don’t talk down to me as a fan, I’m good.

  58. Fog says:

    Actually, Fox tried to hire Sarah Palin to be their primary commentator, but she would only call action on the right wing of the pitch.

    • Fogette says:

      Q: What’s the difference between a “soccer mom” commentating on a Champions League game and “Gus Johnson” commentating on a Champions League game?

      A: Lipstick

  59. Pete says:

    Thanks for the heads up. Now I know I will be finding a way to watch these games online to hear the European feed.

  60. Cantona says:

    Doing a quick search on yahoo you can see the Fox propaganda machine in full force… Stating this will add “excitement” to soccer… Funny that with all the good decisions they have made regarding commentary choices and the large gain in ratings, they think this is going to get them more ratings.. When actuallly it will do the opposite. Does Fox really think the screaming orgasm model ala Hudson and Schoen really works???? Idiots. Truly idiots..

    Cantona—

  61. john marzan says:

    you all a bunch of racists!

  62. john marzan says:

    Rick: “This is a wrong decision by Fox. How about the network try Martin Tyler on a nfl game? See the reaction you would get.?

    It’d work if the target audience is British. Gus Johnson can work because his target audience is mainstream america, who as a collective are slowly learning the game and loving the game like him.

    the majority of americans are ignorant of soccer, so they really can’t tell the difference. most americans prefer to listen to american play by play announcers. this is a way to fox soccer to reach a wider audience.

    besides, he just does play by play, most of the time identifying players by names. let his british sidekick do the analysis for the american viewers.

  63. dust says:

    Note to NBC Sports… do not follow Fox’s moves here…Keep the BPL feed from the UK, have american analysts if you want but DO NOT PULL a FOX and put someone in a studio over the top like they have for europa league and now apparently the UCL.

    I cant wait to see your coverage…JUST DONT F*** IT UP!

  64. Jay says:

    Why use Gus when Martin Tyler (the voice of the sport) will be calling the match?

    Makes no sense.

  65. Jay says:

    How is someone a Eurosnob or whatever for wanting to watch a match between, for example, two English clubs with British commentary?

    Fox has no clue while everyone loves the job ESPN has done in the USA and UK for its football coverage.

  66. Rob says:

    The Superbowl was shown in England with American commentators because that’s who we wanted to hear not English ones, If you want American soccer commentators, let Gus do the MLS, not European games.

  67. DaveG says:

    Basketball announcer who has played a couple of pickup 5 asides in the park commentating on the BIGGEST game of the Champions League this season…Ernie Johnson and TNT World Cup 1990 coverage can’t be too far away now can it? Ahhh yesssss the memories!!!!!! ;)

  68. Marc says:

    Well NBC I hope your reading these posts. It’s clear that a majority of US football supporters want to hear the English talent. Fox, good luck with your rebranding your channels Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, etc. Where did you get that idea from anyway? Thants right from Sky Sports. Where is Sky Sports based out of? Thats right England. Gaffer how did your interview with Geber go? Not a fan of his. I would of listen last night if I knew you were going to be on.

  69. Larry says:

    So “Mr March Madness” is coming to soccer.
    Now that’s Perennial Madeness! :-)

  70. Larry says:

    Sorry for the spelling. It’s Madness.

  71. OT says:

    Recall that FOX Soccer used the final 4 months of Serie A coverage in the U.S. in February-May 2012 as a “school” to train junior production staff behind the scenes. In order to have a full production crew for each match, Los Angeles-based announcers, namely Christian Miles or Danny Lee with Christopher Sullivan, were brought in to the studio to call matches “off tube” to replace the international commentary feed from InFront Sports (i.e. Max Patrick, Richard Whittle, Patrick Tarroni.) No amount of viewer complaints mattered at that point, as FOX Sports clearly had an agenda to implement.

    Guess what? Now that the entire FOX Soccer business (FOX Soccer, FOX Soccer Plus, and FOX Soccer 2 Go) is a lame duck (and will go out of business by July 31), FOX Sports is using FOX Soccer as a “school” for one announcer: Gus Johnson.

    Repeat after me: FOX Soccer will be gone in 6 months. Kaput. Put out of business essentially by Comcast/NBC Sports Group (and to a lesser extent by Qatar Media/beIN SPORT LLC.)

    After FOX Soccer goes out of business, one would expect:

    1. FOX Soccer Plus to be rebranded “FOX Sports Plus”, with at least 3 Dutch Eredivisie matches each weekend in addition to Scottish Premier League. Sky Sports News will probably end up exclusively on FOX Sports Plus. Overflow FA Cup and UEFA Europa League games will end up on FOX Sports Plus. There will not be a need for “FOX Soccer News” anymore so FOX will have to work out a buyout agreement with Rogers to terminate that deal.

    2. Live UEFA CL games will be on FOX Sports 1 and 2. Now that FOX Sports Net is essentially dead (after Comcast chose not to renew its FOX Sports Net affiliation agreement for CSN Bay Area, Chicago, Mid-Atlantic, New England, and Philly), FOX Sports 2 will replace FOX Sports Net as the national distribution outlet for 2nd choice events.

    3. The name of the nightly sports news program on FOX Sports 1 starting August 1 will likely be “FOX Sports Central”. That would be consistent with the name of the new program that launched last week. “SportsCenter” on ESPN Asia was rebranded “FOX Sports Central” after NewsCorp took control of ESPN STAR Sports and renamed ESPN Asia “FOX Sports Asia” a week ago.

    • leafsfan1967 says:

      The concerns here, at least for me, are

      1) The impact of this on future World Cup broadcasts and

      2) What it will do in terms of setting a precedent for NBC’s coverage of the EPL.

  72. Guy says:

    One of the things I love about listening to the British commentators is their vast storehouse of knowledge about the league, teams and players. They will off the cuff mention facts about a player’s past from some Championship side or an epic match the two teams had years ago. I really enjoy that background info.

    Now, you can call me a Eurosnob, but I don’t think any American announcer is going to be able to give me that. I appreciate knowledgeable Americans in the studio, but that’s it.

    Finally, let’s not forget that the BPL, CL, etc. are foreign leagues. An American voice is not going to get most Americans past that… to say nothing of the fact that it’s soccer to begin with. ;-)

    • Gillyrosh says:

      So, the Martin Tylers of the world sprang from the womb, fully inculcated with soccer knowledge? Good to know.

      What’s hilarious is that those vaunted British commentators get plenty of stick for not knowing much about teams and players outside the EPL. I guess they should be barred from commenting on CL matches that don’t feature EPL teams, right?

      • Guy says:

        “So, the Martin Tylers of the world sprang from the womb, fully inculcated with soccer knowledge?”

        I neither said nor implied that. I made it clear that it is their lifetime of League specific accumulated knowledge that I enjoy, something an American commentator can not bring to the table.

        All commentators can be crap, no matter where they’re from. As for the CL, whatever British commentators may or may not bring to the discussion, can you name a few Americans you think, generally, have more CL knowledge?

        • Wongo1 says:

          Guy no Martin Tyler did not spring from the womb as a football genius, however Martin Tyler also was not given a game as big as United v Real or the FA cup final in his very first outing.

  73. Cantona says:

    Another thing, if Fox really thought they are trying to get the casual American fan interested by this idiotic move, then why are you having him announce on Fox Soccer? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have him broadcast the game on the regional sport networks…. doesn’t make sense… Fox executives are total tw*ts.

    Cantona—

  74. Brian B says:

    This is nuts, where is Tommy Smyth when you need him?
    Would the NFL use a British commentator for the Superbowl?

  75. Scrumper says:

    “According to FOX, Johnson has called over a dozen MLS games on radio, played pick-up soccer games in a park, spent several weeks in Europe last season attending games and conversing at length with Sky Sports executives and announcer Martin Tyler.”

    Some years ago on an aircraft I sat next to a ex Green Bay quarterback who played for Vince Lombardi and we chatted about the NFL. I have also been known to throw an American football once every ten years.

    According to Fox I’m ready to commentate on a NFL game.

  76. SENNA says:

    thank god for streaming! I will not have to listen to this nonsense ever!!! SKYSPORTS it is . Would rather watch a match on AL Jazeera

  77. TJH says:

    My difficulty with this is that when I watch an English game, I want the full British or UK treatment.

    It’s clear to me that I get much more background and deeper data about players and teams from announcers and commentators that live the league, and are there, in England, delivering the English product (EPL, Championship, etc.)

    Putting non-native staff as presenters takes away from from the BPL brand.

    Even if Fox commentators will now physically work in the UK (which I doubt), the lack of local knowledge will downgrade the programming noticeably.

    Honestly, when I watch a match where it’s clear the announcers are in studios a hemisphere away, my connection with the game feels lessened.

    And this doesn’t address the presenters’ moods and vocal characteristics that are obviously lacking in involvement. How many matches have I watched on Fox wandering why the announcers (Americans in the case I’m thinking of) sounded like they were not far from nap time…

    Immediacy matters. Verisimilitude matters.

  78. Neil says:

    Are you kidding me? I thought Fox Soccer understood true fans by using the UK commentators. This is a slap in the face and a terrible decision. Get rid of this Gus guy and show some respect to the fans who have been supporting this network from the beginning.

  79. Neil says:

    This just proves that these TV executives are morons who do not understand the product they are selling. This decision ranks right up there with MTV interrupting the live Pink Floyd reunion at the Live 8 concert so some VJ bimbo could interview people queuing for hotdogs.

  80. Mike Berger says:

    Gus Johnson id terrible please get someone that understands the game

  81. Stevie G says:

    This is ridiculous – cant wait till May 2013, not sure what NBC Sports coverage will be like however, but this is horrible from FOX. Sorry guys, but I actually will only watch MLS games on ESPN when Darkey is commenting!! Theres something about watching football (soccer for you others) with a brit commentator – its just how its been since the inception of broadcasting football matches. You know, like how like your dunkin donuts coffee tastes better with sugar… imagine going to a baseball game and instead of beer they are now serving you wine. It does the job, but its completely out of place.

  82. Peter Basson says:

    This guy sucks. I watched the Man City v Chelsea game and he completely ruined it. Eden Hazard is apparently now French and not Belgian. Man City have a player called “Julian” Lescott. And Chicharito will be surprised to learn that he scored a goal against QPR on Saturday, a game I watched but only seem to remember Ryan Giggs and Rafael scoring in.

    Amateurish and not ready for the minor leagues, let alone the best league in the world. If they stay with this guy, I’m going to be looking elsewhere to watch the games.

    Get him out of there before he does any more damage.

  83. Will Willows says:

    I have been listening to football (soccer)for a long time, since 1968 and have to say Gus Johnson is the worst I have ever heard. He is even worse than that Irish droner who announces Milan matches. No. There are others who know the game better, can follow the action better and have the voice for it. Listen to Ian Darke. Old timers remember Toby Charles. Steve Macca is a better announcer. Sorry.

  84. Jesse Ramirez says:

    Please make it stop fox. This Gus guy is horrible. Or at lease give me the SAP option so I don’t have hear him butcher players names or call it “MAN U”. Clearly has no passion for the game other wise he would have know that.

  85. John says:

    He played Pick Up so he must be an expert at soccer!!!!!!!!!!1 Come on!!!

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