The Art of Soccer Commentary And How FOX Is Breaking The Rules

FOX’s decision to throw Gus Johnson into the deep end next week with the Champions League match between Real Madrid and Manchester United sends a strong message to its hardcore soccer base who have been watching the Premier League on FOX Soccer for 15 consecutive years — we don’t care about you anymore. We’ve lost the EPL rights for the next 3 years so instead of Martin Tyler, let’s put Johnson into the pressure cooker and sees how he copes with one of the biggest matches of the European season.

FOX’s move is a kick in the teeth to Premier League soccer fans who have watched this sport religiously week-in week-out for years, or — for some — decades. What FOX fails to recognize is that the role of the soccer commentator is the most important bond between the broadcaster and viewer. Many of us enjoy some of the great commentators just as much as some of the games. We’ve grown up listening to commentators such as Tyler, Ian Darke, Jonathan Pearce, Alan Parry, Clive Tyldesley, Peter Drury and many others. I would argue that they are one of the reasons why we love watching the Premier League so much.

While there’s no argument that Johnson is a skilled commentator on American sports such as basketball and American football, the leap from those sports to soccer is immense. The role of a soccer commentator is to act as our window to the game. Pulling us closer into the experience. Enhancing our excitement, and pointing out the nuances that delight us.

We find ourselves in a transitional period in the history of soccer games on US television. There are two forces colliding against each other. The first is FOX Sports realizing that they can’t grow its hardcore soccer fanbase any more than what it is, so it needs to make changes to cater to the American mainstream. At the same time, you have the second force, which are the hardcore soccer fans who expect the very best and know the difference between quality commentating and talent that are not schooled in the game.

ESPN went through the same situation in 2006 when they decided to cater to the American mainstream by hiring baseball announcer Dave O’Brien to be the lead commentator for World Cup games on US television. The move backfired, and ESPN quickly learned that the path forward was to hire the best in the business and the mainstream would follow. Based on ESPN’s record breaking TV ratings for Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, the formula worked.

The soccer commentator is the heart and soul of a broadcaster’s coverage. Spoil that and you ruin the entire broadcast. FOX can mess with the pre-show analysis, half-time show and post-match interviews. They can change the name of their network. Change the graphics. Whatever else. But do not mess with the commentating.

Some readers believe I’m overreacting over this whole situation. FOX’s contract with the Premier League will end in a few months anyway, but the fact of the matter is that the record needs to be straight that the hardcore soccer fan base do not want to have non-soccer talent commentating on the game. It’s insulting to soccer fans.

While I would much prefer to have the British commentators bringing the game to us via the world-feed, I’m not against Americans moving into the commentary seat. My opinion is that the best talent should be commentating on the game. If that happens to be an American (and there are a few very well respected ones who are far more skilled than Johnson; people like Phil Schoen and Glenn Davis), more power to them. But do not give us a basketball play-by-play announcer who has never commentated a major soccer game.

I’m all for giving Johnson a chance, but my biggest concern here is that FOX Soccer is breaking the rules. They’re ditching proven world-class commentators in their Premier League coverage in favor of an inexperienced soccer novice. Instead of hearing Martin Tyler, Gary Neville, Alan Smith or Stewart Robson commentate on the massive matches over the next few months including Chelsea-Manchester City, we’re getting Johnson and Warren Barton. While Barton’s professional soccer career is impressive, how much experience has he had as a co-commentator? As a pundit, he’s mediocre. As a co-commentator, I shudder at the thought of hearing him on the airwaves.

Johnson is also scheduled to commentate on other Premier League games this season, according to Sports Illustrated.

I understand that FOX wants to give Johnson real-world experience in a major game, and it’s their decision. But by doing so, they’re causing a massive rift with their loyal soccer core. They risk damaging all of the hard work they’ve done since FOX Sports World began showing the Premier League in 1998.

Thankfully, FOX’s coverage of the Premier League will end in a few months. They’ve given NBC Sports an opportunity to look like geniuses by hopefully making the right decision to focus on talented soccer commentators for their Premier League coverage beginning in August instead of this FOX Soccer train wreck where they’ve picked a basketball announcer for ratings or branding (or whatever reason FOX is thinking).

FOX may argue that it’s only a handful of games, so what’s the big deal? It’s not the quantity of games that is the issue. It’s the principle of the matter. FOX is moving into dangerous territory with its viewer base who will go where the games are. If the quality of the commentators is sub-standard, we’ll still watch the games but we may choose other methods to pipe in higher quality commentating to make our experience the best that is possible.

FOX Soccer has managed to take the English out of the English Premier League. We tune in because it’s a uniquely English experience enjoyed by Americans and other nationalities from around the world. By substituting an excitable American into the broadcast, they have the potential of destroying the experience. If an American behind the mic is ultimately their business decision, then choose the best American. Don’t get someone just because you think you’ll strike a ratings bonanza. Go with quality and experience.

Gus Johnson will make his debut next Wednesday on FOX Soccer at 2pm ET in the game between Real Madrid and Manchester United. FOX Soccer 2Go will also be broadcasting the game live (they typically use the world feed).

142 thoughts on “The Art of Soccer Commentary And How FOX Is Breaking The Rules”

  1. If I could give Gus one piece of advice….TALK LESS. Every English commentator seems to be very judicious with their words, while every broadcast I hear with Americans in the booth is endless chatter.

    1. American announcers, they don’t call them commentators, seem to get paid by the number of words they say and with volume. They hate silence. That’s just how it is. It’s not going to change because the sport is soccer.

  2. A couple points Gaffer:

    That clip of Gus calling the Earthquakes game I believe is in fact for radio. He only did radio broadcasts for them (not saying it still isn’t amateurish, it is). I believe it was synced with the video just for the youtube clip.

    As for Warren Barton: before he moved here to work with Fox Soccer, he primarily did color commentary for the world feed of PL matches, albeit not the marquee ones. But I certainly remembered his name and voice from then before he moved to Fox.

    1. Phil, here’s another clip of Johnson commentating an Earthquakes game off TV —

      It’s a local broadcast from Comcast SportsNet, so maybe the commentary was simulcast on both radio and television? Maybe some of the MLS fans can shine more light on this.

      The Gaffer

          1. FYI:

            Those clips of Gus Johnson calling San Jose Earthquakes games were all RADIO broadcasts that were later synchronized with video before they were posted on YouTube.

            Jim Kozimor and Kelly Gray are the TV announcers for San Jose Earthquakes games on Comcast Sportsnet California. Kozimor and Gray called home games on site in Santa Clara, but called away games “off tube” from the studio of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area in Downtown San Francisco.

            Let’s see how Gus Johnson will adjust from radio to TV next Wednesday.

        1. Ok thanks for the clarification Earl. I’m not sure why they have the videos on YouTube then. It does him a disservice.

          The Gaffer

          1. Agreed very much so. Of course in a week or two there will be a veritable record of his play-by-play on television, and I’m sure many will critique him to the fullest. 😉

          2. They just pared the radio with the tv feeds after the fact. All the Earthquakes games on Comcast Sports Net are commentated by Kozimor and Kelly Gray

  3. “Unless you’re a radio commentator where the listeners can’t see what’s happening in the game, don’t describe to us exactly what we’re seeing before our very own eyes.”

    Guess what, Gus Johnson’s foray into MLS commentating WAS on radio. Maybe he’s a smarter commentator than you think.

  4. If we want to get technical, Barclays took the “English” out of English Premier League. But I digress.

    “If an American behind the mic is ultimately their business decision, then choose the best American.”

    Cool. Suggest one. Since this is such a big crusade for you.

    1. How about grooming someone with knowledge of the sport. What a novel idea. Fox would be better off finding someone who already does soccer commentary at the college level or for one of the MLS teams.

    2. It’s never been officially known as the ‘English’ Premier League even before Barclays became sponsor. When Barclaycard, Carling or even the FA had the sponsor name it was either just the Premiership or Premier League. Barclays even sponsored it for a while when it was the old First Division so they’ve not taken the ‘English’ out of anything 😉

  5. well if the diehard viewership is maxxed out then this makes sense. At least there is a 5 year plan for him unlike O’Brien who they basically gave a month for him to prepare.

  6. I don’t see the point in all this fretting. The fact is that as you pointed out, if we want soccer to grow, SOMETHING needs to change. Even if it’s just a bit.

    Name carries a LOT of weight with sports fans. Johnson is likely taking this very seriously and for all you know intends to emulate a more British approach to announcing.

    I don’t see how this is a slap in anyone’s face. If the sports is to grow, things have to be tried. And no, this is not quite the same as the failed 2006 experiment.

    If we ever want to develop a culture of proper American soccer culture (that includes broadcasts, you see) then we have to start somewhere. Give a talented guy a shot, what’s the worst that can happen? They abandon the experiment, just like ESPN did.

  7. I just couldn’t care less. The hardcore will watch the big games regardless. Now FOX has some buzz with Johnson. Will anyone boycott the World Cup if Johnson is announcing?

    I thought not.

      1. going out of your way to watch a crappy internet stream over TV just so you can listen to british commentary?

        talk about pathetic

  8. Well hopefully foxsoccer2go will be in british, at least they will give us an option. This is really sad news for what I call the match of the decade.

      1. Ever seen the last math between them? That was 10 years ago and I still call it the best match ever.

        Plus, I said “I” call it, you don’t have to agree with whatever I say :).

      2. Fernando you must be a Barca fan who started following them 8 minutes ago. Real vs. United is considered 1 out of three possible marquis game. With the other 2 being Real vs. Barca or United vs. Barca. Why you ask, because these are the 3 biggest teams in the world. So when you give Gus “I’m a footie NOVICE” Johnson the Real vs. United match as his first real match to call then you are saying to fans worldwide we don’t give a flying f what you think we don’t truly respect the game or you as fans. Have you ever heard of a job where as soon as you walk in the door they make you the CEO? No you have not!! I don’t know this guy Gus Johnson and frankly I don’t care. What I do care about is footie and if he is going to be calling the game I want to know that he knows the game as well as I do at a minimum, if he does then I know he will also have the passion for the game.

        If FOX wants to have an American voice as they say for the WC that is fine but let him get his credentials by doing games in the lower leagues and work his way up as would be the normal way.

      1. I hope people realize I was being sarcastic…? Something can’t be “in British” seeing as “British” isn’t a language.

        Unless I’m crazy?? There’s not some obscure British equivalent of Cornish is there?? Something only spoken in the seedy underbelly of London….

  9. One commentator has taken the English out of the EPL? That is over-reaction in its purest form.

    Look this is something that could very well end badly but Gus Johnson brings emotion to his play by play which is something football does to a lot of commentators.

    Clive Tyldesley,Peter Drury, Alan Smith are actually ridiculous at times when they call matches. Their goal of cliches and nonsense is always accomplished.

    Look, the gold standard is Martin Tyler/Gary Neville, we all know that.

    This is a test for the World Cup in 2018. Gus Johnson is the least of EPL viewers worries today, tomorrow and next year.

  10. This is a textbook example of English and/or EPL fans being snobs about commentary. I get that soccer commentary differs from American sports, but keep in mind that English commentary differs from other commentary for soccer as well.

    Phil Schoen, Ray Hudson. Both different than Clyde, Andy etc. Does that mean it’s a “slap in the face”?

    Gus isn’t trying to win you over, Gaffer. He’s trying to win over American sports fans on an American broadcast sports network.

    The move to groom Gus into a soccer commentator is to give Americans a voice on the broadcast during the sport. Not to bring in talent from Europe that your ears are used to.

    1. Really the eurosnob argument again… Yawn

      Bringing an American voice will not gain viewers … It never has … Look at past history.. So throw out your stupid argument that he game needs an American voice to have it grow… That’s just asinine. The game will grow when it’s not stuck hidden on sports tier no one gets or a niche subscription channel, no because some basketball commentator now can “translate” the game to the mainstream masses….. This was tried in the late 80’s early 90’s didn’t work then…. Won’t work now


      1. But a part of the sport growing is it having it’s own identity Stateside. The commentators you and I are used to listening to are great, but they’re not American.

        Until someone comes up with a better one, the ones put forward are the ones we have to go with and should go with if we want to have our own.

        I don’t love Gus, but maybe he will get better or at least get others on board.

        Am I the only one that thinks it’s stupid having our broadcast just mirror what they do in the UK?

        1. European football is not American so there is no Identity issue

          It’s about having the best commentator for he job, if you want an American identity in soccer develop MLS commentators Make it your style…

          Again it doesn’t take an American commentator to grow the game The issue has more to do wih awareness and availability … Not having a yank in the boothe to translate late the game to baseball basketball and football fans


        1. See? Your N-550 (or N-570 as may be the case) and new US passport have autometically dropped the quality of your writing according to this fellow!

          Gotta love ignorance.

  11. I think the danger in this overall argument is that American’s cannot get the job done. Phil Schoen is brilliant, and I’m excited to hear him call the US match today. Furthermore I was initially terrified of listening to Taylor Twellman do color for ESPN, but he has proven to be fantastic, he speaks very little, and seems to have taken lessons on the art of calling the game.

    I agree that if Gus Johnson (who I know little about) is bad in his past roles calling the game, its reason to be nervy and frustrated, but I don’t like the “hipster/arrogant” soccer attitude that American talent can’t call the game.

      1. Yes!!! We have the person who will poo poo a very solid American soccer announcer!

        Come on guys, say it: as soon as someone speaks without a British accent, they are garbage! You could take Martin Tyler, have him speak like he’s from Brooklyn, and you’d say he’s shite.

        1. Actually JP Dellacamera is a solid commentator. Not great but good as he’s done a number of CL & WC games. Much better than Schoen.

          It’s not how a person sounds it’s what he says and when he says it. So no Earl Reed, being from Brooklyn has nothing to do with it.

          1. Are you serious??? I dred watching Liverpool in the Europa league for the exact reason that JP Dellacamera is calling the game! He is atrocious the way he talks and talks and talks. He never leaves any space for the game to breathe. I won’t defend Gus Johnson yet, but my experience with him in both the NFL and the NCAA is that he allows the games to breathe to the extent that they should. I will reserve judgement on his commentating for soccer until I get to hear him.

            But JP Dellacamera?? Come on…

      2. I think he’s great. You can’t support growing soccer in America if you expect there to always be a British guy there calling the game.

      3. I was watching MXN vs. Jam on ESPN and I am not sure who was doing the commentary but the guy was not excellent for the following reasons:

        1) He kept using basketball and American Football analogies, that really makes me nuts. Call it snobbery or whatever you want but if you are calling a sport use the terminology for that sport, if you don’t know it then go learn it.
        2) He said things like the 15th minute of the second half what is that all about it’s the 60th minute man geez.
        3) He kept saying that Chica should only stand in the penalty box and post up??????????

        4)He talked and talked over the play as though he felt he needed to fill “dead” air.

        5) His knowledge of basic rules like offside was very limited and showed when he wondered why a player that was on the touch line came back into play and touched the ball, this is a very basic rule that I think every footie announcer should know.

        We need commentators who totally understand the game. For those you asked before who should be groomed I say Keller, well spoken, understands tactics, gets the game and I think he could really do a job.

  12. They are making a gross mistake with this decision. One of the reasons I don’t watch MLS on TV is because I can’t stand the commentating. I despise the fact that I know much more than the commentators about the game and have to listen to their dross.

    I hope BEIN Sport bids and wins FOX’s remaining licenses. Now there is a network that knows what it’s doing.

  13. Gaffer, I’m with you and give you props for continuing to call attention to the issue.

    One concern I have is that NBC will do something analogously moronic like put Bob Costas in the booth or some such. That’s why you have to make a little noise from the “base” from time to time when stupid ideas get floated.

    On one hand I can tune out bad commentators pretty well. I like watching the Bundesliga on GOL TV and for some reason I can only get the HD version of that with a Spanish feed. I don’t speak much Spanish but can enjoy the matches anyway.

    Nevertheless – a good announcer is VALUE ADDED every time. So why in the hell put anything else in front of a mic?

  14. I’d love to see a case study of a series of Americans with solid announcers’ voices commentating with the exact verbiage and cadence of British announcers. Would make for interesting analysis to see if there is any kind of bias based on nationality.

  15. Gaffer,

    Your article is spot on again… I have been watching a couple sites and can tell you the fox propaganda machine is in full force… Numerous posts against this change have been deleted from fox comment section.. And all of a sudden we get these Gus defenders that have never posted ever before… Your sentiment is right on with the mainstream soccer community… There is NO need for an American voice in the boothe for the game to grow… This decision is pandering at best to casual US sports fans and in the mean time throwing the fans that built this channel from its PPV model beginnings to what it is now out on the street… ten years ago we had no options We do now.


    1. When did we become so entitled as a fanbase? You’re right, NOW we have options. I don’t see the problem. It’s not like Johnson can comment on every match anyways.

      This anti-American soccer schtick (call it whatever you like) really gets old, and I’m not even American.

      1. No he can just ruin every high profile match and That Fox Soccer has?!?!!! Duh

        The only Schtick here will be Gus Johnson’s commentary

        Bring on a new argument your is OLD


  16. I think the Gaffer have said pretty much what I feel on this. But I do want to add, while Gus may turn out to be an decent commentator through time, he does not replace the Tylers, the Drurys or the Champions of the commentary world. I can’t stress enough how important the commentary is as part of the viewing experience. The aforementioned folks can lure me to watch an English League Two match, fully engaged. That’s how crucial commentary is to me.

    I mean no offense but I feel some of those who don’t feel disappointed by this news are probably casual fans who don’t know and care about the game as much. While they may welcome the news of having someone they are familiar with on board, through time they will know the difference.

    And it’s not hard to understand. You can’t have a Martin Tyler calling an NFL/NBA game.

    1. Does this mean that if you watch a game on mute then you lose interest? If that is the case, don’t ever have kids, because you may never watch a game again!

    1. I’m sure he doesn’t care. If one person was all it took to label a club racist, every single club in English football would be racist.

  17. I will argue forever and a day that radio commentators are far superior to TV commentators. They have to earn their money describing much more than just the game to the listener. Many’s the time I will turn off the TV commentary and tune in to 5Live or Talksport.

    Pundits, I can count on one hand the number of modern pundits who aren’t wank. This is how it should be.

    Clough on The Invincibles:

  18. Let’s face it, Fox has never listened to their viewers which is why they still have the personalities working there for their pregame and postgame analysis. So why would they listen know? I know listening to the commentary is much more important than those other shows but Fox has a history of doing things their way. I think we have to accept that this is going to happen regardless of all the negative reaction. Fox is at the end of its EPL rights and they only have CL games and World Cup games which aren’t that many compared with the number of weekly EPL games. Just use the ‘mute’ button.

    I’m more concerned with what NBC is going to do. EPL Talk needs to interview soemone from there to find out their plans.

    1. Well Fox’ studio crew is pretty well horrible. Barton is a wank and gives the impression that he suffered too many head-to-head collisions while playing. Eric Wynalda might as well just be a lump of crap for all he adds. And that other tosspot WILL be able to distinguish “West Brom” from “West Ham” on a good day. Unfortunately I seem to catch him quite often on days that are otherwise.

  19. Do I prefer British commentators? Yes. However, as I said on another thread, any commentator can be crap. So, I’ll listen to Johnson and see how it goes.

    As for NBC’s plans, I’m not concerned. If I’m not happy there is “Mute” and talkSPORT. :-)

  20. OK, here are a couple of alternatives woth considering:

    1. Watch the game on Fox Deportes. They usually, but not always, show the same game as Fox Soccer. The Real Madrid – Manchester United game is also live on Fox Deportes. Yes, the commentary is in Spanish but at least you’ll get to hear the stadium noise. Of course it is not in HD, at least not in my area. You do have to pay to add the Hispanic package ( I pay $5 and it also includes ESPN Deportes which is great if you like soccer from Holland).

    2. Use the SAP feature on your TV to watch Fox Soccer. Most English language programming will have a Spanish audio feed. I’m assuming Fox Soccer’s programming does. This will enable you to watch in HD with Spanish audio.

    Moral: Learn Spanish :-)

  21. serious question: when a UK channel broadcasts the NFL, do they use American or British announcers? if british, did they used to only announce soccer before the NFL came over there?

    ….this is of course all assuming the games are broadcast there.

    1. The commentary, on-screen graphics etc are all fed directly from whoever the host broadcaster is in the US. The only thing that’s ‘British’ about NFL coverage over here is when you go to adverts. You have way more adverts than we have on UK TV so we cross over to a British studio. Apart from that though, everything is identical to what you see on your screen.

        1. I doubt it will happen but it would be great if FOX did provide the world commentary feed using the SAP option for viewers that want to listen to the UK based broadcast. Spanish speaking fans here in the States can watch the games on Fox Deportes in their native language of Spanish.

          I won’t hold my breath because I don’t want to turn blue and die while waiting for this idea to come to fruition.

  22. Its hard to put my disappointment into words. I can hardly tolerate Gus’ donkyish screams during march madness, now I have to hear his animal noises ruining the long-awaited Champion’s League experience? IMO, the gaffer is spot on: Fox foisting Gus onto the game is a real slap in the face to us long-time FSC paying customers. We know better.

  23. Gaffer, do you know if Fox will still continue to use the awesome Brit commentators for the non-Gus matches? Please don’t tell me that we’ll be subjected exclusively to Gus’ mania

    1. Gus will be doing a handful of EPL games between now and the end of the season, so the vast majority will have the normal commentators on them.

      The Gaffer

      1. Oh, thank goodness at least….Fox hasn’t totally gone insane. Too bad Fox owns the rights to the Champions League through 2015 so we may have to deal with Gus doing key games for a while yet. How I wish Skysports had a feed into the US…I’d be the 1st in line, and these irritations would be moot.

      2. The issue remains the same though, they give him what could be the biggest match of the CL this year to apprentice with. That is my issue. Give him Wigan v Stoke or Villa v Reading not Real v United!!

  24. Gaffer, please tell me this is the last Gus Johnson article before we actually see him commentate for Real v United in a week, and not him doing a radio broadcast dubbed over a video feed in San Diego.

    This. Is. All. Conjecture.

    It’s like he’s the David de Gea of commentators for God’s sake.

  25. I cannot believe Fox are giving this novice the Real Madrid-United game. I can almost hear the train wreck coming. It’s going to be spectacularly bad. Close you eyes and you will think you’re watching an MLS game.

  26. i also felt that way back when manila decided to send filipino commentators to the nba finals instead of relying on more knowledable ABC commentators from america.

    i feel your pain. but this is a trial run. and usually with these kinds of arrangement, it is the NBA that encourages other countries to send their broadcast team to the states to cover the nba finals.

    1. maybe this is bad news for gus johnson, but i never enjoyed the Philippine commentary of the NBA finals. we’ve tried it, and i didn’t like it. and i’m not the only one who feels that way. it’s always better to have mike breen and jeff van gundy do the commentary.

  27. “FOX Soccer has managed to take the English out of the English Premier League.” Every time you call football as soccer you take english out of epl anyway! Stop calling it soccer first!! you aaaaarghh

    1. The name of the channel is Fox Soccer. And in America, soccer is here to stay. Have you noticed the other sport called “football?”

  28. I don’t like this decision, I get that you could compare Johnson’s enthusiasm to Ray Hudson. The difference being that Ray has a deep knowledge of football and a long-term connection as a player and commentator.
    Fox is trying to create an American Hudson, but without the knowledge this will fail.

  29. I’m curious about who the commentators are for English broadcasts of American football or baseball games are. Does anyone know?

    I, for one, would not want to have someone who has done soccer commentary for his professional career to take over broadcasting for a baseball game.

    I get the Gaffer’s points. There are certainly plenty of fans that don’t care about the announcer, but I am one of those that want to hear someone who has a historical investment in the sport. Someone who knows the ins and outs and can make the correct assumptions on what is going on in a match. If they happen to be American then fine, but they had better have the intensity and knowledge of an English announcer the likes of Martin Tyler, etc.

    Part of what I like to hear is the emotion of the sport being played out in the announcers calls, and I have found that most American announcers don’t get this right at all.

    It seems that most American announcers (including FOX Soccer News) try to do the whole ESPN Sportscenter thing, which I hate. I don’t need “witty” sarcastic comments and I don’t want to hear them call a goal like it’s the most common thing ever. I want passion, and few American announcers get it right.

  30. Great article. The only thing I would argue is that it’s NOT just hardcore soccer fans who want quality “tradutuonal soccer voice” commentators. I’d argue that even casual viewers want it! they tune into a soccer game because they want something different from what they watch all the time.. Who said they want soccer to look and sound like all the other American sports? Everyone wants soccer to sound like soccer. And yes, my research/data is no better than the oppositions.

  31. wish fox soccer would arrange one of the Men In Blazers podcasters to do commentary with Gus Johnson. They are familiar with american culture, roger bennett and mike davies, and can help american viewers (and assist gus) in explaining the intricacies of English football in an accessible way.

  32. I’ve been wanting Gus Johnson to do play-by-play on big televised soccer matches for a long time now. His style might not be the English style, but it is more in keeping with the styles in the Americas (North and South). I applaud Fox for making this change, despite the fact that certain core groups of European focused soccer fans here in the United States would overreact.

    1. Brian, but that’s exactly the point — these are European games, not American ones.

      Maybe we should start a petition to have Martin Tyler do the play-by-play for NFL or MLB games from now on to see how gridiron or baseball fans would react.

      The Gaffer

      1. To keep the analogy going, I don’t think British fans would take that too well themselves. If you’re a Brit sitting down to watch an NFL or MLB game I think the last thing you would want is some watered down, anglicized, version of it. You’re there for the American game and want the full American experience.

        That’s assuming there is such a thing as a British NFL/MLB fan. 😉

        1. Not sure who Marvin Tyler is 😉 But I much prefer ESPN’s strategy when it comes to picking the best talent for major soccer tournaments instead of FOX. FOX always seems to go for the Hollywood effect… hiring people like Piers Morgan, Curt Menefee, Gus Johnson, Kyle Martino (and his wife) and others, and in almost all of those examples, FOX failed.

          The Gaffer

  33. Sorry, folks, but this is amazing! Exactly what we needed.

    “The soccer commentator is the heart and soul of a broadcaster’s coverage.”

    And, currently, that heart and soul is an old crotchety man that needs to be replaced. Sure, Gus isn’t a seasoned soccer veteran, but he’s been excellent at every other sport he’s tried, so why not footy? This is the evolution of soccer broadcasting, not it’s demise.

    1. CVO, while that sounds wonderful, I don’t believe it. Besides, short-term, how are we going to measure whether Gus made a difference or not? FOX picked him for several high profile games that would have generated high ratings anyway even if Johnson wasn’t commentating. Long term, we’ll know what impact Gus has but thankfully we Premier League fans won’t have to worry about that come August.

      The Gaffer

    2. “…he’s been excellent at every other sport he’s tried, so why not footy?”

      Because he doesn’t have a lifetime of background knowledge about European football. No matter how much homework he does, he can’t make up for that deficiency.

      He may indeed call a good match, but I don’t think he’ll be able to add much other than a mere recitation of ball movement. We’ll see.

      It’s obvious the two sides in this discussion are never coming together. 😀

    3. CVO it is obvious that you loved his attempt at doing a MMA broadcast where he was woefully ignorant of the sport.

      Footie really needs a guy that just screams at every turn and does not understand what is happening on the pitch. YEAH that is what we have been hankering for. Yipee!!!

  34. It definitely creates buzz, and I get that for the die-hards, you hate this. But here’s the thing about die-hards, from a business perspective, you’re elastic. You’ll tune in no matter what. You’re a guaranteed consumer. Even those of you who say you will boycott games will still watch more than 99% of casual fans.

    So the networks will pander to the casual fan instead. It’s just the way it is.

    Me, I’m a casual fan. I’m a dual citizen and played on a youth national team when I was younger, so I have a deep appreciation for the game. I just dislike the domestic leagues where titles can be bought and sold.

    Call it a gimmick, but I’ll be watching the game next week to see how Gus does. And wasn’t that the point of all of this?

  35. Gaffer

    Thanks so much for your piece. It is absolutely spot on. It’s a shame that the Talk Sports Radio App is usually out of synch with the TV pictures or it might be an alternative. I just hope NBC doesn’t do something similar when they take over the EPL in August.

  36. The article and comments are a fascinating conversation. We’re seeing a split right through the American soccer community regarding whether FOX’s decision to hire Gus Johnson is a wise one or not.

    The Gaffer

  37. Perhaps we are missing another piece in Fox’s decision to hire Johnson, race.

    Presently Fox doesn’t have a single, non-white soccer analyst on show. I could be wrong but I haven’t seen any. If that is the reason I applaud what they are trying to do but I believe they have not made the right hire. Johnson doesn’t have the necessary knowledge of the sport to be credible. They have gone for personality and charisma over depth of knowledge. That’s the sad part.

    1. It’s a good observation. FOX Soccer did have Allen Hopkins doing Bundesliga commentary on Saturday mornings before he moved on to ESPN. ESPN has Shaka Hislop. But the fact of the matter is that there are very few non-white soccer commentators who aren’t Spanish-speaking.

      The Gaffer

  38. This is why FOX is doing this; the top comment on the youtube video for the Gus Johnson dub of US vs Algeria 2010 WC match is, “Gus Johnson could be commentating on my dad making a sandwich and I would watch.”

  39. Gus has an okay understanding of basketball. He gets by on emotion and enthusiasm. It works.

    He has called boxing for Showtime. He was horrible. It is great to get excited when something exciting is taking place. It is another thing to scream, “He’s hurt. He’s hurt,” when that fighter isn’t really hurt. Every single hardcore boxing fan knows he is full of shit. Moreover, he often seemed very unprepared for boxing matches he called.

    It is going to be horrific with him calling soccer. As has been shown with his previous work, he is decent when he knows the sport(basketball), bad when he somewhat understands the sport (boxing), and I can only imagine how bad he will be when he calls soccer.

  40. There are always streams, of Sky and ESPN and ITV etc etc..

    If Gus doesn’t pan out, which I don’t think he will (why fix what isn’t broken?… Fox Soccer being purely idiotic), then there are always streams… Yes, I have an HDTV and will mute it and listen to the stream or just watch the stream..

    At the very least, Warren Barton will be commentating.. That this is a bright side says it all.

  41. What a joke this will be. He looks pretty pathetic and over the top in the attached photo. Just ask yourselves if you’d want British commentators for American football games? It’s the subtle knowledge of the game that makes a great commentator.

    Hopefully TalkSport will have commentary.

  42. Are you guys aware of the “Gus Factor” ?? Whenever Gus calls a game (regardless of the sport), that game itself (not talking about commentary) is destined to be exciting and normally come down to the wire. For example, if he is calling an NFL game, his game that day will be the most exciting game played that day. It also applies to NCAA basketball. When Gus would call NCAA tournament games, the game he was covering would always be the “best game” that day. It would be a highly competitive game that came down to the last second shot or had some sort of dramatic ending. That is what Americans call the “Gus Factor” The games (on the field, court, etc.) he calls, for whatever reason, are typically dramatic, entertaining games.
    We’ll see if the “Gus Factor” applies to soccer, but I’m certainly willing to give it a chance.

  43. What a disaster, Gus Johnson and his stuttering co-commentator Ian Wright.
    They alone are a reason to quit watching the EPL on Fox Soccer.
    I have been watching each EPL and FA Cup game on Fox Soccer and ESPN for the past 10 years, and the UK commentators are excellent, but this is ridiculous.

  44. I believe that Fox were giving Johnson an impossible job, i mean, how can he possibly live up to commentating greats such as Martin Tyler, especially with the limited experience that Johnson has. I also wanted to make sure I mentioned Andy Gray, for me, he is the best commentator I have ever had the pleasure of listening to whilst watching Soccer. He is an ex player (like Warren Barton) and knows the game inside out, however, you could tell that he was fully into every game he was commentating on. Listening to him commentate on the game was like listening to a fan of both teams playng. For me, Fox should offer Andy Gray a job! if Pro Sports Pathways ever needs a commentator, Andy Gray will be top of the list! I also want to mention just how good of a commentator/Soccer pundit Gary Neville is. Many people know that Neville is Man Utd through and through, and thought this would cloud his judgement when commentating, however, he has put aside his love for United and is probably the best soccer pundit out there at the current time.

  45. I sat down and attempted to watch the MLS last week, and turned it over after less than a minute because the commentary was terrible. I didnt stay tuned long enough to figure out who the commentators were, but they were terrible. One team kicked off, and sent the ball long, I cant remember what the commentator said, but it was a phrase that he must have heard another commentator say, unfortunately, the phrase did not apply to the situation. The MLS is in desperate need for some good commentators. A good commentator improves the all round entertainment of the game.

  46. Please Fox if you want to promote UEFA get rid of the commentators ref the Liverpool game and either go silent or get an english one. Also fire the tech and his manager responsible for the sound! you just can’t hear them. Which in this case is a blessing. Please survey some soccer fans. John

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *