Never before has a commentator been so reliant on his co-commentator during coverage of the beautiful game on FOX Soccer.
In most matches, the co-commentator adds color by occasionally sharing some analysis or bringing more insight to the game by making a stark observation. But in the matches where FOX Soccer’s Gus Johnson has been in charge, the role of the co-commentator has been more pronounced, speaking far more often than usual and being a more pivotal player in the broadcast experience.
While Warren Barton jostled for air time with Johnson in the Real Madrid-Manchester United match, and where Ray Clemence papered over the cracks in FOX’s broadcast of Arsenal-Bayern Munich, today co-commentator Lee Dixon stepped up to the plate and played a pivotal role in joining the dots with Johnson’s scattered commentary of Manchester City-Chelsea where he often let his commentary hang in balance until Dixon picked up the pieces to finish the thought.
One example (out of many) of Johnson’s inability to read the game and finish his thoughts, presumably because he’s unsure what is exactly happening before his eyes, was the second half incident when Jack Rodwell was knocked down in the Chelsea penalty area by defender Gary Cahill. The referee was having none of it, and didn’t signal for a penalty but the incident was described by Johnson’s commentary as “Cahill. Rodwell. In the area.” And that was it. No following through to share his opinion or to explain that the ref didn’t deem the collision harsh enough to award a penalty. Dixon, thankfully, joined the dots.
Johnson’s commentary style is distracting to viewers who are trying to enjoy the game. He’s not a paint by numbers announcer, so his words and unusual terms of phrase are jarring to the ears. His combination of American sport terms and staccato commentary are unique to the game. You end up either loving it or hating it.
The first three minutes of the Manchester City-Chelsea match found Johnson and Dixon setting the stage for the game. Instead of providing match commentary of the game that was being played in front of our eyes, they ended up talking about what Dixon expected to see in the game, last season’s result and what it meant to have John Terry on the bench. By doing so, the duo instantly forced a distance between the viewer and the game. The match needs to be the focal point, not the stories, statistics or off-the-field ongoings that have little to do with the actual match itself.
After Johnson and Dixon spent the first few minutes distracting the viewer, they quickly got into a rhythm together as the match unfolded.
In the first half, Johnson put his foot in his mouth again by calling Eden Hazard a Frenchman. Someone must have quickly admonished him in his ear piece, though, as Johnson soon corrected himself and said the talented Chelsea midfielder was, in fact, Belgian.
In the fifteenth minute, Johnson again made another error that has been a consistent trait of his work in the three matches he’s commentated thus far. Again, he failed to read the game correctly. The incident was the wonderful header by Matija Nastasić that was brilliantly saved off the line by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. His “What a save!” call, this time, was appropriate, but the major point that both Johnson, Dixon and the half-time FOX Soccer pundits missed was the fact that the referee blew his whistle immediately after the save to signal that Kun Aguero was in an offside position. No matter how wonderful the header and save were, it wouldn’t have been a goal even if the ball went into the back of the net.