Out of everything that was announced on Tuesday, the most remarkable development was a tweet by a Sports Business Journal reporter:
I have massive issues with what Shanks said for two reasons. One, it undermines Gus Johnson’s ability as a talented commentator. Instead, he’s just a “voice.” And two, Shanks’s rationale for selecting Johnson is completely misguided.
In my opinion, which I’ve stressed all along, we soccer fans should expect to have a talented and experienced commentator announcing the games. We should expect the best of the best. If that person is American, I have no problem with that. Try to get Phil Schoen or Glenn Davis out of their contracts. Or promote John Strong. But if the American that was chosen is a self-acclaimed soccer novice who repeatedly makes mistakes in games and reduces the quality of the experience, then that’s an awful decision by FOX.
FOX is in the business of generating revenue, not pandering to soccer fans. But I feel we’ve been dealt a huge injustice by having Gus Johnson thrown on us. I don’t blame Johnson for this, but he certainly isn’t experienced enough to handle the biggest soccer games in the world. He’ll improve over time, but having Johnson announce games is a gigantic step down from the commentaries we were getting before Johnson made his soccer debut last month.
What the introduction of Gus Johnson to the US soccer community does bring is one, the shift of soccer on TV from a niche sport to the mainstream. And two, the shift from foreign accents to an American voice commentating European soccer games on FOX. These are two seismic shifts. However, FOX’s decision to have an American voice instead of focusing on experience flies right in the face of how NBC is planning to bring us the Premier League.
Philosophies aside, I’m really disappointed by FOX’s decision to transform Gus Johnson into a soccer commentator because it downgrades the quality of soccer coverage and sends a strong message to the soccer community that “We don’t care about you anymore.”
Others have noticed, too. BBC World Football Phone-In correspondent Sean Wheelock had this to say about Johnson:
“I found it painful to watch Manchester United playing in the Champions League on television commentated by someone who absolutely had no clue what they were watching. It’s a stunt, quite frankly.”
A member of the media who was in the TV area at the Manchester City-Chelsea game where Gus Johnson commentated alongside Lee Dixon, revealed to EPL Talk that Johnson “before kick-off was asking Dixon to pronounce Mancini” and that “some of the questions Dixon was asked showed an embarrassing ignorance.”