Will FOX's Gus Johnson Be a Success as America's Voice of Soccer?
Every sport televised in America today has a distinct voice that guides viewers through the sport's biggest games.
Major League Baseball has Joe Buck, the NBA has Marv Albert, the NHL possess the powerful pipes of Mike Emrick and the NFL contains a foursome of Buck, Jim Nantz, Mike Tirico and Al Michaels for their best games over the course of a season.
Even golf (Nantz and Dan Hicks) and tennis (Chris Fowler and Ted Robinson) have play-by-play announcers who deliver plenty of quality during the most important events for their respective sports.
The one primary sport in America that fails to employ a permanent voice when a big event like the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League final comes around is soccer.
Over the past few years, ESPN's Ian Darke has emerged as the leading candidate to become America's soccer voice but the worldwide leader in sports loses the rights to the World Cup after the 2014 edition of the tournament in Brazil, and they have already lost the broadcasting rights for the Champions League to FOX (via ESPN.com)
Enter Gus Johnson, who has been at FOX since May 2011, who was announced on Tuesday as the new, and more importantly, American-voice of the beautiful game.
Johnson, who has primarily called football games over the past two seasons for FOX, and the network are taking a huge risk with this announcement.
The 45-year-old sportscaster has grown as a cult hero amongst diehard sports fans in recent years thanks to his emphatic calls in the crucial moments football games.
This past season, Twitter regularly exploded with comments of a "Gus Moment" when a game he was calling entered a close moment towards the end of the game.
Will the Gus Johnson Experiment Be a Success?
As he has done in the past, Johnson delivered call after call that made the viewer become more excited about the game.
But calling a soccer match is a completely different task to take on for Johnson, who is an admitted novice when it comes to the sport.
Unlike football or basketball, soccer does not provide a break in the action during the two 45-minute halves.
The challenge of a soccer play-by-play announcer is to keep the viewer informed and tuned in even if the match produces little to no excitement.
The first challenge that will be presented to Johnson will be the February 13 Champions League match between Real Madrid and Manchester United at the Bernabeu in Madrid (via FOX Sports).
FOX has wasted no throwing the full gauntlet at Johnson as his first soccer call for the network is arguably the most star-studded tie in the round of 16 of Europe's top club competition.
FOX is the process of grooming Johnson to become the voice of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, which is the first World Cup that the network will broadcast.
While he has called soccer matches before for the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS on radio, Johnson's first and possibly most important test will come in eight days time.
Those who constantly critique play-by-play announcers can sometimes tell how well a play-by-play man can do in their debut.
This season will also be important for Johnson to call as many games for FOX as he can as he will only have a select group of Champions League matches to call in the build-up going into the 2018 World Cup.
It is important to note that FOX does not have the rights to the English Premier League after this season, NBC will take over those duties at the beginning of the 2013-14 EPL campaign (via USA Today Sports).
Instead of calling a match on a weekly basis for FOX, Johnson's total number of called matches per season will be around 20 to 30 Champions League matches, and while that will give Johnson plenty of experience calling the top-notch matches in Europe, it may not be enough to get him ready for the world's biggest stage.
With only a small sample size of matches to call at FOX, Johnson could potentially link up with another MLS team to gain more experience.
Another concern for American viewers of FOX's soccer coverage is who will accompany Johnson as the color commentator.
Johnson will be paired with a plethora of different personalities in the next few months with FOX Soccer studio analyst Warren Barton being the commentator assigned with the job for the Real Madrid-Manchester United match.
Other reported partners for Johnson will be Ray Clemence and Lee Dixon but a permanent partner will not be announced for some time (via SI.com).
The good news for FOX and Johnson is that they have five years to perfect their experiment of making the 2018 World Cup the best presentation of the sport in American broadcast history, which will be a difficult task after ESPN's spectacular coverage in South Africa three years ago.
Do you think Gus Johnson is a good fit to become America's premier soccer voice?
Comment below or leave a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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