Gus Johnson will never be accepted as a soccer broadcaster by a significant segment of soccer fans—but that does not mean he will never be good.
Since Johnson's promotion to a lead position in Fox Soccer's broadcasting rotation, the reception to Johnson's high-energy, occasionally over-the-top announcing style has been mixed.
Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch's review of Johnson's call of the first leg of the February 13 Manchester United/Real Madrid Champions League encounter at the Bernabeu was indicative of both the good and bad of Gus.
"The game at times moved too fast for him, and he was late on the run of play a number of times in the first half," Deistch noted, also pointing out that Johnson referred to the ball as a "football" in calling a Danny Welbeck goal in that match.
Deitsch went on to say, however, that "Johnson was very good...going from 0 to 60 when something happened in front of the net."
Which is the whole reason Johnson was brought in in the first place. On scoring plays, or when the action reaches (pun not intended) a fever pitch, few commentators imbue the moment with energy and joy like Gus Johnson does.
American soccer fans have had decades to warm to the somnolent rhythms and distracted goal calls of the likes of Martin Tyler. It has not happened.
Is Tyler a superior soccer broadcaster to Johnson? Of course he is. Tyler has been doing it for nearly forty years. Johnson has been at it for a few months.
Fox Soccer did not hire Gus Johnson to be the next Martin Tyler (or Ian Darke, or even Taylor Twellman).
Fox Soccer brought Gus Johnson in to call soccer because they wanted to hear Gus Johnson, as he is, call soccer games.
This means that you will, for a while, continue to hear Johnson erroneously refer to the soccer ball as a "football" because he is trying to show that he knows that soccer is called "football" abroad.
This means that you will, for a while, hear Johnson say that a striker shielding a defender from a ball headed out of play off the defender "could not get to it," when in fact the striker preferred the ensuing corner kick to retrieving the ball and trying to take the defender and the keeper on alone.
And you will probably catch Johnson referring to Eden Hazard as a "Frenchman" when he is actually Belgian.
For tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of soccer fans, these sins will be unforgivable and indelible. "Typical American," they will huff.
Some of the huffers will even be Americans, noses in the air as they put on their airs as "real football fans."
Here's the thing, though: Neither Gus Johnson nor Fox Sports care much about what the diehard fan thinks of Gus Johnson's calls.
Because the diehard fans are going absolutely nowhere. If Dennis Rodman started calling Champions League games, the diehard fans would be outraged but they would still be watching.
Fox Soccer's interest is bringing basketball fans, and American football fans, and Gus Johnson fans, to the Beautiful Game.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that.
So will Gus Johnson ever be a good soccer broadcaster?
He really is not a bad soccer broadcaster now.
And he will be given every chance to improve. Whether you like it or not.
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