The sporting world has had its fair share of incredible commentators: Murray Walker, Jack Buck, Vin Scully or Joaquim Maria Puyal.
But now, there are two names that stand head and shoulders above the rest: college basketball, football and occasional boxing commentator Gus Johnson and Gol TV football commentator Ray "Rocky" Hudson. Both men have provided countless hours of entertainment for fans with their remarks and outbursts and possess gifts for reading and understanding the games they love. But who is the ultimate madcap play-by-play guy? Let's break down their styles and strengths, and figure out who has the upper hand on crazy.
After a brief stint at Newcastle United, Ray Hudson made his career in the North American Soccer League with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, but it wasn't until he became a commentator on GolTV, a small bilingual entirely football-devoted television network based in Florida, that fans everywhere were able to fully appreciate his genius.
Armed with a Cheryl Cole-thick Geordie accent and an encyclopedia of references—from high art to pop culture—at his disposal, Hudson has entranced viewers with his highly original and hilarious calls, not to mention his enthusiasm. He's become one of the game's biggest cult heroes and his calls are frequently chronicled on the Internet and compared to poetry.
One of the most frequent targets of his admiration—his muse, if you will—is Argentine star and Boca Juniors icon Juan Román Riquelme, who Hudson calls a "big, beautiful zombie." In response to one Riquelme goal, he said rather vehemently, raw-throated with excitement, that he would "go to his grave" defending Riquelme as the greatest in the world. Another of his favorite muses is Lionel Messi, whose goals he has called "a Bernini sculpture of a finish" and "merciless... like Kathy Bates with that sledgehammer."
And that's just the Argentine national team. When Hudson covers La Liga, it gets even better. He's served up pure gold for Real Madrid, calling then-manager Fabio Capello "braver than a matador in high heels and a pink tutu" and "braver than a bullfighter with no knickers on" for a cracking substitution, and more recently, referring to Mesut Özil as having "Avatar eyes." I see you laughing there. Stop that.
Basically, it doesn't matter if it's the final of the World Cup and Garrincha and George Best have come back from the dead to represent their sides. If you're not watching a match where Ray Hudson is on the mic, you should probably just change the channel because chances are the commentators are just absolutely substandard in terms of originality and enthusiasm compared to this Geordie giant.
If we were to judge these men on versatility alone, Johnson would win, as he can bring his enthusiasm, knowledge and own brand of crazy to a number of sports. He's got a big, commanding voice and an arsenal of catch-phrases that stick in the minds of sports fans everywhere like: "Rise and fire", "Count it!" and the maniacal "Ha-HA." It is pure enthusiasm and volume that are the source of Johnson's crazy, and make him one of the greatest commentators of all time.
But what sets Johnson apart is the almost eerie way in which every game he calls seems to get more exciting just so he can call the spectacular endings. ESPN's Bill Simmons refers to this as the "Law of Gus," highlighting a number of games which Gus Johnson has called—in this case, in the NFL—which had wildly exciting finishes all with appropriately madcap Johnson calls.
Here's Simmons' explanation of the "Law of Gus":
"I keep mentioning the Law of Gus without ever really defining it, so let's do it right now. If Gus Johnson is calling an NFL game, the odds quintuple that (A) the lead will change hands in the fourth quarter; (B) someone will complete a long pass in a big moment that will make Gus' voice hit an octave only dogs can hear; and (C) the game will go into overtime or at least come damned close. It seems impossible that the mere presence of an announcer would alter the course of the game, but here's my theory: I think God sits in his Man Cave on Sundays and says, 'Which game is that Gus Johnson calling? I get a kick out of that guy. I think I'll make his game exciting and see if he completely loses his mind.'"
But it's college basketball where the commentator truly shines. His raw enthusiasm crescendos with the fast pace of the game, and he's never afraid to take his voice up to 11, and then some.
Johnson's most iconic call came from a 2006 NCAA tournament Sweet 16 college basketball game between Gonzaga and UCLA. With UCLA, who had been down by a 17-point deficit coming back to win and advance in the tournament, Johnson was as loud as ever and made the most famous exclamation of his career. The phrase "Heart Break City!" will forever be ingrained in the minds of college basketball fans, particularly those with resonant memories of that tournament. That call helped assert Gus Johnson as one of the sporting world's most entertaining commentators.
Verdict: It was a tough call, especially considering Johnson's inexplicable cosmic force over the games he calls (the "Law of Gus"), but for his flair for the unusual and the ridiculous in his calls, it's gotta be Ray Hudson.
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