Gus Johnson calling his first Champions League match was a big enough occasion to spawn a running diary of a running diary. So how did he do?
Well, okay. Not great, but he was solid and excitable, if occasionally behind the action. A friend of mine who works in television noticed that he talked a bit too much during some of the action, not allowing colorman Warren Barton a chance to offer an observation. Unlike American football and basketball where Johnson made his name, soccer offers fewer replays and breaks in the action, so the play-by-play man needs to allow his partner more time to speak as the play is developing. That’s the type of understanding that can only come with experience.
Fox’s overlords liked Johnson enough to add the March 5 Real Madrid-Manchester United redux at Old Trafford to his schedule in addition to Arsenal-Bayern Munich (Feb. 19) and Manchester City-Chelsea (Feb. 24).
For me, one of the biggest things was the fact that Johnson and partner Barton were on site. That allowed them to give a feel for the game that was happening off-camera, which they relayed effectively to the viewing audience. They could have been better, they could have been quicker, but at least they were there. Calling soccer is hard enough when you’re not handicapped by working off of monitors. (Yes, I’m taking to you, BeinSport.)
All in all: not the best debut in the world, but hardly the worst.
(Want more Johnson? Here’s a brilliant 90-second mashup from the crew at TerezOwens.com.)
In an interview with SI.com’s Richard Deitsch, Johnson said: “The key for me is to try to take it — and I don’t mean to sound cliché — but literally one match at a time. Learn everything I can about that one match and the two sides that are playing and go with it from there and allow my knowledge to grow.”
Some people can’t stand later-stage Johnson, but as long as he stays away from phrases like the ones above, we’ll all be in a better place football watching-wise.