Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2010 World Cup, 2018 World Cup in Russia, Angel Di Maria, CBS, Cristiano Ronaldo, Danny Welbeck, English FA Cup, Eric Shanks, ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel, Gus Johnson, Madison Square Garden Network, Manchester United, Old Trafford, Real Madrid, San Jose Earthquakes, Santiago Bernabeu, UEFA Champions League, Warren Barton, Wayne Rooney
Manchester United escaped the Santiago Bernabeu with a precious away goal as it battled Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw in the opening leg of the UEFA Champions League’s round of 16.
Midfielder Danny Welbeck put United ahead in the 20th minute against the run of play, heading home a corner kick by striker Wayne Rooney. Ten minutes later, forward Cristiano Ronaldo equalized for the Spanish giants with a powerful header off a cross by winger Angel Di Maria. Ronaldo, in a nod to his six stellar years with the English club, did not celebrate his goal.
The two sides meet in the second leg March 5 at Old Trafford. [February 13]
Comment: A minor epic, but what might be the most notable aspect of the match for American viewers was that it marked the Fox Soccer Channel debut of play-by-play man Gus Johnson–notable because Johnson, relatively unknown among soccer fans, has been anointed by Fox Sports President Eric Shanks as the network’s No. 1 soccer announcer. That means he will be the man at the microphone for Fox’s telecasts of the English FA Cup final and UEFA Champions League final in May, and much, much more. Like … the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Johnson, 45, cut his broadcasting teeth calling basketball, football, hockey and boxing for, among others, ESPN, CBS and the Madison Square Garden Network. His on-air soccer experience consists mainly of radio broadcasts of San Jose Earthquake road games last year, which served as a warm-up for his Fox gig. Apparently, Shanks’ grand experiment is a counterpunch to ESPN’s all-Brits, all-the-time coverage of the 2010 World Cup. He wants someone speaking American English when it covers Russia ’18, and like ESPN three years ago, he’s thumbed his nose at the country’s experienced soccer play-by-play men.
What was heard during the Real Madrid-Manchester United telecast was not surprising. Johnson, who’s tried to make up for lost time by playing in pick-up soccer games near his New York home, simply showed no feel for the sport. Nice voice, seemingly well-prepared with plenty of factoids to share, but there was no comfort level or ready insight that comes with a lifetime of exposure to soccer. It forced color commentator Warren Barton to repeatedly deal with loose ends and point out subtleties that would ordinarily have been taken care of smoothly by an experienced play-by-play man. Over two hours, Barton, who usually looks like he’s just learned that his daughter has run off with a motorcycle gang, maintained his composure despite being the hardest working man in the Fox booth. Low point: With United sweating out its gritty draw on the road, Johnson asked Barton if Sir Alex Ferguson would be pleased with the result.
Best of luck to Johnson, for the sake of America’s soccer TV audience. Somehow, over the next five years he will have to make himself smarter and more perceptive than his viewers, a majority of whom have been playing, coaching and/or officiating the game much of their lives. At the moment, the thinking behind Shanks’ needless gambit remains a mystery.
Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment