Gus Johnson returned to Fox's soccer coverage Wednesday (albeit on FX for some reason) for the Champions League semi second leg between Barcelona and Bayern Munich. It was Johnson's first soccer telecast in almost two months. Before the game I wrote it was the beginning of the most important stretch for Fox in their hopes of transforming Johnson into America's voice for soccer. Later this month Johnson will announce both the FA Cup Final and the Champions League Final and he will need to be ready for primetime by then.
After two months away, Fox and Johnson needed to show soccer fans signs of improvement and some rays of hope that the long-term vision of the network is worthwhile. If not, Fox and Johnson risk losing the trust of soccer fans moving forward as the network takes over World Cup rights. Unfortunately, there was little for Fox to be optimistic about as Johnson again struggled with the basics including player identification and pronounciations. Who would have ever thought we'd see the words "Gus Johnson" and "boring" in the same tweet. Usually Twitter angst is saved for the likes of Chris Berman and Tim McCarver but yesterday it was an internet cult favorite in the unyielding crosshairs. As always these are Real Tweets from Real People...
@awfulannouncing I'm a huge fan of his but he has struggled big time today— Warren Schorr (@wschorr) May 1, 2013
@awfulannouncing awful— Aaron Sain (@aaron_sain) May 1, 2013
@awfulannouncing He keeps mispronouncing the names. Makes you more appreciative of Martin Tyler— Tanner Giles (@tannerlennon) May 1, 2013
@awfulannouncing awful.reading his notes.no play by play.— Christopher Appleton (@appletcs) May 1, 2013
@awfulannouncing Very meh. Kind of boring.— Adrian Martinez (@aimart) May 1, 2013
@awfulannouncing putting me to sleep, can't pronounce a single name correctly— Riley (@mcguigs10) May 1, 2013
@awfulannouncing Gus has no idea what is going on. That's somewhat of a problem for a play-by-play guy.— Brian Daly (@briandalynj) May 1, 2013
@awfulannouncing Big blocks of dead air. Not sure he has any idea what is going on— Jeff Davis (@The_Junkyard) May 1, 2013
@awfulannouncing I want to put my TV on mute, but I'm interested to see how terrible it can get— Kyle Eackles(@kyleackles) May 1, 2013
In particular, Gus Johnson had a lot of trouble pronouncing the name of one of the best players in the world - Barcelona's Andres Iniesta.
And Gus Johnson makes it the entire match without pronouncing Iniesta's name correctly. You have to applaud the commitment.— Ryan Rosenblatt (@RyanRosenblatt) May 1, 2013
Mercifully for Gus Johnson, Iniesta was just subbed out for Barcelona. Gus spent the last hour calling him IANesta... #SoccerFail— TeamRankings.com (@TeamRankings) May 1, 2013
Seriously, why is it so hard for Gus Johnson to say Iniesta? He keeps saying "Ee-ya-nest-a." This isn't some obscure role player.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) May 1, 2013
Gus Johnson cannot say Iniesta for the life of him.— Robert Moore (@Robert_Moore24) May 1, 2013
And for what it's worth, the reviews were equally unkind for Johnson's partner Ian Wright.
Now that's he's said it 41 times, Ian Wright has convinced me. Barcelona needs to get more width— Ray Ratto (@RattoCSN) May 1, 2013
Confirmed. Ian Wright has never seen Barcelona play.— Tyler Duffy (@tyduffy) May 1, 2013
Gus Johnson and Ian Wright??!? I can't do 90 minutes of this.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) May 1, 2013
So I see the Fox logic was to put Gus Johnson with someone he actually sounds better than in the booth? Gonna be a long match.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) May 1, 2013
As a fan of Gus Johnson, I hope this turns around and he can grow into a good soccer announcer. However, right now it's clear he's not ready and Fox is just throwing him to the wolves.
Gus has no clue about soccer....stick to sports you know.... Martin Tyler n the normal everyday announcers from uk should be doing the game as they are knowledgable about the sport n articulate. Fox is insulting us with this pairing of announcers!
I was initially supportive of Gus, but yesterday was pretty bad. It's pretty obvious that Gus doesn't know much about soccer in general, knowledge that should be required for a match featuring teams of such caliber. He actually seemed to be relaxing a little and not just narrating play for the sake of filling dead air, but you have to know these players names and the basic rules of soccer at this level. Gus is on the Manchester United-Chelsea call on Sunday, and with Howard Webb as head referee, it could be a train wreck.