Fox’s Gus Johnson Experiment Starts Tomorrow with Real Madrid vs Man U

GusJYou may have heard that former CBS and ESPN sportscaster Gus Johnson, who made a name for himself with his exciting calls of NCAA basketball tournament games, has been tasked by Fox to become their lead announcer for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

It’s a bold move because Johnson had never broadcast soccer before October 2011, when the plan was hatched and the March Madness maven started announcing San Jose Earthquakes games on the radio as the first steps toward getting ready for Russia 2018 and Qatar—cough cough bulls***—2022.

If you’ve never heard Johnson, here’s a best-of clip from his NCAA tournament work:

Some fans think he’s over the top, but when he’s doing a sport he knows and clearly loves, we say he works well, adding a layer of excitement and enthusiasm to the games.

To bring that buzz to soccer, well, he’s got a lot of work to do. He not only has to learn the game and all its subtleties (no mean feat) he also, we contend, has to genuinely acquire a taste for the sport. As Bootsy Collins once said, you can’t fake the funk.

Here’s Johnson doing a San Jose game this past year:

He’s not on top of it yet, but he does have five years to get up to speed. And Fox is not hesitating to throw him into the deep end. Johnson is doing Wednesday’s Champions League Round of 16 tilt between no less a pairing than Real Madrid and Manchester United (Fox Soccer 2:45 pm ET). Yikes.

The growing pains start tomorrow, but if the gamble pays off, well, maybe we’ll get calls at the 2018 and 2022 Cups that go a little something like this:

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We Don’t Want to Be Unkind, and We’re Certainly Glad She’s Back on FSC, But Michelle Lissel’s New ’Do Makes Her Look Like Garth from Wayne’s World

The talented and knowledgeable Michelle Lissel left the Fox Soccer Report in 2006 to become the Media and Public Relations Director for MLS side Toronto FC (tough gig, that: the team missed the playoffs in its first four seasons and is currently 1-3-4).

She returned to the Report late last year, and while she’s been a colossal upgrade over Lara Baldesarra, her new look (above right, next to the previous look)—well, we are by no means experts in the field, but we think it needs to go back to the drawing board.

Announcer Spotlight: Lara Baldesarra

We held our tongues for a while on this one because we assumed—as we imagine most regular viewers of the Fox Soccer Report did—that the experiment couldn’t possibly last.

Fox would never keep on an anchor who betrayed her lack of understanding of the game on literally every story and every highlight reel she presented, would they?

Apparently, they would.

Baldesarra replaced the perfectly serviceable Carlos Machado late last year, and immediately started dropping the “Totten-HAM’s” and the “Arjen Row-BENs,” and showing that she didn’t understand what she was looking at as she narrated game highlights.

We gave it two weeks, tops.

Yet here she is, almost six months later, still on the job.

She just mispronounced the Chelsea coach’s surname as “Angelotti”—literally this second as we write this—and then she just did it again before we even finished the sentence.

We don’t want to be ungentlemanly about it, but her feminine qualities fall well short of trumping her glaringly obvious lack of familiarity with the sport she covers. Helen of Troy couldn’t pull it off, if she pronounced ‘Richard Dunne’ as ‘Doone.’

And we are not alone on this one—these guys devoted an entire page to the subject, right here.

Come on, Fox Soccer—as the guys above say, we’re sure she’s a lovely human being, but your loyal viewers deserve better.

Backpost Announcer Spotlight—Brian Dunseth

 There was a time, not too long ago, when soccer announcers in this country were straight-up embarrassing. When Backpost was just a youth-size Pugg goal, we remember announcers constantly comparing the game to “American” sports; we specifically recall one guy remarking to his color-analyst, after noting a 2-1 scoreline in a game: “So that’s like 14-7 in football.”

 Uh … yeah. Except, no.

Thankfully those days are behind us. We are currently blessed with enough competent announcers that we can actually evaluate them, and we’ll be doing that semi-regularly here at BP World HQ . First up: Brian Dunseth.

With an eight-year career in MLS and stints with both the U.S. U-20 and U-23 national teams (he was on the 2000 Olympic team), Dunseth brings a pretty seasoned perspective to the announcer’s booth. He’s also articulate, and adept at ferreting out and expressing subtleties as they happen in a given game.

He does have kind of an odd voice, though—‘wooly’ is the word that comes to mind. Seriously, he might be able get work on Sesame Street. Once you get past that, though—and you will (unless you’re our buddy Marc, who just can’t, for some reason)—you’ll realize that he’s one of the best color-analysts on the domestic scene.

He’s also a co-founder of the killer soccer-fashion line, Bumpy Pitch.