In America, we don’t have the massive pool of match summarisers like England has. Fox in its infinite wisdom hired Gus Johnson, an American football and basketball commentator, to learn football (soccer) on the fly and try to offer some insight along the way. Quite a big ask in theory, don't you think?
While as you all know, football isn’t the easiest sport to learn, let alone call. Fox missed out on several well known football commentators like Phil Schoen, JP Delacamera, John Strong, Keith Kokinda, Joe Tutino and Steve Cangialosi, to name a few. Their aim is to develop a big name for the World Cup and the Champions League. Keep in mind that in America our broadcasters don’t travel to the European matches, they view them from a satellite feed.
This does raise a point - imagine when the National Football League (NFL) makes the dumb choice and gives a team to London (nothing against London but it’s a little far) will someone like Mickey Quinn, a football commentator, commentate on the NFL? Or imagine the match summariser for Manchester United TV calling a baseball game? Could you imagine Jason Cundy or Stan Collymore at a cricket match? There’s already a massive amount of people unemployed nowadays, so why combine two jobs for one. In Gus Johnson's case, it simply doesn't work.
The key point in all of this is while it takes a lot of time to learn a sport, your timing and a rapport with that particular sport, to “create” an on air talent, out of nothing, is a slap in the face to all the people who have practiced journalism and are determined to find a way into the sport, particularly here in the States where we're crying out for an insightful football commentator to really help engage an audience swamped by other sports. The amount of hours people put into their craft is immense in my experience, so to see some hot shot from another sport come in is nonsense and, frankly, unfair.
The other problem with other announcers doing other sports is that it opens you up for comedians like Daniel Tosh, Frank Caliendo or Tommy Tiernan mocking you. And really for a sport in a country that isn’t in the top of the minds of the “popular” people do these media companies want to trivialise the sport for their own enjoyment? Of course, because to these media companies they’ve seen the leagues fall apart before. We’ve still not seen CBS get involved in the sport here in the States after the old NASL fell apart.
The big TV companies want to create their own media darlings and are struggling to even examine the vast array of talented football commentators out there to perhaps have a go here in the States. Instead, they've gone for Gus Johnson, a man who clearly knows very little about football, but due to his reputation commentating on another sport, he seems to be qualified to make the transition. After watching him a few times, I can tell you he definitely isn't qualified and it's a huge shame that we aren't seeing a new person come in and inject some much needed insight and enthusiasm into the sport over here.
Just imagine talkSPORT trotting out Alan Brazil for some NBA coverage when it comes to London, or Alan Shearer commentating on a baseball game. It'd be horrendous.
By Stephen Brandt - Liverpool fan - @StephenCBrandt