A Study In Aging: The Gus Johnson Experience

Tuesday, March 20, 2007



So in my daily travels throughout these Interwebs I came across this article by Neil Best at Newsday.com. The reason I'm bringing light to it is because I think it proves my "Generation Gap" theory on Gus Johnson. Neil Best is no doubt an older gentleman (he's been at Newsday since 1982), and he is annoyed with Gus' loudness.

STOP YELLING AT ME! NOW!!! I MEAN IT!!!!! Yeah, Gus Johnson, that means you. (And you, too, Kevin Harlan, Mike Patrick, Gary Thorne, Dick Vitale and the many other bellowers whom duty calls on me to invite into my personal space.)

As often happens when Johnson is excited, it was not clear precisely what he said after Ohio State's Ron Lewis sank a tying three-pointer with two seconds left in regulation against Xavier. After a dozen listens, it might have been, "Makes it! Ooooh!" It was reminiscent of his frothing at the mouth late in last year's UCLA-Gonzaga regional final and after the Knicks' David Lee tipped in a buzzer-beater in the second overtime against the Bobcats in December.

Johnson and Dan Bonner would have been better off conserving energy to discuss pertinent stuff such as whether Ohio State's Greg Oden should have been called for an intentional foul in the final seconds. Or why Xavier's Sean Miller became the latest in a long line of college and pro coaches to commit hoops hara-kiri by refusing to foul an opponent with a three-point lead and the clock winding down. Sigh.
Best isn't really breaking any new ground with the Oden and fouling issue, so what is this article really about then? It's about the older generation "not getting" Gus Johnson. (Continue Reading this long-ass post after the jump)


As with everything there's a generation gap.......music, technology, and now sports. I'm pretty sure Moneyball started this thing, but it's garnered a life of it's own across all Sports. Now it comes to Announcing.

I use the term "Free Pass" a lot around here. By my definition it means giving credit to older Announcers (John Madden, Keith Jackson, etc.) who have paid their dues in the Sports World, but make mistakes in their old age. It's obviously a loose term and people float in and out of the category all the time (Al Michaels, Hubie Brown, etc.).

I don't have any issue with Neil Best in fact I rather enjoy his work. He seems relatively in touch with the The World of Blog, and is a great writer.

The question I have for him and the older generation is.......What's wrong with variety? What's wrong with change? The inherent qualities that make College Basketball so amazing are Energy, Excitement, and the Unknown. You don't get those 100% of the time in other Sports like you do in March Madness. As you've heard me say before......the key word here is "Madness". More from Best......
Interestingly, Johnson is regarded as a play-by-play demigod in some corners of the blogosphere and is generally more popular among young fans than geezers. (Vitale, the original Old Yeller himself, is wildly popular on college campuses.)

So give me the silky professionalism of still-going-strong Verne Lundquist, 66, and another venerable old-school voice, Dick Enberg, 72, each on duty this weekend. The understated Jim Nantz, too.

So what if CBS has a Sweet 16 announcing lineup with demographics more suited to "60 Minutes" than to March Madness. Its volume dial tops out at 9, and for that I say a hearty, howling.
Actually their volume tops out at 6.5, but the main problem with that argument is that "geezers" aren't the main audience. How do I know that? Just look at the advertisements.......what have we seen over and over the past few days.
  1. How I Met Your Mother Previews
  2. The Dickie V Hooters Commercial
  3. Beer Commercials
  4. Dell Computer Commercials
  5. The Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock "It Takes Two" Commercial
  6. Pizza Commercials
  7. BW3 Wings and Bar
  8. 60 Minutes......oh you say this is for the older generation? Then why was Simon Cowell on that day???
Those seemed to be pretty much geared towards the younger generation, and I'm not even taking into account the ads on March Madness on Demand. The issue is that CBS isn't listening to its core audience.......the majority of college kids and young adults that watch the game in the first place. CBS doesn't realize this, and that's a why everyone is up in arms about the Gus Johnson Situation.

Another thing I've noticed with the younger generation.....they are able to compromise and see the value in having multiple options and opinions. This is why I can enjoy Verne Lundquist, and Dick Enberg (at times) as well as Gus Johnson and Ian Eagle. I'll leave you with a quote from Enberg.....
"My bias begins with being a former educator and being energized when I'm around young people on a college campus," said Enberg. "There's nothing more than a college game to be reminded that I still want to be a professor again someday and look into those bright young eyes that have all that electricity and energy."
Hmm.....maybe I've been too hard on Enberg??? But you see my point. We all need a little electricity and energy, and I would think the older generation needs it before anyone else. I have no issue with Neil Best, the older generation, or anyone who doesn't like GJ.....everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'm just curious as to why they/you feel that way.

There's a poll in the top left corner of the page. Please take a second to vote your feelings on Johnson. I'm curious to see where the cards fall........

Keep it down to a roar, please! (Best: Newsday)
Enberg Needs No Intro (Hoffarth: LA Daily)
Pairings For The Sweet Sixteen and Elite 8 Games (Awful Announcing)

Posted by Awful Announcing- at 12:31 PM

19 Comments:

Unfortunately, I don't read the blog enough to know if that "Who are the Bobcats?" line was a joke. If it is, very nice. If not, the NBA team in Charlotte.

Devin McCullen said...
Mar 20, 2007, 2:12:00 PM  

Whoops....I read that Bobcats line completely wrong. I skipped over the David Lee part. Fixed.

Mar 20, 2007, 2:24:00 PM  

I'm pretty sure Gus shouted "TAKES IT HOME!!!!" after that 3 pointer.. I was fucking pissed that OSU came back, but Gus made it somewhat tolerable

Eric said...
Mar 20, 2007, 2:28:00 PM  

i like gus johnson but he gets carried away at the wrong times. i generally don't like people screaming because not only is it not natural (do they scream in delight at the cashier when they are offered a two-for-one deal on eggo waffles at the grocery store?), it's unprofessional.

i can somewhat tolerate the analysts wailing. play by play men are first and foremost storytellers. they are describing the action. when some guy is just screaming like some woman giving birth, then i dare say he's not doing his job, he's not telling me what happened, he's not telling me the story.

anyway, the game will determine if it's exciting or not. and if i need a play-by-play guy to get me excited, that tells me the game isn't exciting so why am i watching to begin with?

there are exceptions. like jack buck's call of ozzie smith's (first) home run against the dodgers in the playoffs. it was a monumental moment, turned a playoff series around with one historic swing of the bat and, btw, buck was broadcasting for a local audience, not a national audience.

i can understand a local broadcaster getting carried away. but a national play-by-play guy, no. there should be a modicum of objectivity.

yes, i'm mid-40s. but i LOVE dick vitale. what you see with vitale is what you get when he's walking down the street. he's not a fraud which is why i like him. he's genuine.

(i'm glad i'm not the only one who hates thorne. the guy IS ALWAYS SCREAMING AT ME EVEN DURING PREGAME, WHY!?)

let's put it this way, if johnson, et al, get all lathered up for a second-round upset (not even a monster upset -- that would be, say, a 16-seed knocking off an undefeated team), then how would he have reacted say, when keith smart hit his championship-winning basket against syracuse?

would johnson be so worked up would he have an orgasm? why not?

Anonymous said...
Mar 20, 2007, 2:29:00 PM  

bah, my comment got erased. that's annoying. anyway, i was going to say that i thought the announcing complemented the game very well. I was only half watching until OSU started coming back, and their excitement matched the game. At the time, I didn't care if Oden's foul was flagrant or not, and I still don't.

- b said...
Mar 20, 2007, 3:02:00 PM  

I think the votes speak for themselves...35-0 at the moment at least in favor of Gus. I love the energy and excitement Gus brings to the broadcast booth. Maybe it is slightly over the top at times, but during a fantastic finish or just outstanding agme, he really makes the viewer feel like he or she is witnessing something extraordinary and rare. And I think the fact that Johnson has the ability is what makes him so special. I do respect the elders as well, such as Lundquist and even Nantz to an extent.

I do have a huge problem with James Brown calling games instead of Johnson. In fact, I created an online petition asking that next year CBS allow Gus to return to calling Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games. Without Gus, these regional semifinals and finals won't be the same.

Mini Me said...
Mar 20, 2007, 3:38:00 PM  

Look, my favorite of the teams was Lundquist and Raftery, despite Billy's tendency to punctuate with growls.

My vote for Gus has to do with the fact that if I were in his place, I would have probably reacted the same way, and while I was drunk in the sports bar watching this game, it was a great call to have coming in over the speakers.

Besides, if you're going to replace him with James Brown...eesh, he did a mediocre job at best.

Signal to Noise said...
Mar 20, 2007, 3:39:00 PM  

Anon: An announcer can be objective while still being excited. They are not mutually exclusive. As a general rule of thumb, I like listening to announcers who sound like they love their jobs and are completely into the game. Thus, Lundquist/Raftery and Johnson are my favorite college bball announcers, while I can appreciate Dickie V. even if he does go over the top often. Johnson's yelling at the moments of high drama reflects what fans who care about the game are thinking. Lundquist is held up as a model of restraint for his call of the Laettner-Kentucky game, but he, too, yelled "YES!".

A contrast from a different sport illustrates exactly why I love Johnson and would much prefer him announcing than someone like Nantz: the 2004 World Series game that Scott Podsednik ended with a home run off Brad Lidge. On Fox, Joe Buck was the detached "professional" (I say bored-sounding) announcer he always is. Soon after, I was driving and listening to the radio and heard a replay of Jon Miller's excited, almost delirious, call of the same play, and wished I'd been listening to the radio at the time.

We agree that the announcer's primary job is to inform, but where I think we differ is that I think part of informing means conveying the sense of the moment and the atmosphere through the performance. Nantz/Joe Buck don't do that at all, and it hurts the experience.

David A. said...
Mar 20, 2007, 3:52:00 PM  

Well said. I'd say the poll results are, to understate the fact, conclusive.

The Hog Blogger said...
Mar 20, 2007, 4:48:00 PM  

In this world of Tim McCarver and Mike Patrick, is Gus Johnson really the one causing people this much angst? More focus on the real enemies of freedom, I say.

La Rev said...
Mar 20, 2007, 7:54:00 PM  

James Brown over Gus Johnson? That's just wrong.

gilbert said...
Mar 20, 2007, 11:09:00 PM  

Hey! I like Mike Patrick!

Mar 21, 2007, 1:43:00 PM  

Really? I thought only his wife liked him...wait, are you Mike Patrick's wife?

La Rev said...
Mar 21, 2007, 3:33:00 PM  

Everybody should hate Mike Patrick just because of the fact he replaced Ron Franklin. You don't even have to bring his "skills" as an announcer to the table.

I don't like Gus Johnson on football, but few can match his knowledge and enthusiasm in the game of hoops. I really hope this is JB's only year doing the regionals. Any of the other announcers who only do the first week would do a better job, plus Craig Bolerjack who was out of the loop entirely this year.

Chris said...
Mar 21, 2007, 4:02:00 PM  

Gus Johnson can make the most in the bag NFL game for your favorite team feel like it's in jeopardy and he can make the most out of hand game for your favorite team feel like it's in play. Half of the time you hate him and half of the time you love him.

J-Red said...
Mar 21, 2007, 8:04:00 PM  

I knew Gus when he was a student at Howard University. In fact, I was Gus's first broadcast partner when we did Howard Football in 1993.

Gus has come a long way both as a play-by-play man and a studio host. He is solid and I think he will continue to do well.

Mar 23, 2007, 6:11:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mar 23, 2007, 6:11:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mar 23, 2007, 6:11:00 PM  

Gus is good. I was listening to the Florida vs Oregon game today. James Brown used the words "left in regulation" every time he let us know how much time was left. I know this tells us that the game is probably in the second half (no one ever says 37 minutes left in regulation) or that it is not in overtime, but when he says it every single time, it gets annoying to listen too. If I'd taken a drink everytime JB said "left in regulation" I'd be passed out.

Anonymous said...
Mar 25, 2007, 10:25:00 PM  

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