The Gus Johnson Interview

Monday, December 17, 2007

Here it is Ladies and Gentlemen. I wanted to thank Gus Johnson for taking the time and the people from Gus Johnson Sports for setting the whole thing up. This whole interview really came about because Gus is launching a website (linked above and below), which feature "Fantasy" ringtones for teams and I thought it was an ingenious idea. Please check out the site when you're done reading this 10 question interview with the Patron Saint of Awful Announcing. Hope you enjoy it.

Awful Announcing: First off, I wanted to say that I and the readers are huge fans of yours. Do you realize the love that you get from the Internet and fans of Baskeball and Football? Are there any Internet sites that you check out from time to time?

Gus Johnson: I don’t check them out everyday, but I check them out once or twice a week. Actually Awful Announcing is one of the sites on a regular basis. Awful Announcing, last year did me such a huge solid with what had happened at CBS and being supportive of me and it was a great opportunity to get that exposure. I check out the Internet on a regular basis and see that I’ve had some positive responses from fans, and I’ve had some negative ones too. I get killed out there as well, but everything is a great opportunity to become a person that people listen to and I’m very appreciative of the love I’ve gotten from the Internet.

AA: Tell me about the new website and the ringtones you’re putting out there. This is actually an amazing idea.

GJ: It actually came about because of the love from the Internet, and some of the people who responded to my calls over the years. Because the Internet is such a powerful vehicle now a company out of California called Big Fish Media and two companies out of New York, Royalty and Blaze Media came to me and said hey this would be cool if we could take Fantasy Sports to another level and have Fantasy Sports Calls. Why don’t we do some Fantasy calls where every team has a chance and every fan has a World Championship call on their phone. We’re selling a little bit of hope for a $1.99.

We’ve gotten a great response. So far so good, I haven’t had a chance to do all of the calls because it takes so much out of my voice. I'm sitting there really trying to get into the mind frame of it being a big call the last second of the game and the final play. You have to muster up a lot of energy. We did the college and pro football, and the pro Basketball, so now I’m trying to get my mind rapped around College Basketball, which is my thing, so it’s going to take some time to make it authentic.

AA: What was your background coming out of school, and much work did it take for you finally get noticed on a National level?

GJ: Well coming out of College I worked in a lot of small places which was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I worked in Waco, Texas, Huntsville, Ala, Greensboro, NC, Washington, DC. I’ve called games on ESPN2, ESPN, The Big East Network, I’ve the called Candian Football. I’ve called almost everything you can imagine. I even called Hockey before. I used to call NCAA Regional Hockey for the NCAA Network before the rights shifted over to ESPN. I called Boston Hockey games when Mike Greer was there, and he turned out to be a terrific pro.

Things were difficult at one time, I remember working in Waco making $16K a year and eating at Del Taco everyday. They used to have this deal where you would get 4 tacos for $2.50 plus a drink and that was my thing, but it was fun. It’s always been fun, I’ve enjoyed this ride so much. I’ve been so fortunate to experience the things I’ve experienced.

When I got to Washington and had a chance to be seen I attracted some people in New York and came to MSG Network which was the biggest break of my life having a chance to work at Madison Sqaure Garden and be a part New York Knicks and New York Rangers and the World’s most famous Arena. And from there once you’re in New York and Network Execs turn on the TV and I’m doing the Yankees post game report or a Knick pregame show and fortunately I got that attention. There was a man in the New York Daily News by the name of Bob Raissman who was the first to notice my work when I was calling the Grey Cup for the CFL. As a matter of fact I still have the clipping from 1994 and it hangs in my Kitchen to this day.

Once he noticed my work as a play by play announcer things really started to move forward. I got a chance to call some games at CBS with College Basketball and things really started to blossom.

AA: Covering so many different Sports that overlap during their respective seasons has to be hectic at times. What is your schedule like when you’re calling both NFL and Basketball games?

GJ: I mean it’s really hectic. I’ll give you my schedule from this past week. Let me see where was I last week? Half the time I don’t even know where I am. I know I’m in Boston right now talking to you. Okay, I have to do the Celtics Game tonight. I do Knicks-Milwaukee tomorrow. I get on a plane on Saturday and do the Miami-Jets on Sunday. I come home late Sunday Night, have Monday and Tuesday off. I do the Knicks and Nets on Wednesday, the Knicks and 6ers on Friday, and then I get a plane Saturday morning to fly to Denver to call Kansas City and Denver, and that’s how it goes. From one game to the next.

You’re always moving and with Football and Basketball overlapping right now and once Pro Football is over it’ll be College Basketball, and I’ll be rocking and rolling through the Spring.

AA: Most critics throw the term “homework” around pretty liberally (i.e.- PbPer A did not do his homework before this game). For those of us who have no idea, how much prep is involved from week to week and from Sport to Sport?

GJ: It depends. I think homework is an over used term because quite often I see sportscasters get so involved to use homework to impress people with the amount of info they can spew out as much information on the screen that it takes away from the game. I think it’s the game that we need to understand and how people play the game and what’s the strategy.

With the Knicks, I know the Knicks. They’re my team, I’m with them everyday. All the homework you can do with the stats is important but it’s not that important. The key to it is to know the other team. We’re getting ready to do the Celtics tonight and I’m doing it on radio which is a whole different animal. I’ve got to follow the ball, and follow the team, and follow the game instead of letting everyone know that Kevin Garnett went to Farragut Academy and that he’s from South Carolina. Everybody already knows that already.

For Football it’s a little different. On Monday you wrap after the game on Sunday. On Tuesday you get the tapes and you start to watch those. On Wednesday you get your packets and you start putting your boards together. Thursday you’re still putting your boards together and beginning to wrap your mind around the broad based themes of the game and who you should pay attention to and how these guys want to play. You have to make sure you have everyone in the right spot because the lineup changes all the time.

On Gameday you get up early, get your coffee and head to the stadium. You go through all of the checks, you go through all the promos, you rehearse the roll ins, you rehearse the graphics. And once the game starts you watch the game and you hope organically that the information spews out with the stories you want to tell. When you think about it, it's Sports. I'm not a doctor, or a lawyer, or an accountant. I'm doing stuff that most men would love to do. It's not really hard, it's more fun than anything else.

AA: It’s no secret that your enthusiasm during games has been both praised and criticized. Is your level of energy something that just comes naturally? Do you ever feel the need to take it upon yourself to make a boring game seem exciting?

GJ: I always try to take a bad game and make it better. I think if I had to say one positive thing about myself, I think I'm doing a pretty good job of taking bad games and making them at least a little bit interesting. I enjoy that part of announcing. You try to make every event as theatrical as possible. You try to make every game the Super Bowl. In the NFL, every game is so important. Every game really does mean something. I feel many times that it’s my job to bring that passion into the homes of the fans that are watching the game on TV.

AA: You’ve been involved in some of the most amazing finishes during the NCAA Tournament. Which was your favorite to call?

GJ: There are two calls that stick out in my mind, and both come from the NCAA Tournament. The first was the Princeton/UCLA game. Did you know that the guy who made that shot for Princeton is a doctor now? Incredible. The other game was the Gonzaga vs. Florida name where I said “The Slipper Still Fits.” I still, to this day, don’t know why or how I said that, but it came out of my mouth and it’s such a memorable call for me.

AA: Who are some of the up-and-comers in the Sports Broadcasting field that I/we should have our eye(s) on?

GJ: Great question. A lot of guy at CBS are going to be stars. Ian Eagle is tremendous. Kevin Harlan is also up there. Craig Bollerjack is really coming on. He has a sweet style about him. Over at Fox, Kenny Albert is great. When I’m travelling, I love listening to Dan Shulman. He has such a great voice, but what makes him so good is how he works in Dick Vitale so well. I grew up admiring George Blaha, in Michigan so much.

AA: During the (very few) radio interviews that I do for Awful Announcing I always get the question: If you had to choose any team to call a significant moment in your life (birth of a child, wedding, graduation, etc) Who would you choose? (My answer is always Marv Albert, Keith Jackson, Gus Johnson, and Erin Andrews on the sideline). Who would make up your crew?

GJ: Let me break this up per sport. If I was doing a basketball game, I’d want to do a game with Marv Albert and Hubie Brown.

If I was calling a football game, I’d want to be with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.

If I was doing a baseball game, I’d want to be in the booth with Bob Costas, Al Michaels, and Tony Kubek.

If it was a college basketball game, how could I not want to be with Billy Packer and Dick Vitale?

AA: Last question, and no offense to any of the other Announcing teams on CBS’ Football Roster…..Can you please forward onto management that most of us don’t get the 7 or 8 Houston Texans games you are assigned to each year, and that we want you on some Colts and Pats games?

GJ: I really believe that everything is a learning process in broadcasting. Everything prepares me to be a better announcer. I actually looked at the Houston Texans-Oakland Raiders game that I called as one of the most difficult games to call. Why? Because everyone told me that most of the nation was going to watch the Patriots-Colts game. I knew that I had to do everything I can to make this game so exciting that no one would want to turn the channel. I give thanks that I’m calling NFL games every day, and I wouldn’t change what I do for the entire world.

Gus Tones (Gus Johnson Sports)

Posted by Awful Announcing- at 10:10 AM


AA, you are the best...great job.

GMoney said...
Dec 17, 2007, 11:00:00 AM  

Wow AA, this is so awesome. Tremendous interview, I didn't even know he had this cell phone ring tone deal going on. That would be cool.

TJX said...
Dec 17, 2007, 11:00:00 AM  


And I would have taken Gus for the Pats-Colts game in a second.

Dec 17, 2007, 11:04:00 AM  

TSH, is it because he will not suck the asses of Brady and Manning as Simms and Nantz do?

TJX said...
Dec 17, 2007, 11:06:00 AM  

Good stuff, AA. The world needs more Gus Johnson.

Big Al said...
Dec 17, 2007, 11:26:00 AM  

He is doing a proxy ass suck by sucking the ass of Simms and Nantz, who suck.

Good interview though...George Blaha, the Voice of the Spartans.


E Buzz said...
Dec 17, 2007, 11:38:00 AM  

Can somebody explain to me exactly why James Brown got to do the good March Madness games? That guy could put an insomniac to sleep.
And Gus >> Nantz and Simms.

Dec 17, 2007, 11:40:00 AM  

Great interview, Double A.

Fred said...
Dec 17, 2007, 12:15:00 PM  

the ringtones are stupid!

Anonymous said...
Dec 17, 2007, 12:29:00 PM  

The last question and answer is just perfect and says a lot about the guy. Very humble, happy to be where he is. Good things happen to good people, and in time, better things will happen for Gus. Great stuff.

Anonymous said...
Dec 17, 2007, 12:35:00 PM  

Simply outstanding interview. I think you should have an interview with Gus every week. Maybe a podcast or something. And can you believe it but the slipper still fits on the Zags.

Brett said...
Dec 17, 2007, 12:42:00 PM  

Maybe he should take a break from all this and brush up on the rules of the game...or basic math. He was all kinds of confused when the Bills free-kicked the ball out of bounds after the safety. Even the referee clarification of 30 yards from spot of the kick was not clear enough - he kept saying the ball should be placed at the 40 instead of the 50.

Anonymous said...
Dec 17, 2007, 1:21:00 PM  

Gus is the man. Great interview/post!

Sportsattitude said...
Dec 17, 2007, 3:20:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred said...
Dec 17, 2007, 3:55:00 PM  

there's a company doing that fantasy thing for soccer calls.

odessasteps said...
Dec 17, 2007, 5:38:00 PM  

Gus, don't change a thing. I would actually watch Jets-Fins if you were announcing. Seriously.

Anonymous said...
Dec 17, 2007, 5:49:00 PM  

I love Gus - I just wish they would get him a new partner. I loathe Tasker- who talks just to hear his own voice. How many times a game does Johnson says something intelligent only to have Tasker repeat exactly what Johnson said but use 10 times the words to do it. Johnson's enthusiam makes up somewhat for Tasker-- but the he would do a better job without him.

Anonymous said...
Dec 17, 2007, 7:30:00 PM  

money, AA. money.

and Del Taco, much like our hero Gus, is the shit!

The Big Picture said...
Dec 17, 2007, 7:41:00 PM  

George Blaha rules - Go Spartans (and Pistons!)

And I would love to see Gus cover a golf tournament just once - it would be a great contrast to Jim Nantz's hushed tones.

Anonymous said...
Dec 17, 2007, 8:13:00 PM  

The slipper still fits for AA.

Jarrett said...
Dec 18, 2007, 9:11:00 AM  

I wonder if the NFL Network could hire him away?

Bryant Gumbel is bored with the game. Gus Johnson could have made Bengals-49ers into an epic matchup.

Anonymous said...
Dec 18, 2007, 9:33:00 AM  

You guys like Gus Johnson? Really? Everyone I know can't stand the guy. A couple years ago he called almost every Bengal's game, I wanted to strangle him by the end of the season. Nothing but an endless stream of hyperbolic drivel and shouting. You'd think every routine three yard run was setting some kind of record. There's something to say for having enthusiasm for your job, but Gus Johnson's enthusiasm is often unwarranted. Trust me, he may be enjoyable in small doses, but spend a season listening to him call games and tell me if you feel the same.

Anonymous said...
Dec 18, 2007, 12:52:00 PM  

As a Chiefs fan locked in the midwest, I get Gus a fair amount of time for the B or C levels Chiefs snoozers, and I completely disagree with the Gus-Hater. Gus is amazing, and I seriously perk up and am happier to watch the game when he is on the call. I love his passion and enthusiam.

Anonymous said...
Dec 18, 2007, 9:06:00 PM  

I hope the day comes when Gus replaces Jim Nantz and gets a crack at doing the Final Four. Nantz is great too, so maybe it's just my dislike for Billy Packer.

I'm wondering if Gus' #3 favorite moment would be the 2006 UCLA-Gonzaga game...or maybe the Vermont-Syracuse game in 2004.

He's just very solid and enthusiastic.

Anonymous said...
Feb 11, 2008, 7:09:00 AM  

When my NFL team is not playing, I usually watch the game Gus is calling. It's truely amazing to me that CBS continues to give this guy the shaft with the C level games. I don't even want to talk about how he was replaced calling a regioanl final in the NCAA, even it was only for one year. And it won't change as long as he is at CBS(Can't Broadcast Sports).

A couple of years ago I saw a post from a fan that sums up Gus' ability the best. The fan said, "We want a guy you gets as excided about the game as we do."

Anonymous said...
Oct 12, 2008, 2:02:00 PM  

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