Monday, March 14, 2011

9 comments A Defense of Gus

In terms of fanhood, I'm in the middle of the pack when it comes to college basketball. I know the big names, some details and the general way things work. But without a rooting interest, I find it nearly impossible to pay attention to the regular season. There is, however, a cure. And that's Gus Johnson.

At nearly identical times, Bengoodfella and I tweeted polar opposite thoughts. While BGF railed Gus for his yelling during the Pac-10 Final, I proclaimed that I was watching the game merely because Gus' voice was guiding my experience. Upon seeing our debate, frequent commenter Koleslaw took Bengoodfella's side. Feeling childish, I had to defend Gus' honor.

At heart, I'm an immature fan who gets caught up in the emotions of the game. Think Mark Cuban, minus the money and the whole owning the Mavericks thing. With no attachment, I can't let myself go. As much as I enjoy being a Jay Bilas-like objective observer, I need to have a specific interest in the game (whether it's gambling or otherwise). If not, I have to feel the energy. I have to be able to experience the glory, the pain, and tension of every moment as if I were sitting in the second row. The announcer is that tool. Even though I know it's a tie game, the shot clock is off and the Pac 10 title is on the line, the enormity of the moment almost necessitates reinforcement.

If the announcer is cannot deliver the emotion, I cannot quite feel the enormity of the moment. Ultimately, these miniscules games are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. But when Gus Johnson interjects his obnoxiously loud intensity, he forces you to feel the moment. Even though the game may be one of many greats in the realm of college basketball, you cannot get off the couch and tear yourself away.

This is why I love Gus. He makes the unentertaining entertaining. He makes the mundane exciting. He brings relevance and pressure to already pressure-filled moments. I cannot object that the screaming and yelling is over the top. But without it, it's hard to remain as emotionally invested. And that's what draws us to sports. It's because we care. It's merely entertainment, and that's what Gus Johnson brings.

I am not ignorant. I understand that the majority of this blog disagrees. I sure as hell know that BGF does. So I'm ready for your rants and criticisms. Let the argument begin.


Bengoodfella said...

Dylan, this isn't directed towards you, but to the discussion in general on this topic.

I think my hatred for Gus Johnson is overblown by the fact everyone else loves him. I don't hate Gus Johnson as much as I hate other college announcers. Gus is middle of the pack for me. Because everyone else likes him, it increases my dislike for him. I am bizarre that way.

Gus makes the unexciting exciting. If you can't find the excitement in a game-winning shot like happened in the Pac-10 championship game then I don't know what to tell you. I don't need an announcer screaming his fucking head off when that happens. It's not unexciting, that is an exciting moment. So in terms of buzzer beaters, I don't need him going apeshit and in that mostly lies my problem.

If Gus made other moments more exciting then I would be on-board, but he doesn't. He starts bellowing and screaming when exciting things happen and it adds nothing to the telecast other than to help college basketball writers further adore him. What excites me is good analysis and the appropriate amount of volume when something exciting happens. Screaming and yelling to give Bill Simmons and Stewart Mandel an erection isn't my idea of contributing to the game. It is excessive yelling. He's like Dick Vitale, except better because he tends to stay out of the way of the game other than his overly loud yelling. Vitale is a whole other discussion.

So I don't hate Gus Johnson, but to argue he makes something like a buzzer beater more exciting doesn't make sense to me. I understand he makes things more exciting for others, but for me a buzzer beater doesn't need more excitement than watching those guys celebrate on the court.

I guess our basic difference is I don't think the enormity of the moment requires reinforcement. It's like those stupid fucking signs at arenas/stadiums that say "Scream loud" or "make noise." If you have to tell or indicate to me how to act in a certain moment, that annoys me. I don't have a problem staying emotionally invested without yelling.

I'll be back...

Bengoodfella said...

Oh, and Dylan, I think you will have more support than you think on this.

Again, to reiterate...I don't hate Gus Johnson. His popularity causes me to be louder in my countering his popularity. I like to hear him call a game, but I don't like hearing him go apeshit.

koleslaw said...

I don't single out Gus Johnson to hate, I just happen to hate most announcers.

When you go back through sports history and listen to the great announcers, they somehow manage to enforce the moments without creating the moments. Why? Because they don't create the moments, they're just there to see them the same as you. As a fan, I'd rather remember the sports, not the fudgepacker who exclaimed "zippity doo!" when something amazing happened. A rule of thumb for me: if the guy has an obnoxious catch phrase, I probably hate him.

Dick Vitale, Bill Rafery, Gus Johnson: guys like this come close to ruining games for me.

I'm also kinda biased being a huge baseball fan and not as much as a basketball fan. The quicker pace of basketball tends to make the announcers even more obnoxious.

Bengoodfella said...

Koleslaw, here's where I am a hypocrite. I like Bill Raftery. I know he tends to have catch phrases, but I feel like they don't take over the game, but instead add to the game. I know others feel differently though. Vitale ruins the game for me. He's a nice guy, but his yelling and constant off-topic discussions really make it difficult to watch a game with him broadcasting it.

I prefer the Raftery/Bilas pairing because I find Raftery's exuberance is off-set by Bilas detached commentary.

rich said...

I don't hate Gus Johnson, I just find him moderately annoying. I get that when there's an exciting play or moment, that even the announcers get caught up, but Johnson seems to take it to an extreme. To me, he seems a lot like the fan who screams "Did you just see that" after a guy makes a casual layup.

Joe Buck is exactly the opposite. No matter what happens, he always seems to be completely disinterested and disconnected from the game.

I'd rather an enthusiastic announcer than a dead fish one, but my favorite announcers (Uecker and Kalas) get/got (RIP Harry) excited at times, but it never seemed to outshine the moment itself. The fact that people can walk away from a game and go "did you hear/see what Gus did" takes away from the play itself and disrupts the flow of the game.

I can understand why some people would enjoy listening to Gus, but after a while, it just kind of gets on my nerves a little bit that the focus seems to shift from the game to how he's going to react.

Martin said...

I love Gus Johnson on close, exciting games. It's the mundane games that he's going all hyper over, or the merely above average plays that he blows up to super star heights that bother me.

He's a guy I love doing the first couple rounds of the Tourney, and not someone I want doing teh Final 4. He's not precise enough and calm enough as an announcer for me to enjoy those games for their entirety. He's an average announcer overall, jsut that he can ratchet it up 20 notches when the moment dictates that there should be some excitement. In the end, I'll take him over a Buck-type anyday, but I prefer Nance.

cs said...

I too am in a strange place with Gus. His popularity being increased significantly by Bill Simmons, and Bill is a guy we know who is a front-runner at heart, so Gus fits his personality.

I'd actually prefer no announcers at all. But speaking of him, I think Gus is good, I do, but he is not the best announcer, not even close. I know people may disagree, but I like Jim Nantz. He's incredibly intelligent, and he knows when to get the hell out of the way. Gus makes his career on getting in the way.

When the rare opportunity comes to watch a game without announcing, I relish it. It's rare that there is a error or a deliberate gap is announcing, but when it happens, I love it. Even when Fox did an inning of a Yankees game last year, I think to honor an announcer who passed, it was glorious. I love hearing the crowd, the ump, the players, basically what I would hear with great seats at a game. I feel announcers offer nothing but a narrative controlled by their employers. I know what baseball is, I know what the other sports are all about. I don't need a running commentary to remind me why ESPN thinks I should give a shit about this guy with the ball because his father was this, or his brother's son did this, etc etc.

The narrative becomes the center of the viewing experience, and the game itself becomes secondary. It's strange, really...

ivn said...

I can see both sides of the argument here. I do love hearing when a play-by-play guy's emotions spill over into the broadcast, because their excitement (coming from a professional who is supposed to be more "subdued") makes the moment feel even more special--off the top of my head I can think of "THE BAND IS OUT ON THE FIELD!!!!" and Dave Niehaus calling Edgar's double in 1995--so I do like Gus Johnson. when he's calling an exciting game, like the Zaga/UCLA game or the Xavier/K-State game or when UVM upset Syracuse a few years back ("HE HIT THAT FROM THE PARKING LOT!!"), he enhances the proceedings.

on the other hand I can see the argument against, that by getting excited THAT often he cheapens the proceedings. at a certain point you have to "act like you've been there before," so to speak; not every good finish warrants losing your cool.

in the end though, I'm pro-Gus because I do enjoy when an announcer gets as excited as I do. it's better than the other extreme, which I suppose can be embodied by Joe Buck. if you really want to hear a truly awful game call, look up the 4th and 26 from that Eagles/Packers playoff game from 2003. he sounds like he's ordering a cup of coffee; it's almost kind of a buzzkill.

rich said...


I think the point where I wanted Joe Buck off TV for good was his pathetic calling of the 2008 WS. The entire series he never seemed to care about what was going on and sounded like he was being held at gun point.

"Phillies are world champions" ::snore::

I enjoy it when announcers shut up, but considering it was Philadelphia's first championship in almost 3 decades, sound like you give a crap.

Excitement is great, but only when the situation warrants it. You can find clips of Gus going completely nuts when there's 12 minutes left in the game and one team up by double digits...

Like you said it cheapens great plays when seemingly every decent play gets a rise out of him.

The other thing that kind of annoys me about Gus (and this is kind of a subsection of his excitement) is that he uses a lot of one word phrases. Like a guy will dunk and he'll say "BOOM" or "Here comes the pain!" I'm sorry, but that's not exactly something I get excited about. Maybe when I was 12, but not at now.

The golden rule with officiating is that if you're talking about it the next day, it's not a really good sign. I think the same holds true for announcing. If you're really good at your job, you're kind of forgotten about the next day.