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Poor decision by CBS March 21, 2007

Posted by whatpushesmybuttons in basketball, celebrities, critique, humor, opinion, sports, video.
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I had thought I heard about this earlier but wasn’t sure until I just got the official confirmation.  Gus Johnson, the excitable play-by-play man for CBS’ college basketball will not be broadcasting any of the Sweet 16 matches this weekend. Instead, James Brown, the former FOX NFL studio host will be doing play-by-play instead.  Why you ask?  Apparently as part of the deal to come over to CBS for their NFL studio coverage, Brown wanted to be included in CBS’ coverage of March Madness, including doing play by play for a few of the NCAA March Madness games.

I listened to Brown do a game last weekend and he sucked.  In fact there was one point in the action where he said nothing for a good 30 seconds.  And it wasn’t a good kind of nothing either.  I’ve done play-by-play before and know its very difficult.  And I couldn’t imagine the pressure of having millions of viewers listen to your every word like it was the gospel.  But dude, if you don’t got it you don’t got it.  Gus Johnson, for those who don’t know him, is a CBS homegrown talent and has been covering March Madness on CBS since 1996.  He has made some of the most memorable calls of upsets in recent memories, and his known for his voice rising to fever pitches as the action escalates in the game. He says what he feels and you can sense the excitement in his voice when he calls the action.  If you need proof, just look at Ohio State and Xavier’s battle last weekend where Ohio State was on the ropes with 10 seconds to go (click the image to launch the clip):

Do a YouTube search and you’ll find his call when Princeton defeated UCLA, when West Virginia made their run (I still have his “It’s Pittsnogle!!!” call etched in my head) and countless other upsets. He routes for the underdog, but not in a “homer” kind of sense. He brings excitement to the telecast and it’s almost like he’s the one who wants the ball in the tie game with the last shot. The great broadcasters thrive off that situation, like Vin Scully, Marv Albert, etc. You remember their voices and phrases (any sports fan remember’s Marv’s “Jordan over Ehlo – YES!” call when the Bulls beat the Cavs in the 90s. Or Vin Scully’s call when Kirk Gibson hit the homerun for the Dodgers in the World Series). As a fan, their words are like the gospel and if the call is done right, the call can almost be more famous than the action itself.

Anyway, CBS’ decision to give their big games to Brown rather than Johnson is like the Yankees having Miguel Cairo play shortstop in the World Series over Derek Jeter. You bench your star in favor of an average player. Yes, Brown is a great studio guy. But it’s easier to moderate conversation in a studio and offer insight about action that has already happened, than it is to call action as it happens. I’m not the only one who has this opinion. Read Bill Simmons’ blog or this article from the Daily News on Friday that detailed CBS’ poor decision.

Needless to say this weekend, the close game won’t be as exciting with Johnson’s voice. Maybe, just maybe, Gus can do the play by play from home and pipe it through the sound systems of every bar. No offense to Bill Raftery, Verne Lundquist, Billy Packer, Jim Nantz, Mike Breen, etc…but Johnson brings the passion with every call. It’s just not an upset without Johnson calling the upset.

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