Gus Johnson, referred to in a Fox press release this morning as “one of America’s most distinctive and dynamic sportscasters,” will be put on a Fox Soccer match calling a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 meeting between Real Madrid and Manchester United, live from Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu at 11 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
(That’s channel 619 on the DirecTV menu. Just looked it up. So these are the die-hard viewers, not those who stumble on the Fox over-the-air network after an NFL pregame show runs its course and the net has no games to fill in the 10 a.m. window).
This is the first of a bunch of soccer games that Johnson has been relegated to, including the FA Cup (May 11) and UEFA Champions League Finals (May 25).
“Over the past 20 years Gus has cemented himself as an iconic American sports broadcaster, and we’re thrilled to welcome his style to the world soccer stage,” said David Nathanson, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Fox Soccer. “Gus has spent the last year-and-a-half getting ready to call what is a new sport for him, and I applaud the work, study and time he’s devoted to his preparation. He respects how passionate and knowledgeable the soccer fan is, and while his education continues, he’s ready to lend his classic American voice to the world’s biggest sport.”
Johnson’s prep work includes — and Fox seriously added this information in the latest press release — calling more than a dozen MLS games on radio (mostly for the San Jose Earthquakes), playing pick-up soccer games in a park near his Manhattan home, spending several weeks in Europe last season attending games and “conversing at length” with Sky Sports executives and world-class football play-by-play announcer Martin Tyler.
(Honestly, if Fox threw a soccer assignment at me, I’m not sure how I’d prep for it. Probably by scouting a lot of AYSO games — and getting kicked off the field for looking suspicious — followed by some FIFA video games and watching “Frost/Nixon” again, to get the accent down).
For the game in Madrid, Johnson is partnering with Fox Soccer analyst and former Premier League player Warren Barton, who has been working with Johnson, as has Eric Wynalda and Cobi Jones, to get him up to speed on practice broadcasts.
“No doubt that the followers of this sport are among the most passionate, knowledgeable fans in the world, and I’m a newcomer,” said Johnson. “The effort to learn the sport and absorb its nuance has been a humbling experience. While I’ve put a lot of time into my preparation thus far, it’s definitely going to take a lot of reps before I’ve mastered soccer’s rhythm and pace, but I am determined to do so, and with all the support I’m receiving I have no doubt that I will.”
== Far better coverage of this breaking story than we provided on SI.com.