The SportsNewser Interview: Gus Johnson

By Marcus Vanderberg 

If you ask just about any sports fan under the age of 35 to name their favorite play-by-play announcer, the choice would be simple.

Gus Johnson.

The exuberant Johnson, who splits his time between CBS Sports, Showtime and the Big Ten Network, has the uncanny ability to make any sporting event that much more exciting.


Johnson spoke to SportsNewser about the biggest storyline at the halfway point of the NFL season and the top three moments during his broadcasting career.

SportsNewser: How aware are you of your popularity? For any sports fan under 35, you’re a God to them.

Gus Johnson: I’m really appreciative to the responses I have got from some of the fans. It’s really cool. It’s kind of overwhelming at times because you really don’t realize what kind of impact you have on people that are watching the game.

Are you aware of the Gus Johnson soundboard?

[Laughs] Yeah, I saw it during the college basketball tournament. I thought it was really cool and creative. I wish I had thought of that. I could have sold it. [Laughs] As long as the fans are having fun and they are enjoying it. I didn’t know I said so much crazy stuff. I think it’s wonderful and hopefully they will keep it up there.

What exactly happened with you and the New York Knicks?

I don’t even really want to go into it. I had a great time with the Knicks and unfortunately it didn’t work out. We are going to keep that moving.

Growing up as part of the “Madden” Generation, what was it like when they tapped you to do play-by-play for the game?

I thought it was a great honor. I have been playing “Madden” since the game came out. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to try to be part of a time capsule piece. Every year that game comes out, people stand in line to get it. Just to be a part of that blew me away. Being a part of the creative process was a lot of fun for me. Getting an opportunity to come up with different lines that are now part of the game and will always be part of the game, I just think it was a honor and privilege to be a part of the EA Sports family and “Madden” franchise.

Are you doing Madden NFL 12?

We were suppose to start today as a matter of fact but we are waiting for the writers to send down more material. We will probably get started on “Madden 12” next week.

Has the increased attention to helmet-to-helmet hits in the NFL affected your play-by-play any?

Nah, it really doesn’t affect my play calling. All of us announcers call the game the same way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt out there. These guys are super human beings and every game it appears to be getting more and more violent out there. You don’t want to see anyone get really hurt. It doesn’t really affect the way we call it.

Since we are just past the NFL halfway mark, what’s the biggest storyline in your eyes at this point in the season?

I think the biggest storyline is we don’t have one clear-cut team that you can put your money on to win it. I think every team has shown vulnerabilities. Look at the New England and the way they lost last week at Cleveland. The Colts aren’t the same Colts. They’re injured. Pittsburgh is playing though. They are always a tough team. Philly is a tough team. You have teams like the Raiders and Kansas City that are doing well. You wonder if San Diego is going to come back. New Orleans seems like they found their groove although they lost to Cleveland as well at home. Who is going to get hot as we head down the stretch?

You call boxing and MMA for Showtime. Do you have a preference between the two sports?

I like both sports. Obviously I’m more familiar with boxing. MMA is really hard, especially when the fight goes to the ground. I’m still learning MMA. I’m lucky because I work with Frank Shamrock and Mauro Ranallo. Those are two experts in the sport. Frank is one of the greatest fights of all-time and Mauro is one of the greatest MMA broadcasters of all-time. Having an opportunity to work with them makes it safe for me because I can always go to them for information. But I like calling them both.

Top 3 moments during your career:

Ah man, that’s a hard one because I have had some great moments. I would say one of the great moments I’ve had was last year’s Xavier-Kansas State game. Those kids playing in double overtime with a chance to go to the final eight. [Jordan] Crawford hits the shot to tie the game heading into double overtime. I thought it was one of the most exciting and thrilling moments that I have ever had the chance to be a part of.

Also, one of my first moments with UCLA and Princeton. Princeton beating UCLA. I thought that was great:

And I guess my signature moment was Gonzaga beating Florida: