Here lies what is considered by many sports fan around the country to be the best part of March Madness...Gus Johnson.
It was announced today that Johnson will become the lead play-by-play voice for FOX Sports' football booth for PAC-12 football and various other college football games on other FOX owned/related networks. And while FOX was willing to pony up the large contract offer that Johnson wanted, and depending on who you talk to deserved, most college basketball fans mourn the loss of their beloved buzzer-beating call hero.
The man who had a website dedicated to his best soundbites, the site GusJohnsonGetsBuckets.com is now defunct, and is a cult hero among college basketball fans for his earsplitting screams and calls during the later stages of games is riding off into the sunset to PAC-12 Football...
I'm hurt. Really I am. Without knowing the specifics of Johnson's asking price to CBS, and I'm sure it's outrageous, the fact that this relationship has failed is a travesty. And while CBS might say that Jim Nantz is their No. 1 guy in the booth for the Final Four, fans know the truth. Gus Johnson was No. 1, and it wasn't even close. Nantz might be the face of CBS Sports and he is one of the greats, but Gus Johnson is, or rather, was, the face of March Madness. And with respect to Nantz and the other announcers, perhaps he should be paid like the top gun. Gus Johnson is likely aware of his popularity during March Madness, CBS Sports premier event in my opinion and wanted to cash in on it. Perhaps he has ratings of games he did on TruTV or whatever to prove that he is worthy of whatever asking price he came up with. Do I, and other fans, think he's worth every penny for those two weeks, probably, but then again, I'm not president of a major network who gets to make these decisions
At the end of the day, Gus Johnson's popularity carried the NCAA Tournament to new hieghts with his entertaining style of announcing and general excitment for the game. Gone are the days of Billy Packer, whose analytical and monotonous style was, to put it lightly, unpopular with the tournament's younger fan base. Fans nowadays expect their broadcasters to get caught up in the moment and show some emotions during their telecasts. And I think that Gus Johnson, as well as Dick Vitale and others helped change the way college basketball is broadcast on the national television stage.
And while I still have Bill Raferty and his "ONIONS!" to tide me over during the first week of games, the fact remains that there will still be a small part that will be missing. A part that was created and filled for many years by Gus Johnson's blood-curdling screams blared from my television as a buzzer beater dropped. The gold standard was set by Gus Johnson, and I daresay it will not be passed anytime soon.
Maybe the fact that Gus is leaving to do PAC-12 Football is why I am so upset. Perhaps I and many others will be drawn to the late night telecasts of the PAC-12 on FX or whereever just to hear Gus Johnson's comfortable screaming as someone scores a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. But the odds of me caring about PAC-12 football anytime soon? About zero. Gus Johnson or not.
But March Madness will still go on. Sadly without Gus Johnson. And his soundbox website, which I demand be recreated so that fans around the country can at least fill the screams as the next year's VCU makes a run towards the Final Four.
But here lies the modern day buzzer beater. It was perfected by Gus Johnson and beloved by many and I doubt it will ever have an equal. It rests in piece for as long as you are not tempted to type in "Gus Johnson" and "Buzzer-Beater" into Google and/or YouTube.
Which for most of us, isn't much longer than five minutes.
Happy Trails, Gus. Good luck with the PAC-12, wish you could've done Big East games instead. You will be missed.