Unique style has made a unique bond between fans of the NCAA Tournament and Gus Johnson. No other TV announcer is as popular with a singular event.
Gus Johnson in March was the bellower that preceded a frothing, fist-throwing Isaiah Thomas, who roared at the CBS camera following his Pac-10 Tournament game-winner.
COLD BLOODED! the play-by-play master screamed amid the hysteria in Los Angeles after Thomass stepback swish guaranteed an NCAA basketball tournament spot for the University of Washington.
His chilled-plasma label became a Twitter trend, something Thomas himself capped within his 140 allotted characters.
Part showman, part instructor — Thats the guy who should shoot it! — Johnsons histrionics have seeped into March Madness. His calls folded him into the tradition itself, as if he were an expected favorite side dish during a holiday meal.
Thursday, Sports Illustrated delivered the bad news: Johnson and CBS could not reach a new deal. Johnson, for now, is no longer part of March Madness, which leaves college basketball fans rightfully irritated.
Johnsons detractors grumble his calls become incomprehensible when a rush of emotion appears to detach his brain from his job. The deliverable becomes a squish of OHHHH! and AHHH! Often, thats followed with the Johnson standard of Ha ha!
Thats why hes so effective. His loss of common sense with the headset strapped over his ears mirrors the loss of common sense by those with beer cans strapped over their ears. The dual dive into rudimentary emotion feels symbiotic.
He knows basketball, too. At times, disgust for dumb play leaks out. Good.
The initial story of Johnsons departure was countered by an unnamed-source-based story that Johnsons time as CBSs manic maestro may not be quite over. Johnson reportedly was contacted about calling Pac-12 football games, as well.
No matter where it comes, more Johnson is good. But too much would be bad.
Johnsons kinetic style is best suited for moderation. Listening to him during Big 10 mid-season slogs — think of very peach-basket games that end 48-42, often in Madison, Wis. — exposes the battles between his once-in-a-lifetime deliveries and the reality most games are mundane.
Yet, its his emphatic calls that appear to momentarily alter the hoops universe. The Law of Gus states that if Johnson is doing a tournament game, the finish will be tight. This fanciful alteration of physics stems from Johnson calling notables like Princetons back-door upset of UCLA, Vermonts takedown of Syracuse and Ohio States overtime battle with Xavier.
He has an inextricable link with Adam Morrison and Gonzaga. He titled the pre-Mark Few Zags march through the tournament by announcing the the slipper still fits.
Johnson vocalized the meaning of “stunned” from KeyArena during a Battle in Seattle matchup in 2005 when Morrison banked in a three-pointer with a couple seconds to go against Oklahoma State.
The same year, his Heartbreak City call during UCLAs comeback from 17 points down to the Bulldogs in the tournament framed Morrisons infamous weep, prior to the shooters entrance into career oblivion.
Johnson calling only tight, epic games, of course, is not true. Just feels that way.
Thats why fans track where Johnson lands in the NCAA Tournament. Hometown team is in the East Regional. Got it. Next: Is Johnson calling the game?
No matter the foes, the games he calls are anticipated. No other NCAA Tournament announcer can claim the same.
Hes had missteps — as when Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson bolted down the right hash and Johnson exclaimed, Watch out! Hes got gettin-away-from-the-cops speed! That would have resulted in manic derision of an announcer with different pigmentation. Johnson apologized, and here we are demanding his presence.
CBS tussled with Johnson two years ago, reducing his workload and silencing his mic after the second round. But the company relented then, as it surely should now.
Jim Nantz can stick to his melodramatic putt-putt. Give me Gus.
Follow Todd on Twitter at @Todd_Dybas