On the eve of the 2010 NCAA Men’s Final Four, the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman hails CBS’s Jim Nantz for the broadcaster’s “insight coupled with a smooth delivery and likeable presence.” Not likeable enough, however, as the veteran Gallagher lookalike argues Nantz is “better-suited for describing putts on the bucolic greens of Augusta than heart-palpitating buzzer-beaters.”
Over the past five years, it’s Gus Johnson’s frenetic, theatrical style that is synonymous with tournament time. Something buried in his soul, a true passion for what is unfolding in front of him, is released in a flood of adjectives, sound effects and decibel levels.
He doesn’t take over a game, it overtakes him. What you’re hearing, stuff like “bam” and “pure” and “rise and fire,” or any of his other wired descriptions, is the play-by-play equivalent of a bull rider hanging on for dear life – a perfect fit for the wacky nature of the games.
If CBS winds up retaining the event, the suits must consider elevating Johnson to the No. 1 spot. It’s not like Nantz has nothing else to do. At the least, they should use Johnson on one of the semifinal games. And if another network acquires the Final Four, it won’t need a search party to track down the mouth that best reflects the tournament’s chaotic spirit.