Monday, September 22, 2014
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Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery as soccer broadcasters?

My college basketball and soccer worlds have collided in spectacular fashion.

Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery as soccer broadcasters?

NEW YORK - You may have noticed that I'm spending this week at the Big East men's basketball tournament, writing as my alter ego Soft Pretzel Logic.

Thursday night, my two sporting worlds collided in spectacular fashion.

Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl sent around a brilliant YouTube mashup of famed college basketball announcers Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery calling Landon Donovan's big goal against Algeria at the World Cup this past summer.

(For those of you who don't know, Wahl used to cover college hoops for the magazine as well. You might see him return to the subject this weekend if his alma mater, Princeton, goes to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years by beating Harvard on Saturday.)

The video clip has everything you'd expect. There's plenty of over-the-top exuberance from Johnson, including a "Here comes the all-America!" reference to Donovan. There are also some classic Raftery catchphrases such as "A little kiss!" and "Onions!"

It so happened that when I saw the video, I was sitting just a few feet away from Raftery on press row at Madison Square Garden. At the end of the evening, I showed the clip to Raftery and his ESPN colleague Jay Bilas.

They both got a good laugh out of it it.

"That's pretty good," Raftery said as he cracked a smile.

I asked Raftery, who Philadelphia fans have known since his days as a basketball player at La Salle, if he might call a soccer game some time.

He didn't rule it out. Which means it could happen, right?

Alas, probably not. Raftery has more than enough to do broadcasting college hoops. But at least we can imagine what it would be like. Here's the video:

In case you're wondering what the actual game was that Johnson and Raftery were calling - and who the "Morrison" refers to - here's the answer. It might not surprise those of you who have followed Johnson's rise through the college basketball announcing ranks.

The original call came from a Gonzaga-Oklahoma State game played in Seattle's KeyArena (thus the "Sleepless in Seattle" reference from Raftery) on December 10, 2005.

With a national television audience watching on CBS, Bulldogs star Adam Morrison hit a three with 2.5 seconds left to win the game for the Spokane-based school. It was yet another feather in the cap for Morrison, a national superstar that season, and further boosted Gonzaga's status as one of the top mid-major programs in the country.

(Yeah, I know a lot of you knew that already. But there are just enough readers of this blog from outside the traditional American sports realm that I figured I should explain the history just in case.)

Here's the video of Morrison's big shot:

The one thing that's missing from the soccer clip is the "Larry Bird, baby!" line from Gus Johnson. It's hard to compare any of Donovan's predecessors to Bird, given that Donovan has been on the field for so much of the U.S.' rise to international prominence.

You could make the case for Tab Ramos, who was the creative linchpin for the U.S. throughout the 1990s. Ramos' goal against Costa Rica in a 1997 World Cup qualifier in Portland was plenty clutch, and was a big reason why the U.S. made it to France in 1998.

But Ramos was a midfielder. Donovan has played mostly as a forward. The Bird-Morrison comparison works better because both players were shooting guards.

So with that in mind, here's my pick for a Morrison-esque moment in American soccer history. It comes at around the 2:40 mark of the clip below.

How many of you remember this game?

(Major props to whoever it was that put the mashup together. Hat tips are also due to Grant Wahl for spreading the word about it, and Jonah Keri for having the original Morrison video on his blog.)

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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