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Gus and Marques Johnson Are Energizing Bucks Broadcasts

Jason Barrett

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This isn’t just a gig for them. Gus Johnson and Marques Johnson have demanding careers and full appointment calendars and busy personal lives.

They came here, to Milwaukee, because they saw history, beauty and jazz on a basketball court. And because they were filled with nostalgia and respect.

That’s why Gus Johnson, 48, and Marques Johnson, 59, understand this young, talented and sometimes maddening Bucks basketball team. They help us appreciate the brilliance that can be unveiled in one great play and then allow for commiseration when everything collapses on the next.

It is that viewpoint and fresh perspective that makes Gus Johnson and Marques Johnson a welcome addition to the Fox Sports Wisconsin TV team, as they now complement the 30-year on-air partnership of Jim Paschke and Jon McGlocklin. Gus is working about 20 games this season in a play-by-play role and Marques is working 55 as an analyst, while being paired with both Paschke and Gus.

blankThe next time Gus and Marques are scheduled to work together is Dec. 15 in Los Angeles when the Bucks face the soon-to-be retiring Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at the Staples Center.

They will entertain (Gus) and enlighten (Marques) while bringing their insights and highlights to the Bucks audience.

It’s a new partnership, but not a first introduction.

“When I got the call? It was done,” Gus said. “Bucks games? Yes. Make it happen. I want to do that.”

NBA fans know Gus and his legendary love for the game. That knowledge of the NBA goes back to the 1970s, and his childhood.

“We used to watch a lot of ball, me and my dad,” he said.

Augustine Johnson was the maintenance man at Cobo Hall in Detroit. He’d come home and tell his son about bolting down the floors and putting up the hoops for the Pistons before their games. The father passed down the love of the game to the son, and together they mourned the loss of Bob Lanier when he was traded to the Bucks — to play with Marques.

“It broke everybody’s heart,” Gus said. “Bob is such a good man. He used to come to the Boys Club when I was a kid.”

Gus’ well-known play-by-play career has covered everything from the Champions League, La Liga, English Premier League, Serie A, FA Cup, NFL, WNBA, Major League Baseball and the Detroit Tigers, bobsled and the luge at the Winter Olympics, college football and basketball, mixed martial arts and boxing. But his loyalty remains true.

“No league is better than the NBA,” he said.

This is now his 15th year in the NBA; he worked 13 years calling New York Knicks games and one with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“It’s art to me. It’s jazz,” Gus said. “It’s Thelonious Monk. John Coltrane. Miles Davis. Dizzy Gillespie. Duke Ellington. I see that every night I’m at an NBA game.”

Marques Johnson was well familiar with Gus’ play-by-play work. He was calling Seattle SuperSonics games in the 1990s when Gus was doing the same for the Knicks. Gus called one of Marques’ all-time favorite games: UCLA and Gonzaga in the 2006 NCAA Tournament: “The steal! Heartbreak city!”

“He just took it home, and made it his own,” Marques said.

Working with Gus was a big draw. But coming back to Milwaukee was more involved for him.

Marques spent seven years here in an 11-year career, from 1977-’84, but it’s not necessarily the five consecutive division championships that first come to mind, or the six winning seasons, or the all-star games or the 10,980 points he scored for Milwaukee.

It was, of course, the inhospitable weather for the Californian. The winter of 1976-’77 was the fifth-coldest in Wisconsin history, and two winters after that it was the sixth-coldest. He also experienced some of our snowier months ever.

“Back then the only thing I knew about Milwaukee was what I’d seen on ‘Laverne & Shirley’ and ‘Happy Days’,” Marques said.

Arriving here with just a polyester overcoat, he remembers leaving the MECCA late one night after a game only to find the lock on his car had frozen. He was alone.

“And I’m panicking, and I’m freezing, and Lloyd Walton my teammate, from Marquette, happened to pass by,” he said. “He showed me the old trick of how to light the lock with a cigarette lighter.

“I had two or three accidents that year driving on the ice. Took out the neighbor’s mailboxes on two or three occasions. You know, you hit the brakes, start sliding — and don’t know how to stop.

“It was just the misadventures of MJ. Everybody kept telling me, ‘The weather isn’t normally this bad.’ I was like, ‘Right. You can have this.'”

He laughs about it now, but there’s an appreciation about it as well. He grew up here. He got strong here. And he would need that strength.

Read the rest of the article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel where it was originally published

Sports TV News

Bomani Jones: Marcus Spears Doesn’t Treat Broadcasting Like It’s Easy

“I appreciate when athletes get into our space and show the same respect for this craft that you show for your own.”

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There are plenty of former athletes on the payroll of sports networks all over the world. On his podcast on Wednesday, Bomani Jones noted that not all of them treat their transition into broadcasting like it requires work. He told Marcus Spears that he can tell the former Dallas Cowboy does.

“This job is not easy. I think a lot of people think they can just float in here and get it, and it was very clear early that no, you were not that,” Jones said on Wednesday’s episode of The Right Time.

Jones would know how difficult it can be to cut through in the media business. He is currently producing three episodes of his ESPN podcast each week while also preparing for the second season of his HBO show Game Theory to debut on Sunday night. This year, he also added regular appearances on CNN This Morning to his workload.

He attributes some of Marcus Spears’ appeal to the fact that Spears is from Louisiana, growing up in Baton Rouge. Bomani Jones noted that the culture of that state plays very well on television.

“Oh, you’re so familiar, and I mean that in the best way possible.”

ESPN keeps Spears busy. On television, he is a regular on both Get Up and NFL Live. He also makes appearances on First Take when called upon, as well as hosting a podcast with Kendrick Perkins for the company.

Jones said that he knows none of those opportunities came to Marcus Spears by accident. Spears first joined the company when the SEC Network launched and worked his way up over the years. Jones notes that requires a kind dedication that isn’t unfamiliar to Spears. 

“I appreciate when athletes get into our space and show the same respect for this craft that you show for your own.”

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Sports TV News

Peyton Manning Rejected ESPN Proposal To Add To ManningCast Schedule

“ESPN has certainly mentioned going up to 12 games or more, and Eli and I held strong.“

Jordan Bondurant

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There’s no secret based on the last two seasons that NFL fans really do enjoy tuning in to watch Peyton and Eli Manning on Monday nights.

Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli, affectionately known as the ManningCast, has proven to be a ratings success for ESPN. Monday night’s wild card playoff edition drew in an audience of 1.7 million. That’s an increase of 17% compared to last year.

The Mannings spoke to Jeff Beer of Fast Company and Peyton said as much as the fans love watching, the two brothers and legendary quarterbacks love doing the show.

“One thing I think comes through is just how much Eli and I enjoy this,” Peyton said.

But Peyton added that they do care about oversaturating the space, which is why he said they turned down the idea of increasing the number of shows this season from 10 to 12.

“We laugh a lot. If you maybe go to 17 games, maybe we’re not laughing as much, and it starts to get repetitive,” he said. “ESPN has certainly mentioned going up to 12 games or more, and Eli and I held strong. We just feel the show is better if we keep it to the 10.”

“I don’t want to see him every week and get his voice memos of breaking down (game) film,” Eli joked. “There’s something to people wanting more, and if we’re on too much, they might not want more. It keeps me motivated.”

One of the things that people love so much about the show is just how organic the exchanges between Peyton and Eli and Peyton, Eli and their guests can be. Peyton gets the appeal from fans and knows viewers think of it as meeting up with them at a bar to watch the game.

“Football is always more fun when you watch it with friends,” Peyton said. “Eli and I get to sit on our couches and watch it together, and the viewers are all of our friends, and the guest is just right there with us. We’re on the couch, we’re at a bar, let’s have a conversation.”

Eli said they do try to make sure things stay focused on football and the game they’re watching when the time calls for it. But he also admitted that he and his older brother are always going to find ways to have fun with each other when they can as well.

“If there’s great football happening, and it’s a tight game, you want to keep it about football,” he said. “But if it’s a blowout, you have to do something else, maybe tell a story, take a shot at Peyton, you don’t know where that’s going to go. It’s authentic. That’s what would happen if we were sitting on the couch watching the game and it’s a bit boring; I might take a pillow and throw it at my brother’s head.”

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Sports TV News

Expanded NFL Season And Playoffs Could Cost NBC Golden Globes

“The 2023 edition of the show was on NBC after the two sides struck a one-year deal back in September.”

Jordan Bondurant

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There’s no hiding the fact that the NFL reigns supreme in TV ratings. Unfortunately for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the Golden Globe Awards, the NFL is too strong to compete against.

Since the NFL expanded the regular season to 17 games over 18 weeks, and added a seventh playoff team in each conference, in 2021-22, NBC’s obligation to football has taken precedent over its obligation to airing the Golden Globes.

The award show this year aired on Tuesday, January 10. On January 8, NBC aired the final regular season game of the year on Sunday Night Football between the Lions and Packers. The game drew an audience of 23.9 million, which NBC said was the highest rating a SNF finale has gotten in six years. NBC carried an AFC wild card playoff game this past Sunday night with the Bengals and Ravens. That game averaged 21.2 million.

Meanwhile the Golden Globes drew in 6.3 million. That number was down 9% compared to the 2021 ceremony. NBC didn’t air the Golden Globes in 2022 amid a Los Angeles Times expose into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

With the HFPA mired in scandal and waning interest in their award show, NBC could be done with the Golden Globes. The 2023 edition of the show was on NBC after the two sides struck a one-year deal back in September. So there are questions abound about if NBC will continue to air it. However knowing that even with the expanded season and playoffs, the option to shift the award show to later in January on a Sunday night after NBC has fulfilled its obligation to the league is on the table. But that could throw a wrench in the award season schedule as well.

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