Broadcaster Dave Johnson has been involved in soccer for more than 15 years, calling games for the Baltimore Blast, Maryland Bays and D.C. United. For many, he is the voice and face of the sport in this region. Tonight Johnson, 40, begins his ninth year as United’s play-by-play man when the club plays host to the Columbus Crew in a game to be shown live on Comcast SportsNet. Johnson, who also is the voice of the Washington Wizards and a WTOP-AM sportscaster, sat down recently with The Washington Times.
Q: Did you have an ‘aha!’ moment that converted you to soccer?
A: I grew up in the Pele generation as a fan of the North American Soccer League, watching the Washington Diplomats, and if there was an “aha!” moment, it was in the summer of 1980 watching Johan Cruyff. I still have vivid memories of that season, how the Diplomats were robbed by the [New York] Cosmos on an offside call. Even though the Diplomats went away, soccer is a game that seduces you. There’s the global aspect.
Q: There are a lot of sports commentators out there, but you are one of the few who likes soccer. Why?
A: For me it’s a true passion, and part of it stems from the failure of the Diplomats — my sadness and frustration at that.
Q: In your profession, why are there so many soccer-bashers in the media?
A: It seems to some extent people go out of their way to make fun of soccer, and that’s when you think, “Come on, that’s beneath you as a writer to make jokes about it being low-scoring — ha ha, as if that’s some great revelation.”
Q: Does the whole Freddy Adu phenomenon surprise you?
A: Every step of the way it has surprised me. I never thought an outdoor league would have a chance again in this country. I thought indoor soccer would be the way forward and that’s what this country would be known for in terms of soccer, with pyrotechnics and rock and roll. But then the 1994 World Cup went beyond expectations. The start of Major League Soccer went beyond expectations. Freddy Adu is just another chapter.
Q: Do you have a fondness for soccer over other sports?