Fox Soccer "will take a leap of faith" when it introduces new play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson for Wednesday’s Champions League match at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid, according to Jack Bell of the N.Y. TIMES soccer blog Goal. In Madrid, Johnson, 45, "will work in the booth with Warren Barton." Johnson "cut his broadcasting teeth calling basketball for MSG Network, CBS, Fox and others and college football." He is a football "newbie, and he knows it." Fox officials "approached Johnson more than a year ago." Asked if being approached was a "curveball," Johnson said: "No, it was a fastball. High heat. They were challenging me." His preparations "really began early last year when Johnson and his friend and spotter Nick Bernstein took a working" European football vacation for three weeks, "dropping in on games in Spain and England" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/12).
A number of athletes headed by U.S.-based basketball player Lauren Jackson have backed a "growing campaign" to find the trans-Tasman netball championship free-to-air TV exposure in Australia, according to Wayne Heming of the AAP. Fears the tournament could face a total TV blackout when it begins in six weeks following the Ten Network's decision to drop its coverage have "prompted passionate pleas." Former player Tania Black has launched a petition on Change.org, a lobby group with 25 million worldwide users and 850,000 of them in Australia. Her petition has already attracted close to 6,000 signatures from the netball community and has received backing from "world-class Australian athletes" such as Jackson, int'l cricketer David Hussey and rugby league stars Cameron Smith and Scott Prince (AAP, 2/12).