October is supposed to be a good time for Ernie Johnson.
The celebrated host of TNT’s Inside the NBA is typically preparing for an NBA season full of the normal chaos that comes from officiating Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley on the weekly postgame wrap up. Shaquille O’Neal was joining the team and TNT was going to build off a record year of ratings. The lockout has put that on hold, obviously.
But October is also a time Johnson to connect back to his roots a bit.
Johnson was scheduled to broadcast the National League Championship Series, currently ongoing between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers. He would put the baseball card of his father in the booth to remember his father, who passed away just more than two months ago.
If you have been watching the MLB Playoffs lately, you will notice that the familiar deep voice of Ernie Johnson is painfully absent.
Johnson’s busiest time of the year is busy for a much different and painful reason.
Johnson has been spending his time in the hospital with one of his adopted children as he battles a pneumonia and muscular distrophy. He was set to broadcast the NLCS when his wife called to tell him that his son would need a tube to keep him breathing. And Johnson’s postseason ended. There was something more important in Atlanta.
A constant cycling through the hospital with his wife and his five other children, three of which were adopted, has been Johnson’s life this October.
“It’s very important for him when he wakes up in the middle of the night that he sees me or my wife or one of our kids,” Johnson told Mike Lopresti of USA Today. “Sometimes, it’s all you can do. Those nights where you’re in the hospital and you’re sitting bedside. Michael really doesn’t care about baseball. He’s not a big sports fan. He loves cars and loves to ask people what they drive.
“So he’ll fall asleep and I’ll sit there and watch the games and eventually get some sleep in those very comfortable hospital folding chairs that always provide restful nights.”
You get the sense from reading Lopresti’s article that Johnson would rather be at his son’s and family’s side than anywhere else right now. On TV we see the sometimes understated Johnson telling jokes and seamlessly controlling the chaos and unpredictability of TNT’s studio show. This shows a much different side of Johnson that makes him that much more endearing.
Johnson has been as much a part of the NBA and its growing popularity as any non-basketball player. His quick wit and serious tone serves a perfect foil on Inside the NBA, and nobody could do that job better it seems.
It saddens the NBA family to hear of all the trials Johnson and his family are going through right now. It certainly overshadows the relatively insignificant matters that are holding the league up in the lockout.
The NBA simply would not be the same without Johnson. It makes sense we could delay the season so Johnson can get back. And hopefully his son will make a quick recovery.
Photo via DayLife.com.