I was watching some of the TNT coverage of the NBA Playoffs last night, and was surprised that when they went to the studio during half-time (as well as before and after the game), Ernie Johnson wasn't present, but there was a fill-in. It turns out there was a reason -- last night the Sports Emmys were being giving out, and Johnson was nominated for in-studio host.
I understand the nomination. He doesn't talk a great deal during his broadcasts. That's because he shares the desk with Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith, and the wonderful Charles Barkley. But being host to those three is no mean trick: you could hand a microphone to Charles Barkley and let him entertain you for the next hour. Shaq has an even bigger personality and does host his own show on the NBA network. And Kenny Anthony is outgoing enough to be the center of a new reality show that follows him and his family. So, Ernie Johnson being host to that group is more like a combination of a train conductor and vaudeville juggling act.
It was a deeply impressive category he was nominated in, that included Bob Costas (who's probably won more Emmys than he has room for), Keith Olbermann, Rich Eisen and the late Stuart Scott, who passed away from cancer after a long public fight during which he stayed on the air for much of it. (Ernie Johnson himself had had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma about a decade ago and had leaned on Scott for support during the time.) Earlier in the evening, the Emmys presented a tribute to Stuart Scott, as well.
But the winner on this night was Ernie Johnson, long considered quite a gentleman. And his acceptance showed why he was a winner most nights...and is considered quite a gentleman.
(It should be noted that during his speech he refers to "Shelly" who is ESPN's Shelly Smith and Craig Sager, another well-loved sportscaster for TNT, both of whom are dealing with cancer. Sager made his brief but lauded return to NBA coverage after a long absence only a month or so ago.)
Here's what Ernie Johnson did.
But here's what Charles, Shaq and Kenny said about him last night, at the end of their broadcast, after he won the Emmy and his acceptance. (Yes, I know, the paused-graphic below looks like it's the same thing, but it's not. Most of the 2-1/2 minute footage is in the TNT studio.)