Sports journalist icon Ernie Johnson, Jr. has an extraordinary career and his life off camera is truly fulfilling. Throughout his career and life, Johnson has witnessed a number of unscripted moments which cultivated him into the man he is today – and he has decided to share his story with the world through his first book, ‘Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary’.
After ESPN aired the E:60 piece on Johnson and his family, five literary agents approached Johnson with questions of when he’d be ready to write a book. For Johnson, it was important that he use his head, his heart, and pen that wrote on his own paper. “I knew, going in, there were certain areas I was going to cover – these blackberry moments. And that was always, to me, the way the book was going to begin,” said Johnson. ‘Unscripted’ is a beautiful autobiography that speaks to the “unscripted” reality that millions of people in the world live and can relate to. These blackberry moments that Johnson refers to are a series of memories – those unexpected moments that make life extraordinary. We’re all cultivated from a number of blackberry moments that shape us into the person we are and strive to be.
Johnson talks about his father in a chapter. The first line reads, “My dad had hairy ears…” Johnson shared his mother’s reaction, “When I read the first line, I was wondering what is Ernie doing? Then I read the entire chapter and it captured dad so well.” Johnson added, “That kind of encouragement lights a fire under you. And then it was a matter of going chapter by chapter and where I wanted to go.”
As you read ‘Unscripted’, you will feel like you’re talking to an old friend or a family member. Johnson has a way with words – so that you feel like he’s telling you a story. His friends, family, career, triumphs and tribulations are shared on a level that is both insightful and fulfilling. Johnson is a family man and that is revealed throughout the entirety of the book. For Johnson and his wife, Cheryl, their six children are the couple’s pride and joy. The blackberry moments that Ernie shares articulate how parenthood can be life changing in the best of ways. “One word to describe Eric – he is freewheeled. One word to describe Maggie – compassionate. One word to describe Carmen – freewheeled. To describe Allison and Ashley – works in progress. And for Michael, miracle,” said Johnson. All of the children come from different beginnings, yet I think it’s safe to say that Johnson has helped to cultivate the greatness that his children have and continue to become.
With saying that, Johnson’s book doesn’t come off as though he has it all figured out. In fact, that’s what is so refreshing about ‘Unscripted’ – Ernie knows that he has made mistakes, but he shares how he navigated through tough waters.
“The favorite part of my job is that I know when I go to work that I’m going to laugh,” said Johnson. “When you begin your career as a newsman, you’re dealing with some serious stuff on a regular basis – life and death a lot of times. You switch into sports, and suddenly I am in the toy department.” Johnson has arguably one of the most recognizable voices in sports broadcasting and that is because he never gives up. Even when battling cancer, Johnson chose to forge forward because he didn’t want to send a message that said just because you have cancer, that you have to go into hiding. He never allowed the diagnosis to steal his heart and soul – instead, he remained himself and fought.
Many ask Johnson what is left in his career that he still wants to do. Ernie’s resume is one filled with epic sports firsts and lasts, great games that he’s covered, and other milestones only the icon could have achieved. While this is all admirable, Johnson believes that his greatest accomplishment is truly his family. “When you answer that question it’s like you feel like some part of your career is incomplete. That’s as far from the truth as it could possibly be,” said Johnson. “It could all end, right now and I could walk away from this tomorrow, and know that I’ve already done the thing that will never be surpassed. And that is to work with my father for parts of four seasons doing. And nothing that I ever do will match that or surpass that – and as good as that’s been it fails in comparison to what I have going at home.”
‘Unscripted’ is for the person that thinks they’ve got it all figured out and for the other who doesn’t have a clue. We all live an unscripted life, full of blackberry moments that continue to shape us into the person that God has intended us to become. Johnson’s book reminds us that we only have one life and it’s important to live it to the fullest.