FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Jimmy Johnson’s on the phone:
“Isn’t this crazy?” he says.
He’s feels like most of us right now.
“The whole world’s crazy,” he says.
He’s feeling it personally, too, at 77, with asthma and two heart stents, and staying sheltered at his ocean-side home in the Keys during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I bet I haven’t left the house a half-dozen times in like five months other than going out on the boat,” he says. “Both (wife) Ronda and I are high risk. We’ve been extremely careful. I’ve got a couple of buddies I’ve taken temperatures of and taken out a couple of times (on the boat). But that’s it.”
This was to be a big time for Jimmy, too. There were smaller moments, like the mini-lobster season he loves and regularly has parties for. That was out. There also was the larger world he was to celebrate with at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction.
It wasn’t just NFL and University of Miami assistants and players planning to be there. High-school classmates from Port Arthur, Texas, had let him know they were coming, too.
“Everyone was looking forward to it,” he said. “As nice as Canton has been and will still be, the moment for me was on Fox when (Hall of Fame director) Dave Baker came in and said, ‘You’re in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.’ Getting in was the moment for me. The celebration and parties are fun to see everyone. But that was my big moment.”
Just this week, Jimmy had to tell Fox he wouldn’t be flying to Los Angeles each week for the Sunday NFL show. That was like telling family you couldn’t see them.
“I love those guys,” Jimmy said, naming them all in the show, from Terry Bradshaw through executive producer Eric Shanks. “They’re my best friends. But I got off a Zoom call we (had) about going back I told Ronda, ‘I can’t go out there.’ I can’t go on a plane. Even a private plane like I have.
“I got sick last year with the limo driver from the airport to the hotel. He’s talking and starts going (Jimmy coughs a few times). I was sick for a week. I can’t have that now.”
Jimmy will do a Fox segment from his house in the Keys, just as he did at the start of his television work 27 years ago.
In some respects, as he lives the “my fourth quarter,” as he calls it, he’s shown what first three quarters he had. He’s been voted in the College Hall of Fame, his pregame show was the Broadcast Hall of Fame and now the NFL Hall of Fame. Has anyone done that?
He’s watching the sports world, too, as a window into the larger world. College football? He’s not sure they can pull it off, but he’s rooting for them — “I’d love to watch the University of Miami play,” he says. And the NFL? He talked with New England coach Bill Belichick recently about how to handle this odd training camp.
“I said I’d have two or three people whose full-time job was orchestrating all the extra stuff players have to do (due to the virus),” he said. “It’d be done to where players have a sheet put under their door every single morning saying they’ve got to do this this this and this and so they don’t even have to think about it before they go to practice.
“Whoever handles the distractions and the testing and all that stuff is going to have a big advantage.”
Meanwhile, Jimmy sits in self-quarantine, riding out the virus and staying safe. That’s what you want for everyone, especially those in the fourth quarter considering how the virus works. Heat president Pat Riley stayed at home rather than accompany the team into the NBA bubble. Good for him.
Jimmy says his home has never been in better shape. He has all the time in the crazy world to take care of it now. And fishing? Well, he’s out there, even if it could be better. He still caught a few dolphin and tuna the other day.
“This is going to be here a while, I’m afraid, until we get a vaccine,” he says. “I’ll be staying right here.”
We’re used to sending get-well cards to people. But these odd times call for something different: A stay-safe card. We’ll get to the other side of this. Stay safe, Jimmy.
©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)