Harold Johnson led his sportscast with tragedy last Friday night. As he had the night before. As he has far too many evenings in Charlotte during the last few years.
"Tonight it's [driver] Kenny Irwin's death, and last night it was [former Panthers running back] Fred Lane," said Johnson, 59, the dean of Charlotte sportscasters, who has worked at ABC affiliate WSOC-TV for the past 20 years. "I feel more like a news anchor these days, considering how often I appear near the top of the telecast."
NASCAR driver Adam Petty's fatal accident during a practice run. Hornets guard Bobby Phills's death after speeding in his sports car. Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth's murder charge. Hornets owner George Shinn's sexual assault trial. Hurricanes defenseman Steve Chaisson's fatal auto accident. Former Panthers quarterback Kerry Collins's DUI. Hornets forward Anthony Mason's various scrapes with the law. Johnson can recite the doleful roll call of bad news involving local sports personalities. "I'll admit that it is an inordinate amount [of incidents] for a city this size," says Johnson. "But is it an indictment of Charlotte? No."
Have the recent events jaded him? "I'm an upbeat person," replies Johnson. Besides, although he reported on the deaths of Irwin and Lane on Friday, Johnson also rolled tape of Mason's press conference held earlier that day on the player's driveway. Arrested on July 3 in New Orleans for resisting arrest and inciting a riot, Mason wanted to announce that this most recent brush with the law would be his last. "I hope so," says Johnson. "I'd love to devote more of my three minutes per show to sports."