City Sports Report

My Hero, My Mom, Brenda Victoria Johnson

Brenda Johnson with Derrel Johnson and Daphne Johnson (Mask)
Daphne Johnson (in Mask), Brenda Johnson, and Derrel Johnson in Mid-1970s

Daphne Johnson (in Mask), Brenda Johnson, and Derrel Johnson in Mid-1970s

Daphne Johnson, Shanti Dixon-Gramby, Santa Claus, Derrel Johnson and Brenda Johnson

Daphne Johnson, Shanti Dixon-Gramby, Santa Claus, Derrel Johnson and Brenda Johnson

Daphne Johnson, Brenda Johnson, and Derrel Johnson, from the Mid-1970s

Daphne Johnson, Brenda Johnson, and Derrel Johnson, from the Mid-1970s

My Mom, Brenda Victoria Johnson, Playing in the Snow

My Mom, Brenda Victoria Johnson, Playing in the Snow

The reason why I am a passionate sports fan is my Mother, Brenda Victoria Johnson, who was my biggest fan. To the day she left this Earth, Tuesday, January 24, 2012, my Mom was a huge sports fan. She was a bigger boxing fan than I was. She would still watch Friday Night Fights and ShoBox: Next Generation.

The last sports conversation I had with my Mom was Sunday, and we both laughed about it. My Mom said she was going for the New York Giants, and proclaimed “I’ve been a Giants fan since Joe Namath.” I ribbed her, and we both laughed, because Namath played for the New York Jets. She laughed, I poked fun at her, and we laughed more. She told my sister, Daphne Johnson, who isn’t much of a sports fan, and could barely get the words out when she told my sister, as she was laughing so hard.

One of the most memorable sporting events I remember watching with my Mom was game five between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks in the 1999 NBA Playoffs. My Mom was a huge Knicks fan, and would love to talk about the days of Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Bill Bradley, Phil Jackson, Dean mMeminger, and others. I remember being on the phone with my Mom, she at her apartment, me at mine, just a few blocks away, talking strategy while watching the final minutes. Allan Houston shot a jump shot that hit the rim, and bounced, and I remember yelling “It’s got a chance” and it dramatically went in. My Mom and I rejoiced on the phone together. I jumped so high my head almost hit the ceiling. (My ceilings weren’t very high in my first apartment.). Ironic, that I actually ran into Allan Houston walking down Eighth Avenue on the day my Mom would transition.

My Mom not only watched sports, but she played them too. My Mom was a School Aide at PS 192 in Harlem, a school that my sister and I also attended, and my Mom would always play sports. There was an annual Teachers versus Students Softball game, and my Mom would play third base. She was a bit of a tomboy growing up. We would also play a lot of basketball in the school’s gym. As I got older, my Mom and I would have intense battles on the basketball court. My Mom would post me up, and shoot sky hooks over me, at least until I got older, and taller, and was able to block her shots.

We also had a basketball hoop in the hallway of our apartment. Poor neighbors, and my sister as well, as my Mom and I would battle for supremacy on the court. You guys know me, and my Taurus Temper, but if my Mom made a call, right or wrong, she was getting the ball.

Since the 1980s, I have watched every Super Bowl, save one, with my Mom. Here’s my confession for the many friends who have invited me to watch the Super Bowl with them. I had set plans every year. My Mom would always get my favorite, Louisiana Crunch Cake, by Entenmann’s, along with an assortment of snacks and food. My older sister Daphne had even begun to get in on the excitement, making food and snacks with us, but not watching the game. I will watch this year’s Super Bowl, ironically, a rematch of the only Super Bowl I didn’t watch with my Mom four years ago, with the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. I will have my Louisiana Crunch Cake, but, tragically, I will not have my Mom beside me.


  1. Sam's Sports Brief

    January 28, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Your Mother sounds like a wonderful woman , Derrell. I am truly sorry that she is not with you right now, but she is surely watching over you know and forever. May she have a restful, peaceful sleep. Keep your head up, Derrell.

  2. Stephen McClain

    January 28, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    My deepest condolences for your lost, Derrel. I never met your Mom, but based on this blog, she was an incredible woman. Keep your head up, and I am sure she will be watching this years Super Bowl with you no matter where you watch it.

    • H

      January 31, 2012 at 1:32 am

      That’s very true.

  3. Meta J

    January 29, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Derrel, what a beautiful tribute to your mom. Please accept my condolences for your loss as well. I know the close connection you feel for your mom and to be able to express those special moments in this way is such a gift. She enjoyed her life and her hobbies and instilled much in you to keep her legacy and apparently joy of life and laughter going. Please be encouraged and know that there are those of us in your extended who keep you and your family in our thoughts and prayers.

  4. hesaidshesaidfootball

    January 30, 2012 at 1:58 am

    We are sorry for your loss and pray for you and your family during this time. What a wonderful tribute to your mom.

    • razzandjazzsports

      January 31, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Thank you guys very much. Thanks, it came from my heart.

  5. Dana Singleton

    January 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Derrel, this piece was so beautiful.. very touching and endearing… Thank you for sharing YOU. Thank you for sharing with us this piece of you… your family… and the pictures are GREAT!!!!! The love and the memories you shared with your mom will FOREVER live in you.. and your sports blog… I am so deeply moved by this… I’m so PROUD of you…

  6. H

    January 31, 2012 at 1:30 am

    That’s cool Derrel. I’m sorry for you loss. Your mom was a pretty lady. Keep on playing for her.

    • H

      January 31, 2012 at 1:40 am

      That first photo is a great photo.

  7. Bobby Charts

    January 31, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Thank you so much Derrel for sharing these wonderful stories and memories with us. You Mom was a wonderful lady and will be missed, but she lives in you my dear friend.

    Love the pics, thanks for share those as well. I’m thinking of your and you family. Prayers and thoughts always!


    • razzandjazzsports

      January 31, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Thank you very much for the kind words Bobby, they are appreciated, and you are 100% correct too

  8. Barbara B

    January 31, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Derrell – So sorry to hear of your loss. Treasure those great memories and thanks for sharing them. Thoughts and prayers are with you. – Barbara

    • razzandjazzsports

      January 31, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      Thank you Barbara. Hope all is well with you, your family and with the Indiana family as well.

  9. ms.N0Ni

    January 31, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    almost brought tears to my eyes man. I’m so sorry for your loss. All I can offer are these words of comfort, my prayers, and my condolences. I think that was fate that day you ran into Allan, too much of a coincidence to not be. Your mom has and will continue to look out for you, protect you, & guide you. & she will be right there with you for yet another Super Bowl. ROOTING FOR THE GIANTS. I Never met your mom, but I love her. A tomboy growing up, Giants, Knicks, and sports lover… I see a lil of myself in her. Keep strong D. I guarantee you’ll find peace, happiness, motivation, & inspiration every time you think of your Mother, & when you’re writing your next article. Not easy to have opened up like this, but it brought smiles to a lot. Your mother is the definition of a phenomenal woman. =)

    • razzandjazzsports

      January 31, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      I will try to find Allan tonight at Madison Square Garden. Thanks for your words of comfort too. I cried so much typing the last line I couldn’t see.

  10. melissa

    January 31, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    this was beautful…again sorry for you lost

  11. David Turk

    February 1, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Beautiful story and tribute, Derrel. Brenda looks and seems as if she were an amazing woman.

    I am sorry for your loss but so happy that you got to share so much joy with your dear mom.

    David Turk

  12. Danielle

    February 1, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Derrel- I did have the pleasure of meeting your Mom and fondly remember her as a warm and caring soul. I know what it’s like to lose your mother, best friend and support system. I am happy that you had the time you had with her and all those wonderful memories. She was truly beautiful inside and out. Peace and blessings to you and your family.

    • razzandjazzsports

      February 4, 2012 at 7:57 am

      Thank you for the kind words Danielle. I do need to talk to you, perhaps some time next week, as I need to exhale after the last 10 days

  13. DC Livers

    February 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I hope this comes across with the spirit of friendship and love that it’s intended. I’m speaking from the heart….Never met Mama Johnson but work with her son Derrel. What an intense guy! Clearly Mama Johnson brings out the best in you Derrel! Use that. Remember your mother in words….that’s where your power is now. How many sons pen books about their mom? She would have loved that! Honored to watch the transformation in you. While you’re mom is not here on earth, it’s clear that she’s taken up residence in your heart and through your pen, photos and words we’ll all be able to get to know her and she’ll live on. You have been given the gift of life twice. First with your own and now with your moms. I hope you’ll use writing as a healing process while sharing more of her with us. I’ve NEVER EVER seen this side of your work and I can tell you….this is what you were meant to do! Honor thy mother in words!

    Go to victory baby boy!

  14. Liz James

    February 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    This is beautiful and I am sorry for your loss but your memories are priceless and the pics are amazing!!!!! Eat that cake , watch the game and remember your mom. Just make moms proud be the same dam committed parent she was :) Liz

  15. Jon Wagner

    May 9, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Derrel, great tribute to your mom. Sorry I never met her, but I feel like I know her through your very touching article. Remember, nothing in this physical world can ever take memories away, no matter what. As long as you have those, you always have your mom. And, you have friends like me. Glad we ARE friends. You were one of the first people I ever got to know while we covered the Knicks together at MSG, so after reading this above article, I can now see where you got your good values from. Hopefully I see you on Friday night for a Game 6! Go Knicks!

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  18. Jason

    January 24, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Man your mom sounds great Derrell. Seems like she did a great job raising you guys. Thanks for the personal insight into your life as well. No disrespect but your mom was a beautiful woman. Greater article bro.

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