HOOVER, Ala. — From our side of the TV screen, it looks like it must be pretty good to be Peter Burns.
Actually, it is. The Baton Rouge native has a thriving career as an SEC Network host, and he and his wife Lauren just found out the gender of their first child in just about the coolest way possible. With Lauren next to him squirming with delight, Burns hit a fake golf ball off the seventh tee at the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links that exploded into a shower of pink dust.
It’s a girl.
“We went to the doctor before we went to Pebble Beach and we brought him those two golf balls,” said Burns, speaking casually on the SEC Network set during an afternoon game at the SEC tournament. “One explodes blue and one explodes pink. We told him, ‘You throw out the one it’s not, but don’t tell us what it is.’ ”
Baby Burns is due in October. The hardest part may come the next month when Peter and Lauren, who’s an Alabama fan, may have to decide their daughter’s football allegiances when the Tigers and Crimson Tide play.
“My brother and sister and I are all adopted,” said Burns, who attended Holy Family Elementary School in Port Allen before the family moved to Texas (his father was in the oil and gas business). “So she will be the first human who I’m blood related to who’s in my life.”
The in my life part is a salient phrase for Burns. That’s because his life wasn’t always bright TV lights and the bright future of starting a family.
There were dark moments, moments he candidly, perhaps remarkably, decided to share in a blog post in January 2016.
Between February 2007 and July 2012, Burns was dealt one personal body blow after another. After returning home to San Antonio after doing a Super Bowl radio show in Las Vegas, Burns opened his front door to find his first wife of five years gone, along with their two dogs and all of their furniture.
“No warning, no heads up, just poof,” Burns wrote. “Everything I had worked for and worked on for years gone in blink of an eye. The worst part, no explanation. I thought it was an act that would end my life, little did I know that it would only start it.”
In January 2010, Burns was fired from his job doing a sports talk show and selling advertising for a radio station in San Antonio. The reason wasn’t bad job performance, but bad attitude.
“It was because I had grown too cocky and people were just sick and tired of putting up with me,” Burns wrote.
“They were right.”
Then in July 2012 came the true life-changer. Burns awoke one morning to a phone call from his former radio show producer to tell him that a friend of Peter’s, Jessica Ghawi, had been murdered during the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, just outside Denver. Ghawi had just recently moved there from San Antonio.
“That call changed everything,” Burns wrote. “From that moment on, many of us that knew Jessi decided that we would all live our lives differently. That we would not stand around and HOPE something good happens to us, we would chase our dreams and MAKE something good happen.”
It still took some doing for Burns’ dream job to chase him down.
It was while covering Super Bowl XLVIII in New York in February 2014 where Burns met an agent who asked him if he’d ever considered doing television. He said yes, but he never had the confidence to make that leap. A few weeks later the agent called Burns to ask if he wanted to audition for the anchor job on the SEC Network, which was starting up later that year.
He turned the audition down but Lauren, then his fiancée, convinced him to go to Charlotte, North Carolina, anyway. The morning of his audition, Burns had to go to a clothing store and get them to tie his tie for him. “I didn’t even know how to tie a tie!” Burns wrote.
“Sure enough, I got a call from my agent a few weeks later. ... “Bad news ... you are going to have to learn how to tie a tie ... you got the job.’ ”
Nearly two years later, Burns decided to sit down and put his story into words on a screen. It was cathartic for him, and he hoped one day it could help someone else.
“From getting fired to losing a friend to the divorce, everyone has had a low moment,” Burns said. “I can’t tell you how many people have reached out since I wrote that blog. It’s rare in our industry that’s so ego driven. A lot of people don’t share their mishaps.
“I’d rather bare all and say, ‘This is what I had to deal with.’ I know if I read something like that when I was going through that it would have helped me.”
Just Tuesday, Burns got a direct message from a stranger who had read his blog.
“They said, ‘I’m going through something right now,’ ” he said. “That’s pretty cool when people respond like that.”
It might be easy for Burns to lock away the bad memories, but they are too much a part of him now.
“Those days seem so deep and like, ‘How do I bounce back from it?’ said Burns, who now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the SEC Network studio is. “Then I finally realized that had those times never happened I would never have been put in this butterfly effect and have what is my dream job — talking about the SEC with a lot of LSU guys.”
Burns, a former golfer at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, parred that seventh hole at Pebble with a real ball, by the way.
Yes, life is pretty good now.
Click here for a link to Peter Burns’ blog.