The SportsNewser Interview: Bomani Jones

By Marcus Vanderberg 

2010 has been the year of Bomani Jones.

The host of The Morning Jones on The Score Sirius Channel 98, Jones exploded on the national scene in January and hasn’t looked back since.

When he’s not hosting his radio show (7-10AM EST), the suave Jones is likely debating the hated Skip Bayless on ESPN First Take or getting complemented for his smooth radio voice by Around the Horn host Tony Reali.

And before you think Jones is just your average sports radio host, think again. The 30-year-old Texas native graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He followed that up with a master’s in politics, economics and business from Claremont Graduate University and a master’s in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jones chatted with SportsNewser about his professional success during the past year and how his academic background helps his radio career.

SportsNewser: If I said a year ago that you would be hosting a national radio show, debating Skip Bayless on First Take and taking on your peers on Around The Horn, what would your response be?

Bomani Jones: I would have thought you were crazy because a year ago, I didn’t have a job. That’s the biggest thing. On a certain level, it’s not terribly surprising. I don’t think this is something I have never thought like ‘Oh my goodness, I wonder if I would ever be capable of doing that?’ I didn’t really look at it like that. I have been doing this long enough and there’s been enough ups and downs that where a mainstream platform like that, no, I didn’t think it would happen. Not in 2010.

Professionally, has this been the best year of your life?

Yeah, no question. I got a raise. It helps. That changes things.

The Morning Jones isn’t your average sports talk show. For people who haven’t tuned in, what makes your show stand out from the rest in your eyes?

The biggest thing is we talk about sports, but it’s not a “sports show.” Unless the best thing to do is to break down a game, I’m not breaking down a game. What you have around sports are things that are the same in our regular lives. We all have jobs. We all do with bosses. We all work places. We evaluate our own lives on those simple contexts. It’s really not that much different in sports. A lot of times, we miss the easy answer because we try to make this too technical and get caught in jargon instead of looking at the real life that’s there. I’m really not trying to go beyond the real life that’s there. I think sports can do beautiful things but I’m not about to pretend this stuff is deathly important for the most part. If there’s fun to be had, we will have the fun. For me at least, it doesn’t seem like the best idea to offer a radio program that is not first and foremost fun.

How much freedom do you have at The Score?

Every bit. I have not had a single time that anybody has asked me not to do something or to do something. Sometimes with them being in Canada, something will come up with hockey. That’s not necessarily my thing, but we have to figure out a way to make it work. Those things come up. But I have never had any issues or hassles whatsoever. The CEO of the corporation listens to the show everyday.

Describe your on-air relationship with Corey Erdman and Sacha Kargl. For you guys to be in two different countries, you have managed to develop some serious chemistry during your 11 months together.

It’s interesting because we don’t really talk outside of the time that we are on the show. Corey and I will instant message through the day about things for the show. But we don’t really talk. We have gotten to know each other literally over the air. When I have been up there in Toronto, we will hang out. It’s been really interesting to be able to get to know people you don’t see when you talk to them. We’re together 15 hours a week. Think about that, how many people do you talk to 15 hours a week? Not that many. What we figured out was, and I think this is very helpful, is we are three very distinct personalities. We have some common interests and common things to talk about, but we are very different in how we came up and where we’re from. Once everybody got a hold of the fact that they didn’t have to be anything but themselves and take everybody else for being themselves, that really helped bring things together. Now, Corey is a sort of a goofy kind of cat from Kitchener, Ontario. He can be a sort of a goofy kind of cat from Kitchener, Ontario. But he’s also as well versed in boxing as anyone I know, so we kind of find places to let him do the things that he does. And then from there, as long as everybody is laughing and having a good time, it’s really easy.

How has your academic background helped you with your radio career?

The biggest thing with radio is often there are ideas that I want to put forth that are sometimes pretty complex. Where the academic stuff has really come in handy is learning how to explain things to people in English. I taught economics. What scares people to death about economics often is all the terminology. When you really get past it, economics isn’t going too far past common sense on the level that I can use it for most of these discussions. Having to figure out how to explain these concepts to an 18-year-old makes it a lot easier to explain these things over the air. If I can explain those big macro level concepts in a sentence or two, then there is so much more stuff we can talk about.

Over the last couple of months, you have really developed your brand around your television appearances on ESPN. What’s the key to building a brand in your eyes?

For me, the biggest thing was I couldn’t be afraid of letting people see where I was. If I wasn’t where I needed to be, all I could do is do the best that I could to put my work in places where people could see it. I can’t make anyone like it. But I can put it where you can see it. I can try to get my work to the people who have a platform to influence the taste of the masses. Those are the things that I can do. Whatever it is that’s I’m doing … I have done the music thing, I have done the sports thing, I do the geeky academic things, I’m putting all of those things out as best as I possibly can. Not to put them in your face but to put them somewhere where you can see them. And who knows how long it will take before you get around to clicking. The radio stuff, I have noticed a whole lot of people that have been following me on Twitter for months, had never listened to a single thing that I had done on the air until I started doing television. But the stuff is always there so they can come get it whenever they needed to. Accessibility I think is a big thing. Now you can get to the point where you can put your stuff in places where people can see it You just have to put it out there and let the masses do the work for you.