Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Morning Jones - One Year Gone, Never Forgotten

It’s been a year since The Morning Jones left the airwaves of The Score on August 30, 2011. A year since the show that changed how I forever listened to sports and talk radio was done.

A year later, it still looms large because of the people who made that show possible. Not just the host Bomani Jones or producers Corey Erdman and Sacha Kargl, but the listeners who added to the vibe as much as the three of them. But TMJ starts and ends with those three, mainly Bomani and his vision in a place where few other Black media figures have been.

Earlier this year, I wrote on how sports media is pretty homogenous. I’ll add that I can only name one predominately Black sports talk show – 2 Live Stews. Talkers Magazine released their Heavy Hundred Figures in Sports talk radio and there's only 2 Black faces in the Top 25, 3 in the Top 50 (the first woman appears at No. 65).

Thankfully LA used to have co-hosts on AM 570 in Mychal Thompson and currently on 710ESPN with Marcellus Wiley. It’s almost a kiss of death having more than one Black voice on the air and imagining one host their own show is a pipe dream.

But in fall 2010, I discovered The Morning Jones on Sirius/XM.  My buddy Isaac told me about it and I downloaded a couple of episodes. I remembered Bomani because he used to write for ESPN’s Page 2 when I was in college and I used to get him mixed up with Dhani Jones.

What got me was Bo talking common sense on sports issues yet he had a style of his own. It was cool and confident, brash but reasoned. Most importantly, he was relatable yet you knew he was bringing something that you hadn’t considered before.

He’d say stuff like how Cam Newton was being railroaded in his pay-for-play investigation – something I had believed – and how not having his Dad at the Heisman Trophy award was a travesty. That’s what drew me in to fully check him out more.

He took the player’s sides in the NBA & NFL lockouts. He defended the Ohio State players who were forced to play in the Sugar Bowl when it was discovered they sold memorabilia. It blew my mind because I was so used to folks criticizing players for everything and never holding the coach’s feet to the fire.

While most people criticized Randy Moss after his retirement as lazy and not as great as he could’ve been, Bomani called him a misunderstood genius/prodigy. When Grant Hill and Jalen Rose had their tiff during the Fab 5 documentary, he said the problem was enhanced by people taking sides who didn’t care much about the Black experience to speak on it.

He wasn’t shy to use slavery metaphors, especially when it came to the NCAA not paying players. With his background in economics, he showed how the argument of getting a scholarship was weak because it’s not fair market value for what an athlete brings to that campus.

Bo wasn't the first to compare slavery and college sports. In one of my favorite sports books, Bill Rhoden of the NY Times lays it out quite well. But it never gets old hearing someone make it a compelling argument, esp. when more fans are starting to agree.

I found myself agreeing with Bo on a lot of issues, something I didn’t always find listening to sports talk except for Petros and Money. Yet it wasn’t just the opinions but the friendly atmosphere from Bo’s dialogue with Corey and Sacha to the callers, who became as much a part of the show as they were. 

Stacy in Brooklyn with his hip-hop intros and great opinions/stories. JD in Detroit with his blue collar, common sense cool. Toya in Memphis who never let you forget how she hated Mario Chalmers.

Francis in Maryland and Nick in LA were just two more great guys who made things interesting. Who can forget Joe in Raleigh – the unashamed Duke fan who loves wrestling and wasn’t afraid to battle with anybody. And in the final hour, you got to hear Rod in Charlotte give a great recap.

There were inside jokes such as Harvin Marrison, a reminder of Colts WR Marvin Harrison’ darker side. Sacha was famously dubbed King (The Kaaaaaang!) of the Lesbians and Corey’s love of cheap booze was lovingly clowned. And every now and then, Bo would tell a great story or two that’d be memorable, such as “The Whole Ship”.

Beat Em Down! The phrase that Bo launched that inspired a clothing line and sports fans who watched teams getting badly blown out.

But every day, you waited to hear that “Chi-TOWN” to introduce Mike Hitman. How could somebody like him exist? Was he a pimp or just a man who knew everybody and knew how to talk to anybody while still being endearing? He was funny, sincere, friendly, bold and unforgettable. Hands down the most memorable figure of TMJ.

Guests like Morgan P. Campbell of the Toronto Star, Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio, Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel and even DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA during the NFL lockout added to the vibe.The show was so cool that former NFL’er Stephen White and current NFLers Kirk Morrison & Gerald Alexander often called just to join the fun and share insight.

It was great to hear so many Black callers. THAT was missing from my sports education. I knew Black sports fans but you rarely hear them have an opportunity for their voice to be heard.

The show was also unique in its music. Being a music critic, Bomani displayed his wide tastes and you got to see them all in the commercial breaks (here's the playlist on Spotify). I got exposed to more songs from Stevie Wonder and Prince that I didn’t know about. I discovered more funk, Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Digital Underground and others. And this classic below became the unofficial anthem for fans hurt when their team lost.

Through TMJ, I heard about Big K.R.I.T. and how “Return of 4Eva” restored my faith in Southern hip-hop. An Alabama rapper named Larry Lank Lank made a song about Cam Newton called  “6-6, 250” and not only did Bomani play it, he made Larry part of the TMJ family as he called in often.

Family is a word I use often with the show because you felt like you were invited to a conversation among friends. With The Morning Jones, you not only wanted to hear Bomani but the callers as well. You felt like you were part of the crew and whenever he was on Around the Horn, it was like gathering with your folks to see one of the crew do well.

When I talked to Morgan Campbell at this year’s NABJ Convention, we eventually spoke about TMJ. He described it best saying it was like a neighborhood. No matter when you came to it, you felt like family and everyone welcomed you to stick around.

I almost treated it like an older brother who knew where he stood yet wanted to make sure you knew the game. He knew what he was talking about and he was going to make sure you listened. In turn, it helped me become more confident as a writer/thinker as I was transitioning to freelance work.

I looked forward to waking up and downloading the podcast every day - the first podcast I ever did that for. It was the perfect storm of honest sports talk, common sense, a voice for folks who weren’t always heard and a young, Black man taking creative control on radio.

The fact that it was being done via Canadian media company TheScore says a lot. Could this happen in America to a 30/31-year-old guy? I doubt it. Heck, there's still not a lot of national Black talk show hosts, let alone radio shows. It was a gamble by the Score and Sirius Radio and to me it paid off. Being a young, Black sportswriter, I felt like finally there was a voice out there talking like me and helping me see things deeper than the average writer.

Now it’s gone. I feel like Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas when he stares in the camera talking about the good life he once enjoyed in the Mafia and sadly admitting that it’s all over.

Bo started this not too soon after TMJ was cancelled. Every Monday, it's been a great reminder of how great his radio show was while sharing new thoughts and moving forward to better things.

I’ve been able to meet some great folks via Twitter thanks to the show. I was blessed to do a Hip Hop Roundtable with Larry Lank Lank and others on Single Simulcast, whose host (Rashanii) started following me after I tweeted on the TMJ finale. I’ve exchanged good words with Stacey and JD a few times. I’ve also been on a podcast with Rod as well.

Matter of fact, TMJ helped me briefly meet Bo at NABJ. My man Trevor Adams (another fan of the show) hit him up the day of the Sports Task Force breakfast to let him know I was gonna be there. It helped break the ice and Bo was able to tell me that TMJ was able to be so natural because of his past radio show experience.

We all get our fix now on “The Evening Jones” every Monday night. For one hour, we not only get Bo’s takes and get to see old friends like Stacy, Rod and more, we relive great moments (The Whole Ship!) and enjoy that community once again. And of course, there’s Bo’s weekly column and must-see biweekly video series for SBNation and his appearances of ATH.

It’s just a reminder of how cool it was to hear Bomani, Corey and Sacha 5 days a week. I can listen to older episodes now still find them better to listen to than current talk radio. This tweet from Bo sums up the magic of the show.

For now, it’s up to the TMJ Diaspora (Morgan’s words, not mine) to keep the memory alive. Sharing old episodes among friends and passing them them to new folks. It was an experience that we'll never forget and for me, I'm glad I got to it when I did.

I just want to say thanks to Corey, Sacha and especially Bomani for creating a show that expanded my sports/music mind. I’ve never heard anything like it and still today haven’t heard anything come close to it. Mainly, it’s helped me try to find my voice and make it clearer and stronger.


  1. It's a shame that itunes doesn't have old episodes, I listened online and as such can't relisten to them. Amazing show

  2. Great article! I wish I could have been aware of this show when it was out, but as I recently have handed my life over to sports and sports journalism, I often look to Jones for inspiration. The confidence he puts off as mentioned in the article is something I have always tried to do in my life, but have never been as good as Bo. I look forward to many more great years from him and hope to work with him someday, maybe even give him the beatdown for some face time on ATH.

  3. Hopefully one day ESPN or sBNation will take a chance and let Bo cook on radio again. Probably not in the same way, but man it would be fun.

  4. Incredible retrospective/look back.

    I'll keep it short: Those were my favorite 3 hours of the day. Kicking it with great people that in my eyes, grew into a family.

    Great read.

    "JD in Detroit"

    1. Mos definitely JD. Catching the podcast after I woke up and having it accompany my day was perfect. Twitter's made it even better connecting and keeping those ties strong. Thank you and if I can share a moment, I loved the ep when you said you hated how Terrelle Pryor was being done dirty despite being a Michigan man.

  5. I wish they were archived somewhere. I know me, JD and a few others are trying to collect some cause JD has a bunch but it only adds to the mystique of the show.

    Bo's confidence is something that stood out right away. It's something you mainly hear from older columnists but for a young guy who was bold and on point, that inspired me to do the same when I was writing more for Bleacher Report and even on here. The best thing I heard him say about being a sportswriter "Be sure of who you are and know what you stand for before you start making points"

    Jayabe2 - the more SBNation can let Bo shine, the better. Bomani & Jones is too good, too funny but I'm only worried it won't be as free flowing on regular radio. But it's only a matter of time because after ATH, B&Jones keep on attracting good attention, they can't afford not to put him on more platforms.

  6. Man, Im so glad you wrote this. I, too, discovered TMJ in fall 2010, and from the first listen it blew my mind. Bo shifted into like a big brother I never had. It excited me to wake up, like you, and download the podcast every morning.

    Bo was (is) more nuanced and empathetic then other media personalities I have ever come across. It broke my heart to hear the show was going away. One regret I have is that I couldn't listen live, and call in to "put in my half" as Bo would call it.

    Because of TMJ, I now follow whatever Morgan P. Campbell is doing, and I listen to the Black Guy Who Tips Podcast, with Rod in Charlotte. I download the Evening Jones every week, and its a good fix, but it isn't the same. Bo needs to be on somebodies airwaves, and its kind of ridiculous that he isn't. The column in SB is great, and the videos. I'm not much of an ATH fan, but I'm glad Bo is on the show getting his money, and national exposure.

    My question is, does Bo want to get back into the radio game?? It's difficult for me to imagine him not getting overtures when TMJ ended. Anyway, great post, and Ill definately keep up with your work.

    1. Thank you so much. Everything you said, I completely agree with. He was able to be real but also smart and precise enough to make his points and make you see them to strongly consider agreeing.

      The best thing about his show was how it connected you to other people. Meeting Morgan was a highlight of that trip and being able to talk to Larry Lank Lank and Rod and share thoughts is cool. Nobody's got an ego and I think it made the show that much better.

      I'm not sure if he wants to do radio? I think he'd love to do his show again but I bet he'd want that creative control like he has with SBNation and The Evening Jones. Either way, I'm happy Bo is doing what he wants and is appreciative of the folks who shared in his vision and appreciate what he's built.

  7. I just wanted say that I enjoyed the article as well. I unlike many wasn't a sports fan, I started out as a Stacy from Brooklyn fan. His many stories were priceless, not to mention he is so sexy! But the more I tuned in the more interested I became. I found myself watching football, basketball and any sports related show I could. I started reading sports related articles so I could be better prepared for the show. Bo and many others like Stacy had a way of taking these "bigger than life" sports figures and making them like regular people. Using their own life experiences was brilliant and unique. The knowledge that these young men and women had about sports made me feel like I was missing something. The passion for sports was truly felt and Bo had a way of getting you all into each topic every broadcast. I now listen to the evening Jones show but for a different reason. I enjoy hearing and now seeing some of the old faces but most of all I now have a better understanding of sports.