In the sports media landscape, Bomani Jones is one of its most compelling voices. With his insightful wit and honest approach to the hot topics of the day, he's become a unique personality in the arena. The popular sports commentator has been a regular fixture on ESPN over the years, including co-hosting his own show Highly Questionable. He also has his own podcast The Right Time with Bomani Jones.
On his latest endeavor the HBO show Game Theory, Jones breaks down timely issues in the world of sports including a mix of topical news, in-depth analysis, interviews with special guests, mixed in with his signature commentary.
EBONY caught up with Jones and spoke with him on about how being an economist shaped him as a cultural commentator, and what differentiates his series from the rest.
EBONY: Many may not be aware that you’re a trained economist. At one point, you were even working towards your PhD. How does being an economist inform your perspective on sports and pop culture?
Bomani Jones: Economics is a behavioral science and I’ve used it every single day. I'm really not going to be in here giving you the ins and outs of stadium financing or anything like that. But it is that thought process that has informed everything I've done for as long as I can remember. Once you engage in graduate study or something like that, it becomes a bit of an indoctrination in the way that you wind up looking at the world. So I'm just taking the tools that I have and using them, and that is exactly the as it's always been.
On ESPN, you came to national prominence with your podcast and co-hosting Highly Questionable, High Noon, and all your other appearances on the network. How have those experiences informed your approach when it came to developing Game Theory?
I think for Highly Questionable, the thing that I've pointed to is that I learned a lot about how to interview people from Dan LaBatard and that's something that's going to carry over to everything I do. I think if I learned something from High Noon, which probably wasn't the best work that I had done, I figured out what I was ready for in terms of my career and being on television, which is something more similar to Game Theory. I'm more excited about doing this show, on this scale and with the level of responsibility that I have more than anything that I've felt in at least a decade professionally.
Although you work primarily in sports media, you've also gained a reputation for your analysis of music, race, politics and gender. Some would even suggest that commentators in the sports world should just stick to sports. How has it been to create a show that's both entertaining and informative?
For me, whatever it is that we're talking about, I'm trying to talk about it using all the information and the tools that are at my disposal. It's highly illogical that people would give me credit for going to school and learning all these things, and then somehow, I'm supposed to pretend like that never happened when I get to work just because I'm talking about sports. That's stupid to me. So if what we get to talk about requires an explanation that involves some somewhat high-minded things, I'm not going to talk over your head about it, I'm going to talk to you about it in [a way that you understand]. But the only difference really between me and everybody else, and that is that when I do that, I'm not going to lie to you and pretend like I'm doing something other than I am, which is what I think everybody else does when they claim they're sticking to sports. But they’re still doing the same stuff. They're just being slick about it.
Lastly, the sports media space is filled with numerous shows, podcasts and personalities. In your estimation, what makes Game Theory stand out from the crowded field?
What's going to separate this show, for better or worse, is going to be the same thing that separated everything else that I’ve done is that I’m doing it. How you feel about me is going to have a whole lot to do with how you feel about this show because this show was going to be a whole lot of me. So what I do that’s maybe different is the high-minded ideas that people associate with me. I bring those to you in a language you can understand. I am willing to laugh at things that other people think are important and I'm willing to not pretend things are important that I don't think are just because everybody else does. I think that people who follow me over these years will know, if nothing else, that I'm going to be sincere and I'm going to continue to provide that as I have.
Game Theory airs on HBO on Sundays at 11:40 p.m. EST, and is available to stream on HBO Max.