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Bomani Jones has more broadcasting juice than you think
Some thoughts on Outkick vs. Bomani
I did a podcast with Bomani Jones on Monday where we briefly discussed his portrayal on conservative-leaning Outkick the Coverage. That snippet of conversation got picked up on Outkick’s mailbag by Bobby Burack, after it was presumably sent over by a subscriber. Yes, we have subscribers who love Bomani Jones and subscribers who read Outkick. HoS remains the most ideologically diverse customer base of a group that’s 97% male, but I digress.
The criticism of Bo by Bobby was, as it often is at Outkick, pretty withering, although there was a concession that “Bomani isn’t a bad guy from what I hear.” I’m not coming here to slam Burack, who makes his case against Jones’ TV host track record without going completely overboard and off-topic. A Bomani supporter would counter with how minuscule the modern success rate is for hosting sports-based television shows, but Bobby has his take and you’re fair game for critique as a public figure.
I cite it while noting that Burack’s latest is pretty generous and subtle when compared much of the Bomani analysis on Outkick, especially this spiel from Dan Dakich earlier this month:
Bomani Jones got another show canceled. Why is this important? I’m not really sure except that I like when Bomani Jones fails.
Bomani Jones doesn’t know his ass from third base when it comes to anything sports-related yet somehow he is a sports guy and we are all supposed to pay attention to him.
He has failed at everything that he’s done. It’s not a surprise because everything that he has done has been race-based and not very smart. Everything he has done is “white man bad.”
Radio show canceled. TV show canceled. HBO show canceled.
I am waiting for Bomani Jones and Jalen Rose to get together and claim racism
I’m not going to address everything said there, because it seems almost intentionally hyperbolic for effect (“Everything he has done is ‘white man bad’”?). In its hyperbole, though, I do think it reveals something of a formula for dismissal. The rap on Bomani over at Outkick is basically that there’s nothing to his game but race and wokeness so that’s why he fails at everything.
It’s in keeping with how, for years, Travis would mock Bo as “PC Bromani,” in reference to the PC Principal character in South Park. I’m not citing that as a serious case of bullying, or to suggest that Bomani is some victim here. He’s gone after Clay Travis in kind, just not with an invented term that’s as easy for me to look up. I only cite it as an example of a certain frame that Jones and his work are now fit into when discussed over there.
I don’t think this frame is accurate, even if I can understand why some people wouldn’t like this or that Bomani take on a cultural issue. Bo is, in my opinion, a brilliant extemporaneous performer, and a guy who boasts an impressive facility on a range of sports topics. It’s helped him to have, yes, an impressive career in a highly competitive industry.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t get into this sort of feud to defend a podcast guest, but I feel compelled to say something for an entirely unsentimental reason, one rooted purely in dollars and data: When Bomani Jones appears on my podcast, I rake in subscriptions. As in, to a shocking degree. It’s become something I feel like I should note, now that the man is a free agent and I see people debating his value.
The number of subscriptions gained isn’t typically a focus of mine when it comes to guests, by the way. I do podcasts a) because I like them and b) because they’re a bulwark against “churn,” the natural erosion of a portion of your subscriber base for whatever reason. So, my subscriber acquisition is based on my writing, with podcasts acting as more safeguard than growth engine.
Except, that is, for when Bomani Jones stops by the pod, apparently. In the case of both appearances, subscriptions tumbled in like I’d just written a hit viral article. By my rough count, Bo yields more than twice as many subscriptions as the next highest-ranking guest.
There’s also a new aspect to this story from his second and most recent appearance. Substack now allows people to email me messages when they commit their money. After Bomani’s appearance, I’ve been getting a lot of this.
There’s a lot more where this came from and no, it doesn’t happen for anyone else I have on, at least not yet. And, if I do say so myself, I’ve had a lot of great guests.
I take no issue with a publication making a case against Bomani’s TV track record, even if he might. If you want to make the argument that my numbers reveal a fandom that’s deeper than it is wide, you can argue that. I honestly don’t know the answer, I just know the subs keep coming in. I also wholly understand that, while I like Bomani, he’s perhaps not for everybody. I’m sure he’s said things about racial topics that I disagree with, and perhaps such commentary could be off-putting to certain ESPN viewers.
That said, “The Right Time with Bomani Jones” was ESPN’s second-highest-rated podcast among its 35+ shows. It might be easy for me to dismiss that stat if his podcast appearances didn’t result in, you know, a money flood from obsessed Bo fans. Clearly the guy is doing something right. Outkick’s inability to admit as much is illustrative of other issues in media, which is why this piece isn’t a specific indictment of Outkick (though I could cite that Dakich rant as actually embodying negative stereotypes of the site held by mainstream sports media members).
By the way, unlike a lot of people in media, I’m not reflexively out to get Outkick. I actually believe conservative fans deserve their own sports sites. I might even argue that this is especially so because ESPN simply won’t feature many normal right-leaning opinions in the athletics space. As mentioned on the podcast, roughly 70 percent of Americans don’t believe that biological males should be allowed to play women’s sports, and yet it’s very difficult to find backing for this supermajority position in mainstream sports media.
You could call that example entirely peripheral to the bigger sports media conversation, but Outkick was way ahead of big time publications on reporting the return of college football during the pandemic. The mainstream outlets perhaps struggled to report that story because they were more institutionally fearful of Covid, which blinded them to how others within the college athletics world felt. By having a different perspective, Outkick can deal more honestly with certain stories, some of them pertinent to fan interests. It’s actually for this reason, the necessity under current conditions of a publication like Outkick, that I wish the site went deeper than surface-level score-settling.
So what point am I making here beyond wanting Outkick to be more nuanced + “Bomani good”? I think it’s mostly that I find the total dismissal of talent to be frustrating, especially when it’s ideologically motivated. As you can hear in this podcast, I bonded with Sarah Hepola while we were at Salon.com because everyone else at work felt a need to dismiss Adam Carolla as a completely talentless hack. Back then, Carolla had started his drift to the formal political right while making the sorts of comments that raise the hackles of writers at Salon. For those writers and nearly everyone else in Liberal Internet World, it wasn’t enough to simply criticize Carolla; it was nearly mandatory that you add on that he’s unfunny, untalented, etc.
But Sarah and I had listened to Loveline, plus some other Carolla programs on radio. We understood him to be an incredibly quick improvisational comedian, in addition to being a perceptive amateur psychologist. Yes, you could note that Too Late With Adam Carolla failed on Comedy Central, and make whatever artistic assessment about The Man Show, but there was a motivated denialism in insisting that this guy was simply an idiot whose success was wholly owed to other idiots. Sarah and I knew better, but also realized that such a correction would fall on deaf ears inside a highly lefty publication.
Unfortunately, thanks to the PR-ification of everything, nearly every publication is now like Salon in 2010. Every indictment of your foe must be hammered home absent nuance, lest your backers get suspicious of your sympathies.
So you have your enemies and somehow they’ve become prominent public figures absent any core competency. Of course that’s not real life, at least not often. The people you hate are often good at something, beyond just being bad. There’s a healthy humility in accepting it, if you can. Perhaps your enemy has an audience for a reason, and it’s an audience that they just might have earned. You can still criticize them. You can still hate them. What I’m against is being in denial of them. While I get the motivation behind a stigmatized summation, I don’t love the result. In my ideal world, the one we’ve drifted so far from over the last decade, we’re able to compartmentalize quality away from agreement.
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