Interview With Jemele Hill: The Kev Dog Special
Do you really think you know me?
Jemele Hill, columnist for ESPN.com, has caught some flack around these parts. This is an age where some media entities represent Disney eared, Aaron McGruder caricatures adorned with extra teenie glasses whose sole aim is to pander to the disillusioned masses–themselves jackasses. You all know where I personally stand with Jemele. Similar to what we have here with the TSF creative, I wanted to engage you with provocative thoughts of visualizing where she stands in OUR collective hearts. There’s no one in journalism like her and she hears it from everyone. Could you imagine being in the center of a room with your eyes closed and wearing headphones? Opening your eyes, you are bombarded with screaming criticism from any and everyone. The faces are Black. The faces are White…Brown and so on and so forth. There are men. There are women and even youngsters.
You stand up with a sista burned fire ready to snap.. As you remove the headphones, the faces and voices fade to black like rescinding fog in a bizarro world. You wonder to yourself , “What the hell is going on?” Thinking aloud… “Is this my professional existence? Is this what I signed up for? Am I supposed to care what these strangers think? Why are they so passionate about the words I write? Do they scream their loved ones way, like they spew hatred and venom in my comment section every day?
Why do all these people want my writing to just go away?
I tell you what, this my destiny. I do this for the love. I’m here to stay no matter what they say….
Read Jemele’s archived work here.
It’s Friday. Jemele is coming off the set of ESPN’s First Take and on her way to the airport. She graciously takes time to give TSF some real rap.
I hope she answers some questions a few of you have about her writing philosophy. There are many music links below. Please check them all out because your soul will be enriched.
Michael Tillery: What’s going on? Were having a great conversation on the site discussing Barry Bonds and the sellout Marc Ecko. Was it the same around the set?
Jemele Hill: Believe it or not, it wasn’t about Barry specifically. The buzz was more Andy Reid. That’s what we talked about in production meetings pretty significantly. We were figuring out how to play it, especially with the “game of the century”, Indianapolis and New England. As compelling a story as Andy Reid is, we knew we couldn’t start off with that. You can’t go from that to “Who is gonna win the game?” That would be a little distasteful. So we talked about the Colts first and then went into Andy Reid.
I knew coming into today talking about Barry Bonds that me and Skip (Bayless) would agree on that. We thought Barry Bonds was completely in the right.
Michael Tillery: Where do you think most side on this issue? Barry or Marc Ecko?
Jemele Hill: As the steroid investigation lingers on, I think it works more in Barry’s favor. Over time, as more names come out…we see Rick Ankiel and Paul Byrd…I believe the perception of what he did is going to change.
As far as the asterisk is concerned, it’s already been settled in the minds of fans. Today on the show we were talking about it. We already received a ton of emails that Marc Ecko was in the right. Those are fans, that’s how they react to that kind of stuff. I don’t think people sit back and think of the historical implications of what they are saying. As I said on the air, you are gonna let a fashion designer decide how a museum–the one that records the history of a game considered part of America’s past time–present the ball that broke the all time home run record (756 breaking Hank Aaron’s long standing record)?
It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Especially because this is just a publicity stunt for Marc Ecko. He had people voting on his own website to determine what should happen to this ball. A lot of Black people wear his clothes. If I were him, I would sit back and make a statement about that because I think it’s just absurd and it’s a disgrace that he’s trying us this as some kind of publicity stunt to generate this type of opinion against Barry Bonds. I’m no Barry Bonds fan, but let’s be rational here.
MT: I wrote on TSF that we definitely agree with Barry Bonds on this one. My opinion on Marc Ecko is that he started his company making money in the ‘hood…
JH: Right. Exactly.
MT: Almost exclusively in the ‘hood. I’m speculating obviously, but I feel that he made a judgment call because his line was leveling off. He then chose to go mainstream. His clothes now are geared to a different demography. To attach his clothing to that demography, he’s used all of this as a marketing campaign. It’s a shrewd business move, but call it what it is. He’s worried about himself, he doesn’t care about America. He doesn’t care about Barry Bonds. He definitely doesn’t care about what happens to the home run ball! I’m wearing Ecko glasses right now and like I said in the piece, if I wasn’t blind, I would smash these shits! (We laugh.)
JH: I don’t understand why folks can’t see the publicity stunt. Buying the ball was just an investment. He knows if he buys that ball he winds up all over ESPN–which is exactly what happened–and then he upped the ante by stating that he was going to let the fans decide what should happen to this ball. It’s like letting a cosmetologist decide what is going to happen in the library of Congress. It’s ridiculous. I have to agree with something Skip said in why are they accepting any properties that should be in the Hall of Fame that’s defamed? The whole point is to preserve it in it’s original status–or as close to it’s original status. You don’t accept a ball with an asterisk on it. Especially because MLB has been just as guilty as anyone in willingly letting steroids fly so that fans would return to the ball parks. They did it all with a wink wink and a smile and now that public opinion has shifted, they want to act sanctimonious and hypocritical. The more they continue this and keep it up, it’s gonna make me start liking Barry Bonds–which is scary enough in itself. It’s up to the voters, so he can’t decide his induction, but if i were him, I wouldn’t recognize that I was in there (HOF). I wouldn’t show up for anything. I would have nothing to do with MLB.
MT: This is obviously my opinion, but as these scenes continue to play out…
It’s kind of hard to put Barry in a black box, but the fact remains he is a Black athlete and I speculate a lot of Black athletes are going to throw their support behind him. Specifically when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, Hall of Fame criteria and Hall of Fame consideration. This is apropos and maybe the people behind the scenes at the HOF will finally get it.
JH: Well, we’ve seen a little bit of that. Gilbert Arenas went as far as saying that he would buy the ball from Ecko before he defamed it. He went off about it.
You are absolutely right. I could see this as a cause that people will rally around. I don’t know how many Black HOF voters there are. I’m sure there’s not a lot. I know Rob Parker is a voter and I can’t see him going for this at all.
MT: No of course not.
Did you watch the video?
JH: Yes, I’ve seen clips of it.
MT: Jim Gray, who caught a lot of flack for questioning Pete Rose about gambling allegations during pre-game (All Century team) all star festivities in 2000, seemed pretty objective in the interview. I didn’t think that would be the case. He almost came across as sympathetic. Do you think that was something genuine or a prerequisite to get Barry to speak?
JH: I don’t think you can say that. From that interview Jim Gray supplied a very intriguing and much talked about news nugget that Barry Bonds was not going to accept what the HOF said. One thing you can pick up from interviewing Barry Bonds is that the person conducting the one on one interview grasps an admiration for Barry during. If you compare how he attacks questions versus how Mark McGuire responded, or Rafael Palmeiro or Marion Jones or any of the people associate with taking PEDs, you see others tend to shy away. Barry seems to enjoy it. He likes being attacked–I think in some ways. It’s been building these last couple of seasons. He doesn’t care what people think. Ultimately, considering the amount of pressure he’s under having his name linked to an indictment, it’s admirable that Barry continues to stick his chin in there. I couldn’t tell you where Mark McGuire was or where Rafael Palmeiro was. Before Sammy Sosa reemerged, he was gone for a couple of years. Nobody could find this guy.
Barry realizes that he’s not going to gain anymore fans than he already has. There are people who always are going to hate him. Who does he have to impress? Why does he have to be loved to satisfy anyone? I have tremendous respect for him having that attitude.
MT: Andy Reid. I told you that I went out to cover the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis with a group of great people called the Funweekenders.
Had a blast. Anyway, the group and the Eagles stayed at the same hotel. There was a huge contingent of Eagles fans waiting for the Eagles to show up. When they did, Andy was one of the first to get off the bus with this melancholy look of cold stone on his face.. You can tell he was going through something. I spoke with a couple members of the team, but Andy was off limits. He walked by all the press–no one even attempted to stop him. I was reporting, but I’m a Eagles fan at heart. I’ll never forget the look on his face and it saddened me. I agree with everything you were saying on the show (Friday). In Philly, it seems they want Andy Reid gone. Truth be told, Black fans and White fans–the ones I’ve come in contact with–in Philly are a little different in their responses to team issues. Blacks are a little more sympathetic to the coaches and quarterbacks mainly because of Donovan McNabb and Randall Cunningham before him. Whites seem to attack the team with more passion than Blacks. In this instance however, Blacks don’t care about Andy’s plight (on the field). All fans seem to understand what he’s going through and certainly feel for him, but this is one of the few times here where most people side with Andy being fired. They want Andy Reid gone. I’m’ not so sure I agree with that. I remember the Rick Kotite years and in no way shape or form want to go through that type of misery again.
*The Eagles were blown out 38-17 by the Cowboys Sunday night. The Eagles were listless as hell and seemed to give up after the first possession of the game on all levels. Terrell Owens returned to the city where he helped take to the Super Bowl and had 10 catches for 174 yards–his best game as a Cowboy. He flapped his wings spitefully to the Eagles fans. I was disgusted and turned the game off before it was final.
Andy this was bad loss with worse timing. Anyone but the Cowboys.
JH: I don’t think he will step step away. But, it’s troubling to me when you have a judge say your house is a drug emporium and the structure within your home is conducive to what happened with his kids. I’ve been around so many football coaches over the years and coaching is a drug to them. It’s a reason why Bear Bryant died right after he stopped coaching. It’s a reason why Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno can’t walk away. We have seen what impact that has on your family. There might not have been anything Tony Dungy could have done, but reading interviews since his son committed suicide was just tragic. He admitted that he felt a lot of guilt because the job consumes so much of who they are. It’s impossible to believe that doesn’t have some kind of effect. Reading what Andy Reid’s son said to the judge was really heartbreaking because while he did take responsibility for what he did–they are both adults and that should be pointed out–he said he started drinking and doing drugs as a teenager because no one was around. We all know that the streets have no problem raising your kids if you are not around.
It doesn’t matter if you are White or Black or rich or poor.
His sons had no reason to be attracted to the ‘hood life. He (Garrett) told the judge that everyone knew who he was. They all “respected” him and he “liked” being a drug dealer. He said so because it made him feel important. Somebody wanted him. so that means it was something he wasn’t getting at home. The Reids have three children in the house eighteen and younger (a total of five). This is a time where he needs to reclaim his family. Football will be there. If he decided to step away now, he could come back. He might not be able to do it in Philly obviously, but he can come back and coach. I would have to ask myself what was more important? The Eagles, or my kids? For me? The kids win hands down.
MT: I don’t remember who exactly said this, but I’m sure this happens a lot more than what’s reported.
JH: Look at the divorce rate among coaches. Look at Bill Belichick. Football has already cost him a wife. Cost Bill Parcells one too. It takes a toll if you are not around. You pour out so much emotion that theoretically should be shared with your family. I understand that it’s a difficult position.
Today if someone that I loved dearly asked me to step away from what I do at ESPN–a job I love–it would be tough for me. At the end of the day, the legacy remains what we contribute to one another as people. It’s not the games. It’s not the columns. It’s not the television. The legacy has to be the most important thing for Andy Reid.
MT: OK, I want to get into the Kev Dog segment (Jemele chuckles). You know we discuss you at length on the site. I wanted you to get your point across.
Do you specifically attack Black athletes?
JH: No, I don’t. My body of works suggests that I don’t. It’s funny everyone wants to criticize me with Michael Vick or Pac Man Jones, but nobody says anything when I wrote a piece criticizing Wimbledon for not properly honoring Althea Gibson (the 50th anniversary of her becoming the first Black woman to win the event).
No one said anything when I wrote about Don Imus and how I thought he should have been fired. I don’t want to brag about myself, but I was the one who contacted the National Association of Black Journalists and explained to them that this (Imus slinging slurs like he was 67 cent) was a situation we needed to get involved in.
No one said anything about the column I wrote about Terreal Bierra ,who is from New Orleans, and made the ultimate sacrifice–in my opinion. He left his position with the Seahawks to be with his family and it probably cost him his football career. He was a player that probably was on the fringe anyway and he left because his whole family was caught up in Hurricane Katrina–right off the practice field.
I know emotions run high with Michael Vick. On your site they feel like because he’s high profile I have a responsibility to write a certain way.
Do you want a contrived opinion to make you feel better or do you want the truth of how I really feel?
I can not ignore how I feel and worry about what people think–Black or White. If I did that, I would make a terrible columnist. You cannot write with that in mind. There are certainly times where I react emotionally as a Black person. There’s no doubt about it. I would never sit here and say I’m a columnist before I’m Black. I will always be Black.
I recognize that responsibility. I feel I carry that responsibility if I point out, not only the good we do and the times we’re slighted (and people act in a racist manner against us), but I also have a dual responsibility to point out where we can do better.
I can’t control who I work for. I have a feeling if I was working for XXL, that I’d probably get a lot of Amens. I have to get back to something Bill Cosby said–I know he’s become a controversial figure. White people are going to think the way some do about us regardless. It doesn’t matter if I wrote one hundred columns that said Black people are the greatest people on earth, Michael Vick never did anything wrong and Barry Bonds is a saint.
White people will think what they want to think regardless.
We can’t constantly operate in this box of let’s not say this in front of the White people. The time to be embarrassed was when the behavior was in question.
Don’t get embarrassed because we were put on blast. This keeps us from attacking the problems that hold us down.
MT: When I do these interviews I try to attach my thought process to that of the person I’m having discourse with. The irony in your previous statement is that Bill Cosby came to mind before you mentioned him. Let me ask you this. Who would you more align your personal philosophies with, Bill Cosby or Jason Whitlock?
JH: (Jemele laughs) Wow! What a good question. Some people consider them one in the same. I don’t think I’m as extreme as Jason can be sometimes.
I think it’s kind of silly to blame Hip Hop for everything.
It’s music. I realize it’s a culture as well. I look at far bigger issues like poverty, education, and absentee fathers. Those are dire problems.
I’m a moderate. I like to address issues individually. I always want to reserve the right to change my mind. I don’t want to be one of these people so stuck in how I feel that they (readers) can’t see another side of me.
Barry Bonds is a perfect example. I still think he did steroids, but I think some of the flack he’s dealing with is straight up racist and undeserved.
I think there’s room for those opinions to exist in the same place.
MT: Getting back to Jason Whitlock–who is running from interview requests with me by the way. It’s unfortunate he commands so much attention and has some of the bullshit opinions that he has. After each and every column he writes some of the comments are the most sickest and racist words you ever will read. We have our opinions of him on TSF. We call him this and that. Professional or unprofessional as it may seem, it’s our truth.
Is there room for this guy? Specifically among our race? He’s not adding to a positive discourse, he’s propagating disaster.
Ala Uncle Ruckus…
JH: It’s definitely room for his opinion. Let me say this about Jason. He’s an extraordinary talent. That gets lost sometimes because people react so emotionally to what he writes–which is definitely understandable.
From a pure columnist perspective, he may go down as one of the best ever.
Ralph Wiley was certainly the best Black columnist and one of the five best columnists of my lifetime period. Jason has made quite an impact. However, there are times where he sells himself short–in terms of arguments he makes. I do read some of his opinions and have to question the agenda behind them. I know he always writes he’s an agenda less writer, but no opinion is agenda less. We all are shaped by the environment in which we were raised and also the one we now live in.
I’ve been uncomfortable with some of the things he says. He exonerates racism.
Don Imus wasn’t someone Black people listen to or had any type of connection with while that may be true…
He still can’t call me a nappy headed ho.
Jason is polarizing, but he’s still an important voice. The good thing is because there’s me, there’s Jason, there’s Bill Rhoden…there are so many Black columnists than there ever has been. We have grown out of the time where all of us have to take a certain way. Early Black columnists–even though they might have thought that Black people bore a little more responsibility–had to feel a little difficulty to side with people who did not look like them. That had to be tremendous pressure. Now there are dozens (still not enough ) of Black columnists. We don’t have to take the same opinion. There’s room for conservative Black thinking, liberal Black thinking and differing opinions of how problems in our community should be attacked. We should consider all of them.
I know people probably have opinions of how Jason is–I got to know him a little bit. He’s definitely someone who loves Black people despite the popular opinion.
He’s just in a mode where he thinks tough love should be the headline. Sometimes that’s appropriate, but sometimes it isn’t.
MT: Do you think Black columnists are more progressive than their White counterparts because of the diversity in opinions you just alluded to? I say this because we are put under so much scrutiny. Our thought process seems to be different. We write with a certain style that is incumbent of our race, yes, but is it more than that?
JH: In some ways yes. We live the experience of being the underdog. It’s a tremendous burden, but it’s also a tremendous gift. We live every day with scrutiny. You can not deny that. I don’t care if we are columnists, engineers or work in a pharmacy. There’s just a certain scrutiny that comes with being Black. We know that people will doubt us and our abilities. We know that when things go wrong, we won’t receive the normal punishment, we’ll receive one that’s harsher.
We exist in a world where our mistakes simply aren’t tolerated.
When you bring that to the table as a columnist, it allows you to be a little bit more sympathetic. It makes you want to look at the whole picture instead of just the one we get in snapshots and snippets. I find that most Black columnists–particularly when we report on Black athletes, Black figures or a situation in the Black community, or even the White community–tend to look at all the factors and see how they engage with one another.
I don’t feel like Black people exist in a world of absolutes, but I feel that the mainstream does.
I could be dead wrong, but that’s just the feel and the sense I get as a Black columnist.
MT: Do you think because you are Black and also a woman that you are pulled in many directions? Do you feel you are able to have your individual opinion exclusive of your editors?
JH: I would never work in any place where they tried to tell me what my opinion should be. There are times when I pitch something to my editors and they say, “What do you think about this?” That’s their job as editors. They are supposed to present a different side to make sure my column is as accurate as it possibly could be.
If they ever asked me to write an anti-Black Michael Vick column, I’m quitting that day.
That has never happened to me at ESPN or any of the other places.
You asked me about being pulled in different directions. Yes, I feel that. It’s hard for me not to keep in mind sort of the overall picture pertaining to my gender and my race. I’m sensitive to those issues because I live this.
As much as people may think otherwise, it’s hard for me to write a column doggin’ another brotha out. I’m more hurt by what Michael Vick, Pac Man Jones and Tank Johnson did than anything. They are in a rare position of influence.
No athletes raise our kids, but they do influence them.
We are looking at a lot of young Black athletes that just don’t get it. One thing I can appreciate about previous generations is they always felt the responsibility of community first. They conducted themselves in that way because they knew everyone was looking for them to mess up and validate whatever racist opinions they had about Black people.
We’ve made some strides concerning race, but Black athletes are still in that position because of what Hank Aaron and Jim Brown had to go through–period. They are the reason why these brothas can get one hundred million dollar contracts.
When I see Michael Jordan would not give money to his alma mater to build a multi-cultural center largely benefiting African American students, it pains me greatly. When I hear him say he gave it to the school of social work so everyone can use it, I don’t know what to make of that.
I just feel there is a disconnect there. I guess it’s to be expected because with a whole lot of success, people get further removed from the things that got them there.
I don’t care how high I climb at ESPN or anywhere else, I’m going to always be the young Black woman from Detroit who grew up on food stamps, was raised by a single mother, whose parents both battled drugs, learned a lot about life and made it to college on scholarship. I will not forget that part of me. I’m not going to run away from that.
MT: Shaquille O’Neal.
Honestly, I’ve been through a bad divorce. It took me a while to get over the anguish of not seeing my children every day. I got the biggest thrill coming home from work, cracking their bedroom door and seeing them sleep in their beds. Just little things parents take for granted. As they’ve gotten older, it’s something I’ve had to live with–that precious time missed instilling my values as a father. It was almost like a death.
I see this in Shaq right now. I don’t agree with everything he does. I’ve heard the stories, but I see a divorce cry in his soul–and at first glance. I can totally relate to what he’s going through.
He’s still a veteran super star whose life has been turned upside down–whether it’s of his undoing or not. Similar to Andy Reid–different situations obviously–should America be a little sympathetic? You can’t relate to a divorce–especially after a long term marriage–unless you’ve been in one.
JH: I certainly respect what he’s going through. Although, I must say reports and rumblings are that this is something built up over time. I don’t think it has anything with what we’re seeing. I think it’s age to be honest with you. I’m not going to go as far as Phil Jackson and say he’s the laziest player, but Shaq has always had a lackadaisical attitude to conditioning. Everybody knows about his weight fluctuation. I think we are seeing the effects of him just thinking he can be dominant when he wants to be. This season I think, is going to be a very trying season for the Heat. I do not expect them to make the playoffs. Shaq is the most influential player on that team. We’ve seen the last couple of seasons in words in his quotes. That’s how Shaq attacks the game. Being how improved the east is, if they think they can just turn it on with Orlando, Washington, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Boston, New Jersey and Toronto, he’s very mistaken.
Judging by the first couple games of the season, it’s going to be very difficult–from a physical standpoint–to put that team on his back. We’re going to see now why Jerry Buss didn’t want to give him another one hundred million.
It was a good move for Miami obviously because they hadn’t won a championship up until then. From a expansion standpoint they were relatively a young organization, but the Lakers have how many championships in their history? They figured they will get there again. Jerry Buss was thinking about the back half of the contract–not the front half. If Shaq wanted a two year deal, then Jerry Buss probably would have agreed to it in a minute. He wanted another hundred million and four or five more years? It just wasn’t going to happen. It’s the same reason why Detroit let Ben Wallace go. Bill Davidson was thinking about when Ben Wallace was thirty-five, thirty-six and still paying him twenty million? Couldn’t do it.
MT: Do you think Kobe and Shaq were better off together?
JH: Ultimately, yes. What’s puzzling to me about the Shaq situation is Shaq made such a big deal about not wanting Kobe to be the first option. That was such a big thing about him not returning to L.A., but then goes to Miami and does the same thing with Dwayne Wade? He could have done the same thing in L.A.
It leads me to believe with Shaq it really was about the money instead of what he made it out to be.
MT: Sup with my boy Webber? Why isn’t he playing in the Lig right now?
JH: I think Chris will be one of those mid-season adds that comes out of nowhere. It will be some team that needs an extra body. It won’t be Dallas, because they just picked up his boy Juwan Howard. Maybe like a Cleveland or some team that thinks they just need a little piece to get them over the hump. I think it’s a two part answer. Teams that he has interest in, their interest is just not there and people are sort of wondering how much he has left. As you know, his knee problems are well documented. I think that has a lot to do with it. I really can see him being a late season pick up by somebody.
MT: I just thought it was very interesting in speaking with the majority of his teammates and his father this summer he’s not playing with the Pistons. Sheed, Chauncey, Rip and Tayshaun were very adamant he return to the team. I thought it was a lock.
JH: I understand why, but how much longer are you not going to play a cat like Jason Maxiell? He’s not getting the minutes that he needs to get. Webber was a great short term solution. If he was going to payoff, it should have been last year. The Pistons at some point, have to get a little younger and add some more depth. Webber, as good as a passer as he was in the half court, was a liability on defense. He hurt them at times. They seemed to really give up a lot on penetration not having Ben Wallace down low. It was a sacrifice they had to make.
MT: I guess it came to a head when you saw LeBron James go right down the lane on multiple possessions to snatch certain victory from the Pistons in the Conference Finals–whether Chris was in there or not.
JH: That was the game that let them know they had to go in a slightly different direction–particularly if they have any notions of getting back there.
MT: What are you thoughts on the NBA this year? Who do you have going to the NBA Finals and who do you think will win?
JH: I have San Antonio in a repeat. I have them going up against the Chicago Bulls. That’s a pre potential Kobe trade pick, but certainly if they get Kobe it makes the pick look even better. I really like Chicago. I like their energy. I think Tyrus Thomas is going to have a breakout year. I think Ben Wallace still has some more to give. If I’m John Paxson, I either lock Kobe up or shut it down completely. Even at this early point in the season, we are seeing the effects the trade rumors are having on the Bulls. The team is so young. Everyday someone else is mentioned. The only person who could feel safe is Luol Deng because he knows Kobe wants to play with him. I just like them as a young squad. I think they’ll grow up in a way they need to.
San Antonio really wants to cement themselves as one of the great teams of all-time.
The hot pick is Houston.
I can’t go from Tracy McGrady not making it out of the first round to all of the sudden making the NBA Finals. That’s just too big of a leap in my opinion. Although he had that forty seven against Utah, I still like the Jazz. There’s going to be two teams in the west that nobody is going to want to play, Utah and Denver. The Spurs are mentally the strongest team in the west. They can play all styles. They definitely are the best defensive team. I have to go with them again even though people seemingly hate seeing them play in the finals. I love watching them play.
MT: Why is Boston still considered an afterthought? I have them winning it all. They have three Hall of Fame players that don’t seem to be broken down physically.
JH: I think they are one of the three best teams in the east. They obviously will finish in the top three. If they do, they certainly have a chance of coming out of the east. You look at what happened with A.I. and Melo when that trade went down. It took them some time to learn to play with one another. By the time they did, it was too late. They were eliminated in the first round. It’s part of the reason why I can’t go with them again. It’s hard for me to put them higher that a fourth seed. If they fall in that four, five and six range, they will surely get eliminated.
Boston is the people’s champion. A lot of people are going to be rooting for them. A lot of people like Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. On a personal level, people appreciate the type of basketball they play and just the type of people they are. That will be kind of the fever from the people’s perspective. I guess I (don’t)believe the first time you trot out the new toys all of the sudden you are going to win. They’ve got to go through some growing pains. I’ve never been sold on Doc Rivers as a coach.
MT: Does New York make the playoffs this year?
JH: I’m going to say no, but not by much. They are another team I look at on paper and say they are a playoff team. They always seem to have a chemistry problem. You just think that’s a team that will implode at any minute and it’s going to take one bad stretch from them. Isiah Thomas’ troubles are still hovering. Even Stephon Marbury’s troubles are hovering a little bit.
Then you wonder if he and Isiah are going to have another battle royal if he decides that he’s not going to shoot in a certain game to prove to people just how important he thinks he is. You wonder how Zach Randolph is going to blend into New York with the media.
I just don’t think they have the chemistry or leadership to pull it off.
MT: MVP and Rookie of the Year?
JH: Kevin Garnett because Boston is going to get a lot of hype. He brings it every night. He’s playing on the east coast and is going to be on the national stage so much.
Rookie of the Year? You know Kevin Durant is going to run away with it. I watched the kid the other night. People think Seattle doesn’t have much left but I’ve been impressed. Chris Wilcox is playing well. That team is not just going to be Kevin Durant. Their defense is pretty good. We should expect that with P.J. Carlesimo because he’s a pretty decent coach. His stint assisting in San Antonio has really prepared him for this job. They look very inspired on the floor.
MT: What did you think about the Colts/Pats game yesterday?
JH: I’ll say it again: Randy Moss should be MVP. I know it’s unlikely because the quarterback gets the glory, and certainly how Brady powered them back was amazing. But Moss had a career-defining game, a Hall of Fame game. Now I certainly considered him a Hall of Famer before this and he’s had a lot of sick games, but he really ascended to a new level. As a 49ers fan, what I’m about to say is blasphemy, but I’d rather have Randy Moss than Jerry Rice. He’s that ill.
MT: Before we get into music because we didn’t get into it the last interview, I understand you did something with HBO?
JH: HBO’s Inside the NFL. NFL Films interviewed me some months back for a piece they were doing on the success of Black coaches. I wrote a column how Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin was a true measure of advancement for Black coaches. We always see Black coaches given bad teams, jobs you know they’ll be fired from in a couple seasons. But with Tomlin, you had a Black man put in charge of one of the most storied franchises in history, an organization that has been dedicated to winning for decades.
Anyway, I guess the NFL Films people really liked what I had to say, so they approached me some time after that and asked if they could do a piece on me for Inside the NFL. My first reaction: Uh, do you guys have the right number? I’ve been watching Inside the NFL since I was a pup, and I love NFL Films. I planned to return to Detroit about mid-season because I figured if the Lions were any good, they’d be worth writing about. Things worked out really great. I went to the Michigan State-Michigan game on Saturday — the outcome of that was not so great — and then I covered the Lions-Denver game the next day. They interviewed my father, some of my friends, and my mother. It was exhilarating and special. Never in two trillion years would I have expected something like to happen to me. I’m blessed.
MT: Congratulations. Very, very proud of you.
What are you listening to right now on the radio?
JH: C’mon Mike! This is 2007. You know I have an Ipod.
MT: Damn, did you just call me old? (We laugh)
JH: The new Jill Scott. I have about nineteen hundred songs in my Ipod, but I’ve been banging the Jill Scott for a couple of weeks now.
MT: I love Jill Scott. I love her all the way around. She’s one of the most beautiful people on this earth.
JH: She is. She is. It sounds ridiculous to say, but she is so underrated it’s not even funny. Whenever I want to go to that soulful quiet place, I listen to Jill Scott.
I seem to latch on to a great solo artist like once a decade. The first seventeen years of my life it was Teena Marie. The next five years were Mary J. Blige and the last five have been defined by Jill Scott. Those are my three ladies right there–no matter what.
MT: What are your favorite tracks from each artist? Can you narrow it down?
MT: Great choices. I also love Honey Molases from Jill.
Mary J.’s My Life got me through something. Trust me.
Any male artists you tend to vibe too?
JH: I’m just like anyone else. You like music that really captures your heart. By that I don’t mean it has to make you feel love–like you’re in love with somebody. It’s what moves you.
MT: Were you influenced by your surroundings growing up or was music something you came to realize individually?
I was definitely influenced by how I was brought up. My mother was a terrific musical influence. She loved to play records–which some of my earliest memories of her. She was a huge Teena Marie fan. She totally turned me on to her. She also turned me on to Anita Baker. Anita would definitely make my top five of all time. I think the reason why I was drawn to these women is because they were strong women who overcame a lot.
Mary J. Blige. We all know what she had to overcome. In a way, that’s how I look at myself. I’m not perfect. I’ve suffered my bruises and bumps along the way, but I’m still here. All these women represent a certain strength to me. It’s so weird. I’m just now thinking about the psychology of what I listen to. With guys I listen to it’s something that mellows me out or takes me to a quieter place.
Listening to women artists is where I get strength from.
JH: You had to get Sade in there.
MT: You know it. She’s a given. How can you forget her?
JH: You can’t go wrong with Sade.
MT: You have a versatile taste in music. What genre would you most associate with?
JH: I’m more of a Soul person. I guess that deserves it’s own separate category. I hate to sound old fashioned, but the one thing I can’t stand about some of today’s music is it just lacks soul. Any dude can rub on my ass in a club. That ain’t nothing new. Those songs have their place because there’s certain times you want to have fun and kind of relax, but they just lack a certain depth in the heart. That’s what I take from music. I love James Brown too. There’s nothing like hearing the concert version of Man’s World, or listening to Marvin Gaye’s Til Tomorrow. That is so there. That is pain coming through the record. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t always have to be about pain. In Mary J. Blige’s Be Happy, you really felt something when she sang that’s all I wanna be… We can all identify with that. Soul is a just great influence in my life. That’s how I try to approach my writing with soul. Whether you agree or disagree with what I write, I want you to feel how I really feel about something. The emotion kind of comes through the page–whether it be anger or something softer than that.
MT: One last question. What would you like to say personally to Jay Goober and Kev Dog?
JH: (Jemele really laughs ) I would tell them in the great words of Terrell Owens…”They just hate to love me!”
MT: Wow that’s whassup. Thank you so much Jemele.
JH: Mike it’s always just a pleasure man. I wish I could get interviewed by people like you every day. It would be so much easier.
MT: I heard that.
To read the first series of interviews with Ms. Hill, Click Here.