LCB: In addition to your columns, you write a series of pieces called “Riding Along with Jemele Hill” where you interview sports figures while riding along in their vehicle of choice. For example, you queried Buffalo Bills (and former Miami Dolphins) tailback Willis McGahee about, among other things, “What’s more troublesome, an ex-wife or a baby momma?” while driving around in his black BMW 645. This strikes me as a sort of fantasy come true for a young sports fan — riding in a sports star’s car and casually asking him/her questions (and getting paid to do it). Did you pitch this idea? And what is the purpose of it, for readers? Finally, who would be your dream “ride along” — any public figure, in sports or not?
JH: Yes, this was my idea. I thought it would be cool to get a sports figure in their own vehicle and ask them questions about politics, relationships, whatever comes to mind. I didn’t want a Q&A where I just asked them about their sport or their statistics. I was thinking of something like Craig Kilborn’s 5 Questions — something funny, off-the-wall, with a hint of the ridiculous. I wanted to bring a sense of humor to it, and in turn bring out the real personality of sports stars. Even though sports writers are with athletes a lot, most of us don’t know them that well or what makes them tick. This was a good platform because it put us on their turf. Besides, most athletes are obsessed with their cars and love showing them off.
As for my dream “ride along,” I’d have to pick Oprah Winfrey. She’s the most brilliant woman of my generation. I’d really like to ask her about her stance on hip-hop, why she never had children on her own, if she could ever be convinced to run for president, and what it’s like to be so rich that you could literally set a million dollars on fire and not miss it. Now if I could pick someone who is deceased, it would either be Frank Sinatra or Zora Neale Hurston, my favorite author of all time. Although, I’m not sure if most of Frank’s answers could be printed.