About six minutes into their sports radio talk show, Jakhari Carroll and Joseph Spicer get into their first debate of the day: whether Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is worth the largest contract extension in NFL history.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Jakhari concedes. “It’s just that he makes terrible decisions in playoff games.”
Joseph: “Bro, Andrew Luck is in the same category as Tony Romo.”
Jakhari: “So, that means he’s going to make mistakes?”
Joseph: “He just pushes the ball up, bro. I like that.”
Jakhari: “And they continue to lose playoff games.”
It’s the kind of spirited sparring they used to do in the halls of Ottawa Hills High School. Now the two OHHS grads have at it on the air in “Real Sports Talk with J & J,” a weekly radio show on Grand Rapids’ WYGR (FM 94.9, AM 1530). And they couldn’t enjoy it more.
“Our disagreements are pretty funny, because we go a long time,” says Jakhari, sitting in the station’s cozy studio on Madison Avenue SE.
Joseph likes their sharp contrast of Jakhari being nicer and himself a bit “meaner.”
“We’re like yin and yang,” Joseph quips. “I’m the dark one, he’s the light one. But together we make this beautiful masterpiece.”
Together they’ve created a free-wheeling show of sports shop-talk and local athlete interviews mixed with occasional commentary on social issues. The show began airing this summer on the urban adult contemporary station at 5 p.m. Saturdays.
“It’s cool to know people tune in to listen to us,” Joseph says.
Station Owner Finds Aspiring Journalist
The show sprang from a serendipitous meeting between Jakhari and Robert S. Womack, president of WYGR, whose long-running show, “The Pulse of the City,” mixes commentary with R&B and hip-hop. Jakhari already had his eye on a journalism career when he met Womack this spring at an African-American Male Achievement Conference. Womack was looking for young men he could mentor in the radio business.
“As soon as he began telling me about his desire to do sports radio, I said ‘This is a perfect fit. I found him,’” says Womack. “I felt he had a voice for sports broadcasting,” along with a professional manner. “So I could jump right into putting him on the radio.”
Jakhari jumped at the chance and recruited Joseph as his on-air partner. It was a great fit, says Womack.
“I like it because they don’t know what they’re doing, but they’re doing everything right. It’s natural.”
It was a natural scenario for two excellent athletes – both played football, wrestling, and track and field at Ottawa – who’d often talked about having a sports radio show.
“We talk about everything,” Jakhari says. “We’re more like brothers. That makes doing the show that much easier.”
“I treat him like a brother, he treats me like a brother,” agrees Joseph.
The pair bring a brotherly spirit to their show, arguing about little things like whether Anthony Davis or Kawhi Leonard is the better NBA player. Even in the middle of this reporter’s interview, they got sidetracked by that one again.
A Positive Voice for Youth
But when it comes to bigger topics, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, their aim is the same: to give a perspective of their generation.
“We try the best we can to inspire and give them a voice, and let people know the youth care just as much as the adults,” says Jakhari, who also writes for The Grand Rapids Times and maintains a blog.
Joseph wants their younger listeners to know he and Jakhari are “just like them,” and to exert a positive influence.
“That’s what I want people to get out of it when they hear me: positive energy,” Joseph says. “Be positive, be peaceful, be friendly. It’s OK to be nice, it’s OK to be peaceful.”
They talked on their show about a teen-organized rally at Rosa Parks Circle in July, held in response to a spate of shootings of black men and police. Womack said he puts that and other topical shows on the Monday drive-time slot to reach a broader, adult audience.
“They give us a youth perspective on today’s issues,” says Womack, who is running for a Kent County Commission seat. “When I hear their views, I don’t put it on based on whether I like it or not. I put it on because I feel their views have to be heard, especially if it’s in high contrast to what the popular belief is in the community of adults.”
Come this fall, Jakhari will attend Grand Rapids Community College with a plan to transfer to Wayne State University’s broadcast journalism program. Joseph heads to Ferris State University with an eye on a career in civil engineering. But they plan to continue their show, which Womack says could expand to more days with increased listenership.
For now, they’re enjoying talking about the Olympics, their NFL pre-season picks and other topics of the day. It’s an opportunity they don’t take lightly.
“For us to be on the radio and broadcast our opinions to other people is huge, to both of us,” Joseph says.