Play with AJ adds a new dimension to the sports talk show genre

Blending elements of popular culture, fashion, social media and of course sports, Play with AJ is one of the freshest and entertaining sports talk shows on the air. Hosted by Aliya Jasmine, who cut her teeth on other MTV programs such as 1 Girl, 5 Gays, she brings a strong sporting background. The 30-year old native of Ottawa was also named to Hello magazine’s list of the 50 Most Beautiful Canadians in 2013.

On the 2013 ESPY Awards red carpet discussing Colin Kaepenick’s appearance in the ESPN Body Issue (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/AliyaJasmine)

On the 2013 ESPY Awards red carpet discussing Colin Kaepenick’s appearance in the ESPN Body Issue (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/AliyaJasmine)

Jasmine has co-hosted the Juno Cup, a hockey event featuring professionals against musicians, reported on the Vancouver Winter Games and is a self-professed sports junkie. In July 2013, she joined Cabral “Cabbie” Richards in Los Angeles as part of TSN’s red carpet coverage for the ESPY Awards. She would speak to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick about his appearances in the ESPN Magazine Body Issue. Her love of the game clearly comes across as the program provides another strong venue for women to stake their claim in the ultra-competitive world of sports journalism.

Promotional shot for Play with AJ (Image obtained from: http://news.mtv.ca/photos/)

Promotional shot for Play with AJ (Image obtained from: http://news.mtv.ca/photos/)

The most endearing aspect of the program is that it does not take itself too seriously. While some sports programs believe they can solve all of sports problems and prognosticate with self-proclaimed expertise, Play with AJ approaches sport from a perspective of humour and nonchalance.

Opening the program with a monologue, AJ covers the intersection where pop culture and sport collide. She also pays homage to social media by acknowledging the unique sporting tweets of the week. One recent episode featured a tweet from Justin Bieber where he is photographed shirtless among the likes of Tyson Chandler and Kevin Durant.

One subject from her monologue is always segued one of her subjects into the TSN Talkback. With an on-air personality from The Sports Network, her subjects range along the lines of discussing Justin Bieber with Darren Dutchyshen to the Fame Game of NFL Quarterbacks (like Colin Kaepernick making the GQ cover) to A-Rod’s douchebag status with Jennifer Byrne.

Interviewing reality star and diehard New York Mets fan Snooki (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/AliyaJasmine)

Interviewing reality star and diehard New York Mets fan Snooki (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/AliyaJasmine)

Channeling the energy of skits from Pardon the Interruption, 30 Seconds of Fame is a segment filled with self-effacing humor that steals the show. Featuring a panel consisting of three bloggers and sports writers, they have to think fast on their feet as they are presented with numerous scenarios.

The segment goes through two rounds of hilarious elimination as each eliminated panelist is exiled to the infamous Shame Zone where they are booed by a group of hecklers and sprinkled with popcorn. The eventual winner earns 30 seconds of face time and is able to speak whatever is on their mind.

An added bonus of the segment is that viewers can participate as well. Viewers can tweet their own view on the scenarios discussed in 30 Seconds of Fame.

Perhaps its greatest asset is the fact that the segment tends to feature at least one female on the panel. Ranging from the likes of Missy Deyo, who covers Major League Baseball for the Kingston Whig-Standard, Nadine Liverpool, broadcast associate at Rogers Sportsnet and Miranda Furtado, these women all have something unique to offer.

Babes Dig Balls founder Miranda Furtado on 30 Seconds of Fame (Image obtained from: http://babesdigballs.com/the-babely-boss-makes-an-appearance-on-mtvs-play-with-aj/)

Babes Dig Balls founder Miranda Furtado on 30 Seconds of Fame (Image obtained from: http://babesdigballs.com/the-babely-boss-makes-an-appearance-on-mtvs-play-with-aj/)

Furtado, the founder of Babes Dig Balls, a sports site organized by women for a target audience of women was one of the winners. Megan Ann Wilson, a stylist and columnist with a love of basketball, is a two-time champion at 30 Seconds of Fame. Had she won her third appearance at 30 Seconds of Fame, she would have been the first recipient of the Play with AJ Bobblehead.

Liverpool was another fantastic female who prevailed on her respective panel and shared a powerful and moving 30 seconds in which she states why women need to believe in themselves and that they can succeed in sports.

Former hockey enforcer turned fashion guru Steve Avery in a one-on-one interview with AJ (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/AliyaJasmine)

Former hockey enforcer turned fashion guru Steve Avery in a one-on-one interview with AJ (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/AliyaJasmine)

From interviewing the likes of pop culture icon Snooki and country star Tim McGraw, the final segment of her program is a one-on-one interview which is a hybrid of topics ranging from sports, fashion, popular culture and music. Serving as the portal in which sporting personalities and celebrity figures can discuss non-traditional topics (such as Snooki’s devotion to the New York Mets and her newfound boxing promotion), the interviews come across as fresh and interesting.

While a hockey flavor is sprinkled into the feature, it is not the typical hockey interview. Although Jasmine once worked for the NHL Network, her Play with AJ interview with Sean Avery focused on his love of fashion and his reluctance to talk trash about Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Perhaps the best aspect of the Avery interview was the discovery that one of the cameramen on set was his cousin.

Toronto Maple Leafs sniper Joffrey Lupul spoke on the show about how he likes to play guitar. With his love of music, he discusses the difference between rock-star fame and hockey fame. When pressed by Jasmine, he stated that the various bands Jack White played with are the only type of music he would listen to.

Only on Play with AJ could Lupul declare that the Arcade Fire are one of Canada’s best bands while talking about being booed by the hockey patrons in the domiciles of divisional rivals such as Ottawa, Montreal and Buffalo.

More than just an on-air personality, she also helped to write and produce a video on breast cancer awareness which went viral and made news world-wide. With hundreds of thousands of hits, the video was meant to be a public service announcement.

Packaged to look like a typical beer commercial in which a buxom beauty walks in slow motion, admired by various voyeurs, the tone of the PSA is geared towards increasing cancer awareness for a younger demographic. A close-up of a chest states with tongue in cheek, it is time to save the boobs.

Still from AJ's viral video

Still from AJ’s viral video

In the effort to help promote Boobyball, a cause started by two remarkable women, Amanda Blakely and Ashleigh Dempster, Jasmine’s PSA helped to educate by sending the message that breast cancer is a leading cause of illness among women in their twenties.

Executed with the help of volunteers, the PSA also hit home for Jasmine, as her cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. By donating her time to the Boobyball event, funds have been raised for the Rethink Breast Cancer cause.

Through her wit, compassion and love of sport, to call Jasmine the total package would be an understatement. Her star only rises with this new program on MTV Canada. In an era when women in sport, whether it be in athletic competition or in journalism, are still struggling for their opportunity to be considered equal, Play with AJ motivates a young generation of female sports fans to believe that they can shatter the glass ceiling.