When it comes to powerful radio people in the grand state of Alabama, Paul Finebaum tops the list.
My apologies to Rick and Bubba who are very popular and loved and successful. Shoot, they’ve written a book, had countless cd compilations of their best and funniest work, and are fairly regular guests on national television shows such as Hannity and Colmes, and Fox News in the morning. Rick and Bubba had their own tv show for several years on the regional Turner South Network and speak to maybe hundreds of church groups and others throughout the year.
But it is sportstalk host Paul Finebaum that is not only powerful but sheer genius.
He’s been on ESPN this week, writing in his weekly column for the Mobile Press-Register and talking on his own afternoon show about the ugliness of race in the Auburn Athletic Department. How the powers that be at that University decided not to hire a coach because of the color of the coach’s skin, and maybe some have suggested, the color of that coach’s wife’s skin.
Auburn fans are of course, outraged and swear they will never listen to Finebaum’s show again. But what none of them realize is that the genius of Paul Finebaum has never been so easy to see.
Finebaum is not a sports guy. No matter what you might think by listening to him on the radio. In person, he looks like the kid always chosen last no matter what schoolyard game was being played. In the pressbox, I rarely saw any of the other respected sportswriters talking to him. I’ve watched and wondered what must go through his mind while the game is being played. I’ve guessed it is “how many bags of that white stuff do they use to line the field?” or “what are those paper streamers doing on top of the goal posts and how did they get them up there?”
Finebaum is not an x’s and o’s sports guy. I’ve never heard him talk about the the downside of a prevent defense when the game is on the line, or pulling guards, or yards after the reception or passer ratings. But still, fans on both sides of the state continue to listen to his show. Why?
Because Paul Finebaum is a genius.
He knows just when and how hard to poke the dog with the stick before running away. He’s also learned, through years of doing this schtick for newspapers, television and radio, when to switch dogs.
For years the dog in the state of Alabama was the Crimson Tide. Finebaum criticized coaches Franchione, Price and Shula while laying off to some degree, of Auburn and Tommy Tuberville. This year, and some of last year, Finebaum switched dogs and started giving new Bama coach Nick Saban a whole lotta love while torching Tuberville.
For the record, it was an easy decision for Finebaum. Alabama’s program had been down for more than a decade and fans (there’s a ton of them in the state by the way) were desperately seeking somebody to say anything good about them. Finebaum was there, understanding that the more he talked up the Tide, the more listeners would tune in. Not just Bama fans but Auburn fans who were curious as to what was happening at the Capstone.
Now with the hiring of a new head coach at Auburn, Finebaum has raised the racism flag (which is always good for some debate or a fight or two). But we really don’t know if Finebaum suspects that race played a part in Auburn not hiring Turner Gill, because Finebaum is just poking whatever he thinks will create the biggest bark, and the most listeners which raises his show ratings which brings in advertising dollars.
That’s where the genius part comes in with Finebaum. He says what he says not necessarily because it is true or even that he believes it is true, but because it draws attention to him and his show.
He’s very wealthy because of it.
So don’t call Finebaum an idiot. He doesn’t care that he comes across that way to people who know what’s going on or how an SEC school chooses a head coach. Call him a genius because he’s laughing all the way to a long retirement on a beach somewhere.