Sports Radio News
Finebaum Hits It Big At ESPN
Whatever controversy might be brewing in college football, you can count on Paul Finebaum to comment on it.
He did as a newspaper columnist and radio host in Birmingham, and now he does it daily on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show.
“What gives Paul Finebaum the right to voice his opinion on sports — he’s never touched a ball in his life,” said Charles Barkley of Leeds. “He can come on the radio and everybody in Alabama thinks it’s the gospel because Finebaum said it.”
The 59-year-old Finebaum, born in Memphis and educated at the University of Tennessee, built his reputation in newspapers and enhanced it in radio. Now he is known nationwide as a fearless commentator who isn’t timid about bashing callers and coaches.
“Back in the day I was just thrilled to be writing a column for a newspaper,” Finebaum said. “My dream was to work for a big newspaper, maybe the New York Times.
“I started from scratch. There has been a shift over the years. I was evolving, and I found myself choosing radio over newspapers.”
As a talk show host on WJOX in Birmingham, Finebaum and his callers would often go into a tizzy over some trivial matter. If you called his show, you may have been shouted down, but hey, you had plenty of company.
Someone once said the show is most compelling when the wheels come off. And if the wheels came off one day, they were back on the next, with callers backed up on the hold line, eager to talk to Finebaum … until his contract expired in January 2013 and he was off the air.
“I decided not to renew it and became a free agent, so to speak,” he said.
During his four-month layoff, he signed a contract with HarperCollins for $650,000 to write a book, “My Conference Can Beat Your Conference,” which spent six months on The New York Times bestseller list.
As listeners waited eagerly to find out what Finebaum would do next, the announcement that he would go to ESPN with a five-year contract was surprising.
“I could see a change coming, but not this,” he said. “There are days I still can’t believe it.”
And with the promotion to ESPN, Finebaum has been on his best behavior … most of the time.
“After a while, you don’t want to keep being a bull in a china shop every day,” he said. “As I’ve gone through changes, I now try to elicit comments more from listeners.”
But he can still be combative. Recently a caller from Ohio argued that the Big Ten was better than the SEC. After bickering back and forth, Finebaum called him a “blithering idiot.”
The same person called back a day or two later and apologized. “Aw, that’s OK,” Finebaum said.
The caller asked, If Ohio State played in the SEC West, who would win the division? Finebaum thought about it and replied, “Ohio State.”
“At the core, Paul is a good person and he very much believes in the good of the people,” said Joe Tessitore, Finebaum’s colleague at ESPN. “He is brilliant in ways that aren’t obvious … he’s flat-out smart and perceptive and analytical. He is a craftsman at the unique craft he himself seemingly created.”
Tessitore added, “His ability to listen well to both callers and guests is superb” and his understanding of Southern football and life has “blossomed to mega success.”
Off the air, Finebaum is mild-mannered and reserved.
“He is less confrontational, very comfortable, and smiles and laughs more,” Tessitore said.
Chris Vernon, a sports radio host in Memphis, once said “Outside of Nick Saban, Paul Finebaum is the most famous person in Alabama.” To which Saban replied, “I don’t think you can function in the Southeast and not know who Paul is.”
Finebaum’s reaction: “Any time you hear something like that it’s flattering, but I don’t take it seriously.”
Saban and Finebaum are friends. They met when Saban was head coach at LSU.
“He was involved in some controversy there involving (former Alabama coach) Dennis Franchione, and I was extremely fair to him,” Finebaum said. “Later, the day after he left the Miami Dolphins to go to Alabama, he came on our show. It was his way of saying thanks, I remember what you did.”
Finebaum majored in political science at Tennessee but, after reading a biography of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, he developed a keen interest in sports.
He became sports editor of the Daily Beacon, UT’s student newspaper, where he stirred the pot just as he did later in Birmingham.
“No doubt, that’s where it all started,” he said.
In 1978, the year after Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King left Tennessee for the NBA, the Vols lost at home to a small-school team they should have beaten.
“I wrote a story that said the Tennessee basketball program died that night. We bordered it in black in the paper,” Finebaum recalled. “I was banned from traveling with the team.”
Last year, he received a Distinguished Alumni Award from his alma mater. He returned to Knoxville to accept it and speak to students in the school of communications.
Mike Slive, who retired recently after 13 years as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, calls Finebaum “a renaissance man,” explaining that he has a broad range of intellectual interests including literature, politics, philosophy and history.
When Finebaum lived in Birmingham, he and Slive would shop for books and meet for lunch.
“We seldom talked sports, but we would share books,” Slive said. “He liked books about important media personalities such as Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, Tom Brokaw and others.
“He has a great sense of humor and he is extremely bright,” Slive said. “He’s a private person while at the same time a very good friend. And he is uniquely skilled at what he does.”
So when you turn on ESPN and The Paul Finebaum Show, you’ll still hear Tammy from Clanton and Legend from Hueytown. But more and more, callers from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa and even California are checking in with the man The Wall Street Journal once called “the Oprah Winfrey of college football.”
ESPN wants to expand his role, according to Rosalyn Durant, head of the SEC Network. She recently told AL.com, “We want to continue to grow his brand on television. … You can expect to see more of Paul.”
Finebaum met his wife, Dr. Linda Hudson, when they lived in the same Birmingham apartment complex. Married for 25 years now, they sold their house in Shoal Creek and moved to Charlotte, home of the SEC Network, where she is an internist for the Carolinas HealthCare System.
With football fast approaching, Finebaum made these predictions for the 2015 season:
SEC championship game: Alabama over Georgia. College Football Playoff: Alabama, TCU, Ohio State and Southern California. National champion: Ohio State.
Credit to the Anniston Star who originally published this article
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports Radio News
Doug Gottlieb Details Interviewing For College Basketball Head Coaching Vacancy
“I’ve told people that for the radio element to — for the right thing — I’d give it up. The (podcast), I’m not giving it up.”
Fox Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb recently interviewed for the vacant head coaching job at Wisconsin-Green Bay and detailed the experience on his podcast.
“I got a chance to talk to (Wisconsin-Green Bay AD) Josh Moon several times during the year after they had made their coaching job available and my approach to how I’ve done these things — and this is not the first time I’ve gone down this path, but this was a different path,” Gottlieb said on his All Ball podcast.
“This is a low-major, mid-major job, and there’s no connection there. I’ve told people that for the radio element to — for the right thing — I’d give it up. The (podcast), I’m not giving it up. I love doing it and I think there’s a very smart world where if I’m coaching I can still do this podcast and still do it with basketball people all over the country and the world, and it’s kind of like a cheat code.”
He continued by saying that seeing Shaka Smart be successful at Marquette has motivated him to continue to search for the right fit as a college basketball coach.
“That’s what I want to do. And last year when I was coaching in Israel, that also continued to invigorate me…this is something that I would really like to do. It has to be the right thing. It has to be the right AD who hits the right message.”
He continued by saying that a sticking point of negotiations was he wasn’t willing to give up his nationally syndicated radio program for the job. He was willing to take less money for his assistants pool, but also to continue doing his radio show.
Gottlieb did not get the position with the Phoenix, noting that he was a finalist but was never offered the job. The position ultimately went to Wyoming assistant coach Sundance Wicks. Wicks had previous head coaching experience and had worked with Green Bay athletic director Josh Moon at Division II Northern State. He admitted he wasn’t necessarily “all-in” on the job due to the current ages of his children and whether the timing was right to uproot his family to move to Northeastern Wisconsin.
The Fox Sports Radio host does have coaching experience. He has worked as a coach for the U.S. men’s basketball team at the Maccabiah Games, sometimes referred to as the Jewish Olympics.
Gottlieb’s father — Bob — was the head men’s basketball coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1975-1980, compiling a 97-91 record.
Sports Radio News
Waddle & Silvy: Scott Hanson Told Us to Lose His Number
“We didn’t call him back, so he set out what he wanted to do.”
Aaron Rodgers took immense pride in the fact that he told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter to “lose his number” while discussing his future earlier this week on The Pat McAfee Show. ESPN 1000’s Waddle & Silvy said they’ve experienced similar treatment from guests on their radio show.
While discussing the Rodgers interview with McAfee, the pair admitted that NFL RedZone host Scott Hanson once told their producer to stop trying to book him for interviews on the program.
“I believe the presentation was ‘Do me a favor: lose my number after this interview’,” Tom Waddle said. “So he tried to do it politely. Scott Hanson did. Get out of here. That concept is foreign to me. How about ‘Hey, next time you text me, my schedule is full. I can’t do it, but thanks for thinking of me’. ‘Lose my number?’ You ain’t the President, for Christ’s sake. I’m saying that to anyone who would say that. ‘Lose my number?’ We’re all in the communication business. I just don’t know — why be rude like that to people? What does that accomplish? You know what it accomplished? We didn’t call him back, so he set out what he wanted to do.”
Co-host Mark Silverman then mentioned that the show once tried to book Hansen and NFL Red Zone host Andrew Siciliano together in the same block, with the idea of doing a trivia game to see who the supreme Red Zone host was. Siciliano agreed, but Hansen declined.
The pair also confirmed that an NFL Network personality had told them to lose their number, but couldn’t remember if it was Rich Eisen or not.
Silverman later joked that maybe Hanson was getting a new phone with a new number, and was politely sharing with the producer that he could lose the current phone number because he would share his new number in short order.
Sports Radio News
Seth Payne: Aaron Rodgers ‘Makes Gross Inaccuracies’ When Calling Out Media
“This is where Rodgers does this thing where he, in calling out reporters for their inaccuracies, makes gross inaccuracies in his accusations.”
Aaron Rodgers is always mad at the media for the inaccurate things he says they report, but according to Sports Radio 610 morning man Seth Payne, no one is more inaccurate than the quarterback himself.
Friday morning, Payne and his partner Sean Pendergast played audio of Aaron Rodgers responding to a question about a list of players he provided to the Jets demanding they sign. Rodgers called the idea that he would make demands “so stupid” and chastised ESPN reporter Dianna Russini, who was the first to report it.
“Now to be clear, Dianna Russini didn’t say demands in her tweet. She said wishlist,” Pendergast clarified.
They also played a clip of Russini responding to Rodgers on NFL Live saying that she stands by her reporting and it is her job to reach out to confirm that it is true.
“This is where Rodgers does this thing where he, in calling out reporters for their inaccuracies, makes gross inaccuracies in his accusations,” Seth Payne said.
He added that if Rodgers is being serious, he is doing some serious nitpicking. He claims that he didn’t give the Jets a list, but that he spoke glowingly about former teammates and told the Jets executives that he met with who he enjoyed playing with during his career.
Payne joked that maybe he wrote down the names in a circle pattern so that it was not a list. Pendergast added that he could have had Fat Head stickers on his wall that he pointed to instead of writing anything at all.
In Payne’s mind, this is a case of Russini catching stray frustration. Neither in her initial tweet nor in any subsequent media appearance did she use the phrase “demands”.
“What he’s actually responding to in that instance is Pat McAfee is the one that described it as a list of demands,” Seth Payne said.
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