America’s college football sweetheart, Paul Finebaum, has ended his media silence and will be filling a time-slot near you very soon.
After being off-air for four months, Finebaum has agreed to a five-year deal with ESPN in conjunction with their new SEC Network venture. He will move his four-hour airing of college football grievances from Birmingham, Ala. to Charlotte, N.C. and will begin broadcasting on Aug. 1.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Finebaum’s “multi-tiered platform will include a radio program on ESPN networks, 100 televised appearances annually on ESPN and a TV simulcast of his radio show on the ESPN-owned SEC Network launching in August 2014.”
The Paul Finebaum Radio Network was a daily rite of passage for Southern football fans: a therapy session combined with the most combative family dinner imaginable – complete with members of the family who hate what you love, and love to yell at you about those things.
Finebaum spoke for, maybe, 35 percent of the show and relied on regular callers with their own characteristics and personalities to drive the topic for the day. Paul Finebaum was the radio host who controlled the starting gate of his phone lines. With one snide, weaselly comment, all of his segments were filled with vitriol and Southern accents. Sometimes, people just call in, yell “ROLL TIDE!” and hang up. This is high-brow entertainment, y’all.
But in his absence there has been a severe lack of sports shouting. ESPN’s First Take tries their darnedest to make the South care about Tebow and the NBA, but if it isn’t about college football, no one actually pays attention.
Winning the past seven consecutive college football national championships, the Southeastern Conference is the most dominant league in the country. It’s also located in an area of the country where the people care about it almost as much as going to church. Maybe even more, but they might not admit to that at first.
Paul Finebaum almost exclusively talks about the SEC on his show and will set ESPN’s new SEC Network apart from the already-existing, mostly content-less B1G Ten Network and PAC 12 Network (which I still can’t watch). Finebaum’s audience will follow him anywhere he goes and will tune in – on radio and/or TV – anytime his show is airing.
“What is striking is he is such a great moderator-slash-provocateur of the emotion that lives within the fan base,” said Justin Connolly, the senior vice president for programming who will oversee the SEC Network for ESPN told the WSJ. “To be able to bring him aboard onto the team here is significant.”
His absence has been painful for those who need to hear Auburn and Alabama fans gripe at each other. But fear not, the man with a face – and hair – for radio will return on Aug. 1. Just in time for Alabama to be preseason number 1 again and for a whole new season of “conversation” to begin.