Paul Finebaum has been covering SEC sports longer than I’ve been alive.
Like me, he was born in Memphis, Tennessee, before making his way to Birmingham, Alabama. And I cannot remember a time in my life when he wasn’t on the radio for several hours a day, fielding calls about college football and everything else.
But he’s never experienced a moment like this… a moment without sports but where sports is at the center of so many explosive conversations right now involving the pandemic, racial justice, and more. He’s got four hours to fill every day. So how does he decide when to let his audience speak their mind. And when it’s time to push back?
Welcome to the Reckon Interview, I’m your host John Hammontree and today I’m speaking with a man who has been called the King of the South. It’s the dream of so many callers. I got an hour to myself with Paul Finebaum where we discussed his legacy, the TV projects he has in the works, his relationship with his callers, and how he feels about all those “Stick to Sports” comments.
Here are a few excerpts from the episode to get you started.
On Kylin Hill and the removal of the Mississippi flag
No question. The Mississippi flag would still be up if it wasn’t for Kylin Hill, the running back for Mississippi State. The SEC, the NCAA, all the boilerplate press releases from the ivory towers did not bring that flag down. One player did, in my opinion, and I love it. I mean, I was a rebellious youth myself many years ago.
And I haven’t always been on the side of the player, so to speak, but I am now, and I think as you grow up, as you age, as you mature, as you listen, to me, it’s an important story. It’s maybe the most important story going on right now other than whether we will or will not have college football.
It has sparked conversation that is unprecedented in what I do and really what everyone does. And, you know, you’re right about the political part. All I’m doing is letting people discuss it. And the only thing that I’m not doing is allowing things I have allowed in the past. That’s just hatred on the program. I mean, if you want to spew hatred toward Auburn football program, I don’t really care or Alabama’s but you’re not going to get away with it in this conversation.
Paul Finebaum on ‘misguided optimism’ of college administrators on football in a pandemic
We are in a narrow window here, at least in college athletic. And really almost everything I say about college athletics can mirror everything else in society, whether it’s the opening of school, whether it’s the opening of everything. The decisions made now are going to resonate and reverberate for many, many years to come because if they make the wrong decision — and the only wrong decision is being arrogant, carefree, and trying to squeeze as much money out of people as they can.
And I’m not for or against a college football season. As a sportscaster, I’m for it. As long as it’s done correctly, but I’m not for it just to do it. I mean, I work for the biggest sports media company in the world. But it is not my job to make those decisions. They will make those decisions in conjunction with everyone else.
But the thing that has offended me the most is the misguided optimism that college administrators have disseminated to their constituency. And I understand that the political aspect of this doesn’t want to hear bad news, but don’t come out as people have done recently, you know, maybe within the last two to three weeks and say, “We expect, we hope to have full stadiums on Labor Day weekend.”
I mean, that’s a crock. I mean, that’s not happening. And you know it, and I know it. Whether we even have games that weekend are, you know, to be determined. But I think that’s the problem. We hear that and fans hear what they want to hear.
And by the way, six weeks ago, I was an optimist too, around the time of Memorial Day, it looked like everything was trending the right direction, but that was before anybody showed up on campus.
For Paul Finebaum’s stories about his upcoming sitcom, political campaigns and a business offer from Clay Travis, listen to the full episode here.