Hunter Ford: On Finebaum and the off-season

Real sport to fill football off-season is played on the radio
By Hunter Ford
You can read more from Hunter Ford at his blog Ford’s columns also appear in Bessemer’s Western Star newspaper.

The University of Alabama’s 2007-08 basketball season was finally shot in the head like the lame nag that it was.

The Tide was rejected by the glue factory of the NIT and turned down the notion of being chopped into Alpo in something called the CBI (College Basketball Invitational).

As I’ve said previously, basketball is a nice diversion during the winter and early spring when the sport is being played well by Alabama, Auburn or UAB.

But whether or not any of those schools fields a competent roundball squad, the inevitable black hole of summer descends upon those of us who are only truly satisfied by the winds of autumn and the pigskin smorgasbord.

In the vacuum of this dreary time, there are a few rays of light. Local talk radio in Birmingham keeps college football fans inflamed year-round. The largest sun in this galaxy is The Paul Finebaum Show. The Finebaum Show is a Jupiter sized planet, mostly made of noxious gas. Around this monstrosity orbits a host of entertaining and provocative callers. Some of these satellites  “Jim from Tuscaloosa”, “I-man”, “Elmo” and “Pluto” occasionally drift from orbit or are deemed unworthy of notice for a period of time.

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Such was the case a few weeks ago when “Shane from Centerpoint” drifted out of the gravitational pull.

Shane has become the front-man for the Million Dollar Band, unabashedly singing the praises of the Crimson Tide and largely defending his beloved Red Elephants through fair and foul weather.

Shane, who has also become a popular columnist for the Paul Finebaum Network website, was checking the back of his Crimson family in a recent column.  Fed up with the media’s incessant spotlight on the few Alabama football players who have run afoul of the Tuscaloosa PD, Shane decided to dredge up the ledger on some folks in Lee County. Armed with Orange and Blue fingerprints, Shane presented his case in his weekly column on the PFN.

Mysteriously, this column was not only rejected by the “management” of the PFN website, Shane’s column and photograph have been conspicuously removed (as of this writing).

Why? Finebaum is a shrewd gamesman.  The fact that he makes his living poking his finger in the eyes of the most powerful sports figures in our state is almost inconceivable. Finebaum got his start by sending poison pen pal messages to former Alabama head coach Ray Perkins. Perkins had a glare that would give most sports writers a rash. Perkins has a metal plate in his head. As a player, Perkins took a pair of pliers and yanked off a crushed toenail, laced up some cleats and went back in the game. It’s hard to imagine Finebaum playing golf badly. It is unfathomable to imagine him playing football. No, I could imagine Finebaum as a field goal kicker, scooping up a bobbled snap and throwing it left-handed like a girl into the hands of a linebacker who runs it back for a touchdown.

But I digress. Although lacking in any athletic capacity, Finebaum has a black-belt in playing the passions of we college football fans. Shane is not an unwitting accomplice. Although Shane is true and authentic in his love for the Crimson Tide, he is also fully aware of his ability to place a bee under the bonnet of Tide and Tiger fans alike. And Shane is a big part of the popularity of Finebaum, the PFN radio show and, until now, the PFN website.

Out of coincidence, I recently attended a conference of the most powerful lawyers in our state. The keynote speaker (who followed the Chief Justice of The Supreme Court of Alabama) was none other than Mr. Finebaum himself.  Finebaum told this group of heavyweight hitters that the most often asked question of him is: “Is Shane really your brother-in-law?” One of Tommy Tuberville’s lawyers, former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley no less, even asked Finebaum the same question.

Finebaum answered this way: “I have two actual brother-in-laws. I have a sister in Memphis who is married, and my wife has a brother. One night at a holiday dinner, my wife’s brother turned to me and sincerely asked ‘Is Shane really your brother-in-law?'”

For now, Shane has taken his ball and is playing at an excellent website called The Capstone Report, check it out at  Shane will also be a guest columnist for The Western Star this fall. Stay tuned.