Talk radio’s off season

Finebaum Needs Callers…So Rumors Swirl
by intheknow72

Ah, tis the dead period of the football year. Recruiting, conditioning news and spring practice are behind us, and the long summer before the 2009 college football season lies ahead. It’s the time of year that individuals and outlets depending on our state’s biggest commodity have to hunker down and actually work to earn their paycheck. Reminiscent of the Apollo space voyages’ journeys around the dark side of the moon, the period between spring practice and freshmen reporting in early August is a dark period for those who make their living off of the interest in Alabama and Auburn football. And with that period comes the predictable fodder one might expect.

The largest and most guilty party to such behavior is one Paul Finebaum. Voted one of the best at what he does in America, Paul’s show is one of the most entertaining programs in the sports entertainment market. He’s not alone, as other shows (mostly operated by the same company throughout the day in Birmingham) put their own spin on things. But it’s this period of the year that any innuendo, comment or rumor can find itself front, center, on the air and in the minds of those listening to the program. But like a bank accepting a bail out from the Federal Government, Paul is not about to resist accepting any fresh meat he is offered, in turn tossing it into the public forum between late April and early August. After all, if you had to fill four hours a day, yielding 20 hours a week of radio content, wouldn’t you?

Some years it comes easy during this time. Paul, and those in his business, must have thought Christmas had come early in 2003. It was late April of that year when rumors began floating that then Tide coach Mike Price was caught with his pants down (literally). What ensued was a gravy train of callers, opinions, takes and airtime devoted to the subject until well-after the deer in headlights (known as Mike Shula) took the podium. And then the train kept rolling with the speculation about Sylvester Croom, why he was passed over, and what power he would bring to Alabama’s SEC West rival Mississippi State. Another easy “off season” came in the late spring/early summer of 1999, when Mike Dubose apparently played footsies with his secretary then denied it. Nothing fills 20 hours a week like a denied rumor, where half your listeners want to believe it and the other half are terrified by the thought of it being true. But these “easy streets” don’t come often.

The split listener/fan base scenario is what drives speculation thrown into the arena of public opinion on a program like Paul’s, especially in this state. And the latest soup du jour revolves around Nick Saban’s words concerning fan response to the Alabama football program. Was Nick Saban trying to send a message? If the fans don’t behave next season, will he split? And what was he really saying from the podium after the Sugar Bowl, throughout spring practice and after the A-day game? These are great questions, perfect for every Aubie or Bammer with a radio and phone to debate…or filibuster. On the air. Brewing interest. Creating callers. Ensuring listeners. Selling advertising. Moving business. In a down economy.

And I’ll say it again, who can blame him…and those in his business? As long as we’re willing to listen, radio pontificators are willing to dish it out. But taking what you hear with a grain of salt would be an incredible piece of advice. Just before you pick up the phone to call and react, be sure to glance at the calendar first. After all, in April, May June and July, Paul Finebaum is a hungry man starving for sustenance.