Q&A: Finebaum on getting fired from radio by an Alabama football coach & getting his ass kicked by Tommy Charles

This is part of our series of interviews with important voices in the college football media. Paul Finebaum is the preeminent media voice in Alabama with a career that has spanned newspapers to talk radio. You can read earlier installments of this series including Finebaum’s thoughts on how reporters misuse Twitter.

In this installment of our Q&A with Finebaum, we find out about his early career, how Alabama football coach Ray Perkins had Finebaum fired from WERC and a memorable feud with radio personality Tommy Charles.

Q: What year did you arrive in Birmingham to work with the Post-Herald?
Finebaum: 1980

Q: What beat was your first?
Finebaum: “Interestingly, I covered Auburn, briefly. I covered Auburn right as Pat Dye was arriving. We had a very strange structure down there. This was before the beat system. What ended up happening was that the two people who mainly covered college football, Bill Lumpkin and myself, ended up covering both beats together. We would rotate. It was really to my benefit. I ended up covering both beats for a couple of years. Then the beat system arrived and I ended up becoming a columnist.”

Q: What year did you begin writing a column?
“I started in August 1983, right after Coach Bryant retired and died.”

Q: When did you start work on sports talk radio?
“I dabbled with it for a couple years doing various things with Mark & Brian. The actual show didn’t start until 1989.”

Q: What radio station? Was it WAPI?
“I started at API. I was there a couple of years. Then in 1993, went to WERC.”

Q: Wasn’t there a conflict with then Alabama football coach Ray Perkins?
“I was just getting going. I had a once a week show. Eli Gold at the time was doing NASCAR every Tuesday night and he needed someone to fill in for him when he was getting ready for the NASCAR show. I did that show for a year, once a week. Then Perkins got me fired.

“That was at ERC believe it or not. I forgot to mention that because it was just a once a week show.

“It was in 1984. The show was on 5-7 (p.m.) in 1984. It preceded his (Perkins’) call-in show. The callers, it just blended into his show. That was the year they had the first losing season in 25 years. He finally told the station, ‘You either dump him or we are moving Alabama football.’

“I don’t think that was a difficult choice.”

“I went from there to API and that is where I started doing Mark & Brian. That eventually led to a show I did on Saturday morning with John Forney, which eventually led to the nighttime show with (Bob) Lochamy”

Q: About that “fight” with Tommy Charles, how did you guys come up with that “hoax” and were you surprised that it made the papers?
Finebaum: “It was a feud that was all imaginary. I actually liked him a lot. I walked in there one day, the general manager was in there and Tommy was in there. It was in the mid-90s. I really don’t know who suggested it first. I think somebody said, ‘Hey, why don’t we let Tommy start the show off and act like we got into it.’

“So, the general manager and I went into the conference room and put it on (the radio). And Tommy, we didn’t really tell him what to say, but you didn’t really need to tell Tommy what to say.

“Tommy said, ‘I have to tell you that Paul won’t be here today. Paul won’t be here for awhile. It is pretty embarrassing. He kind of mouthed off at me in the parking lot, and I shouldn’t have done it and it wasn’t even hardly a punch. I kind of pulled my punch. He went down and wouldn’t get up. Had to call his wife and take him to the hospital.’

“Then about two minutes later, a guy called in and said, ‘I’m at the emergency room.’ And we are sitting there listening to this thinking it is unbelievable. It was War of the Worlds. After about an hour, I said, ‘There is no reason to go in there now.’ So, I went home.

“I’ll never forget this. At 7 o’clock, I got a call from Mike Royer, who said, ‘Paul, I’m really sorry about you getting punched out.’ I said, ‘Well Mike, I really didn’t.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry about that, but I need to get a comment.’ I said, ‘I can’t.’

“The the paper picked it up, and the newspaper editor in there gave a statement that basically said, ‘If you read something in the newspaper it is legitimate.’

“It became one of those deals that I could never outlive. At Tommy’s funeral, the minister said, ‘In visiting with Tommy’s kids, he would have to say that one of Tommy’s proudest moments was kicking Paul Finebaum’s ass.’ I had people who would come up to me for months and say they were really sorry about that.”

This is the final installment in our Q&A with Finebaum. In previous installments we covered the state of Alabama football among other topics.

11 Comments

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  1. 1
    finebammer

    another good one was the time paul played gary sander’s ‘punt bama punt’ call and claimed it was jim fyffe. i think it was an april fools.

    he argued with folks two or three days on that one,

  2. 2
    finebammer

    also, i’ve always enjoyed paul’s “most powerful people in the sec” and his coaches rankings this time of year,

    since his lazy butt isn’t writing anymore, think you could do interviews w/ him on those topics??

    • 5
      BamaBrando

      Yeah right Idiot Vol. UT is slowing becoming UAK. I mean, Bama practically owns Neyland Stadium. UT has already hired a Saban protege, and hiring other coaches that coached under Saban. UT is even going after Saban’s leftover recruits and transfers. You WISH UT had the real thing, but all you have is imitation.

  3. 7
    RC

    Indiana VOL,

    I heard your junk always comes out of your pants in kiddy theme parks, you racist, Remember, just as in racism, a person’s color or team association has nothing to do with a crime. Besides, EVERYONE knows the passed out fan put himself in that situation.

    I really think you would be better apt to stay on Dooley’s ass to make sure he fields a good football team this fall. Please keep in mind by “staying on his ass” I don’t mean in a Tennessee “Deliverance” kind of way

  4. 8
    Hoopie

    RC …you idiot. Saying that the LSU fan “put himself in that situation” and suggesting that excuses that Bama fan’s actions is like saying that in the 60’s it was acceptable to beat up a black man for walking in the white neighborhoods. You are truly one of the most hypocritical people around.

    On another note: KUDOS to the CR. This was a nice series with Finebaum. The questions were generally relevant to Alabama/SEC and had a not too nausiating Bama-centric theme to them. Finescum’s answers were genuine, informed and without the manipulative spin he spews on his radio show.

  5. 9
    RC

    Hoopie,

    You either lack reading comprehension skills or are just plain stupid. First, nowhere did I say the Bamafan was right.NOWHERE. However, public intoxication to the point of passing out has citations and fines in every state’s penal code. Second, you have to be the dumbest mutha f—-alive to actually compare a misdemeanor “prank” to full-blown felony brutality in your comparison to junk exposure and lynching in white neighborhoods in the ’60’s. Comparisons and thought processes like that are the reason I keep my children away from people who support Auburn. You are the fuckin hypocrite

    • 10
      Hoopie

      RC …go look up the word “analogy”, then come back and apologize.

      If you weren’t dissing the LSU fan to insinuate that it excused the Bama fan …then why even bring it up? You absolutely did try to insinuate such and there is no logical explanation otherwise.

  6. 11
    RC

    You’re full of Shit, Hoopie, and maybe you need to revisit an “analogy.” you’re trying to tell me gang beatings, lynchings, and castrations are similar to junk exposure on a drunk ass? There’s no excuse for such comparison, dumb ass!

    As far as the CR’s objectivity, we are FAR MORE fair & balanced than the War Eagle Reader that thinks Punt Bama Punt is ANALOGOUS to the USA defeat of Russia in Hockey OR Inside the Auburn Tigers and the Opelika Times which rewarded a People’s National Championship to Auburn in 2004.

    Stop saying you’re only on here defending AU. That trashy institution is not worth defending

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