Tag Archives: college football

Paul Finebaum Has Sold Out

Here in Alabama, we don’t allow the government to forcibly confiscate tax money and spend it on higher education because we are especially invested in the idea of the humanities or training our workers. That would be Socialism and something that could be better accomplished by private institutions.

Instead, we let the state take our money and spend it on schools for two reasons: 1) Tradition. That’s how it was done before time began. And 2) College football. The NCAA has some rules and we need to have state-funded brick buildings and well-manicured green lawns and the illusions of academia because that’s how they let us have the football. Women’s sports? It’s because Title 9 says we have to have them in order to have the football. We need the government to perform this function because, what are we? Vandy?

That is why in FY2013, the state legislature appropriated $3,263,719,262 to the University of Alabama system and $1,103,638,219 to the Auburn University system and a mere $164,440,991 to Alabama State University. S-E-C. S-E-C.

All of which bring us through the Sunni-Shiite cultural stuff of Iron Bowl loyalties (I am on the Crimson Tide side of this particular arrangement) and into my point of the day, which is that Paul Finebaum has sold out. Finebaum is a ringleader of a lot of this college football stuff, a radio talk show host with a knack for simultaneously humoring and inflaming idiots. If you don’t know who he is, this New Yorker profile from last year ought to give you the gist of it.

The fact that there IS a New Yorker profile demonstrates the first part of my argument, which is the irrefutable fact that Finebaum has gone from a city newspaper columnist into a statewide radio figure into (now) a national television presence now featured on ESPN’s college football GameDay™ monolith and most of their various media tentacles. And for that, I say “Good for Paul.” He’s good at what he does and deserves money and acclaim. He’s not the vile kind of sports talking head that you might associate with names like Bayless or Cowherd or any of the other yammering sewers employed by The Worldwide Leader™. I don’t care if the Finebaum show is on WJOX or ESPN or a podcast on Slate (Hang Up and Listen is very good). If Finebaum is talking college football, I’m interested in listening. And his callers remind me of parts of Alabama that rarely get much attention, certainly not the kind of attention where people care about the opinions of people that live there.

So, I think I shared a kind of pride that our very own Paaawwwl (to borrow the plaintive and sometimes-furious intonation of his callers) has made it onto the big time, soaring ascendant like the SEC itself, sharing his opinions first with a satellite radio audience and now with a national television audience. Our regional quirks are now causing the Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas and USC fan bases to ask if they don’t actually, in fact, prefer the football played on Sundays.

I still listen to Finebaum’s radio show — not every day, but as time allows, more often during football season — sometimes several times a week. I’ve listened as long as I can remember, even though Wikipedia tells me that his show wasn’t syndicated until 2001, and so I probably didn’t actually listen in high school. But his voice and his memorable cast of callers are part of the landscape here (even if the callers are increasingly annoying because they have a warped sense of their own celebrity, causing them to play to types the same way people do on Honey Boo Boo or Duck Dynasty). That history is part of what makes it painful when Paul becomes less of the attack dog print journalist making droll quips at callers and more of the mega-connected friend of the well-heeled elites of the College Football Industrial Complex.

Beneath the surface of the wry provocateur cooking up the angry froth of quasi-lucid callers, Finebaum was occasionally a strident moral voice. But it became easy to forget this fact until he got called out two days ago by a caller who wanted to talk to him about a call in Saturday’s Alabama-Texas A&M game. I don’t have the audio clip readily available here, but it’s archived somewhere in ESPN’s online Temple of Doom. The gist is this: An Alabama player (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, yes, that is his name) was penalized for “targeting” an A&M receiver on a play and briefly ejected. I say “briefly” because officials used instant replay to examine the hit and determined that it was not intentional “targeting,” and overruled the ejection. However, the 15 yard penalty would remain.

How, the nation asked all at once, was it possible for a review to absolve the player of an ejectable offense, but allow the penalty against the team to remain? Evidently, replay officials are not allowed to reverse this kind of penalty — just the ejection. Those are the rules and that was that. Alabama went on to win a thriller.

Callers to Finebaum wanted to talk about this scenario and Paul, having lost of lot of his famous patience with angry rednecks in recent years, was having none of it. He just kept reasserting that “rules are rules” until finally someone (I wish I could remember this caller’s name) said (I’m paraphrasing a bit here), “Paul, why don’t you do what you used to do when you were a print journalist and grab onto this issue and carry the torch and advocate for a change to the rules?”

Paul had nothing. The caller was right. Paul had lost the ability to demand reform as he once did in the role of a journalist and could only resort to the authority figure’s favorite default rationale for things: “The rules are the rules.”

He was totally unwilling to entertain any sort of call for larger reform of the rules, any sort of normative discussion about what the rules should be.

This observation caused me to look back at other recent Finebaum foibles with a new cognitive light. When he was schooled by Desmond Howard on the GameDay™ set on the subject of paying players? Same deal. Howard was saying that players were providing free labor in a system reaping billions of dollars from their dangerous work. Fact. Finebaum’s response? The 1950s line that scholarships constitute compensation. Howard’s outrage over the fact that college student-athletes are some of the only people in the world who are not allowed to profit from commercial uses of their own likeness? Finebaum: “The rules are the rules.”

This limp defense of the poverty-exploiting status quo is not befitting of someone once considered a journalist. It’s one thing to have a TV gig but maintain a reporter’s personality (see also: Pardon the Interruption). But when you are hanging out with university chancellors, heads of athletic conferences, and ESPN suits all the time, you can’t let the expense account lunches and nice shoes prevent you from having some kind of idealism and passion about what the world ought to look like. You can’t (or shouldn’t) divert otherwise valid criticism leveled at the system, even if that system is paying you lots of money.

Or to put it in the words of one of the regular callers, “Aw c’mon Paaawwwl!”

Rumors – July 2013

Alienation has been one of the ongoing themes of Lost in Montgomery since it was launched in September of 2008. This was not because we were particularly anti-social folks or especially misanthropic, but simply a product of our efforts to figure out life in a new city. Montgomery was unique and mysterious, both of which are conditions that are bound to deteriorate inevitably with natural social and cultural adaptation. 215 posts later, we are much more plugged into our new city than we once were — although we often still find our home to be somewhat bewildering.

So instead of posts like “What’s the deal with this park?” we are now much more often to say, “Here’s what we are hearing…”

And since it’s the Internet, there’s got to be a time and place for scraps of information to be assembled into a larger speculative narrative. Here, in that vein, are some things that we (being only mildly “connected” to people who know things) have been hearing lately about things that matter:

Oak Park — We love Oak Park. It’s weird, but great. It’s obviously the crown jewel of the city park system, yet has been allowed to fall into a (somewhat exaggerated) state of disrepair. Back in 2011, there was a shooting there, which freaked people out, but could have happened anywhere crowds gather (it was at a family reunion). The park is not (as far as we can tell) and more unsafe than any other public space in Montgomery.

But the beloved park has been the source of some wagging tongues lately. First, the city has been talking about moving the park’s planetarium (which is owned by Troy State) downtown, likely to the Questplex at Court Square. That would take a big attraction out of the park, although we agree that the planetarium does need some upgrading to remain current and fun.

We also heard that two other entities were wanting to buy (or take?) large chunks of the park from the city. The rumor we heard was that Alabama State wanted part of it and Jackson Hospital had their eye on the land for expansion.

Obviously, the city would be foolish to give away or sell any part of its best park. They have been ringing the bell lately for us to all give our personal information to the Coca-Cola company in exchange for a chance to “vote” on winning some money for the park. Click click click to vote for corporate money, sure, but how about we don’t do that and just spend tax money to improve the park and make it an enjoyable resource … since that is what tax money is for. Parks are a community good. They should be protected, whether or not the corn syrup barons from Atlanta give Montgomery free money or not. Also: hands off, ASU and Jackson. Oak Park will rise again.

Anita Archie — So we wrote before about how major city leaders (Chad Emerson and Jeff Downes) were leaving for cities that (we guess) they like more than Montgomery. That’s cool. Good jobs for them or whatever.

Well, Mayor Strange has replaced those two with Anita Archie (who’ll become Strange’s “executive assistant,” which sounds too much like “secretary” for someone of her caliber) and Mac McLeod (who’ll be “director of retail and commercial development”).

Archie comes over from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), where she was a top lobbyist for one of the most feared entities at the statehouse. Think Alabama enacts laws to cater to corporations? BCA is part of the reason why. You name it, and they have been involved in it — environmental stuff, labor stuff, tax policy, whatever. They are a main reason why Alabama is the way it is. And Archie was their “senior VP for intergovernmental affairs, advocacy and communications and legal advisor” and any other collection of titles that means “fixer” and “do not mess with.” She isn’t new to Montgomery politics because she was also ED of the Montgomery Public Housing Authority and the Riverfront Development Foundation. So she probably knows where some bodies are buried and how to get things done, even though we don’t have a ton of information about her vision for the city just yet.

McLeod solidifies the city government’s “intimate” relationship with Colonial, which is the real estate end of the company that once was akin to a sister company, Colonial Bank — which was the 6th largest bank failure in American history. I wrote a million billion words about Colonial Bank, its abandoned headquarters, its relationship to McLeod’s company, and the ties to the Hampstead Institute EAT South here. Really, it’s worth reading. It’s one of the better things I have put up on Lost in Montgomery. But if you don’t wanna, it will help you understand McLeod and the Lowders to read this article (which I link to in my post). A crooked bank! Auburn football boosters! A $1.95 million deal to buy land for a school!

Obviously none of this has been reported by the teenagers that cover local politics for The Montgomery Advertiser. They’re doing good to spell the press releases correctly. But they’re having a contest where you can send them photos of yourselves in 1980s clothes! Journalism!

the road construction on the way to Auburn – This is one where we don’t have any information. We really just want to know more. Have you seen the giant towering ramps that are being now fully constructed out on I-85 on the way to Auburn? They look like exits to take you to … what exactly? Mt. Meigs? Pike Road? Why are they building these huge loops of road? Is this what we need? More east-side sprawl? Who is paying for that? Why? I get that our fiscally conservative leaders are borrowing highway money hand-over-fist, but is this what it is building?

ASU bowl game vs. All-Star Game – Our brand new college football all-star game was really fun. We went. It was great. We hope it succeeds. But now ASU is talking about hosting some kind of bowl game in their new stadium? You know, the new stadium they inaugurated by failing to maintain one of their most important rivalries in the Turkey Day Classic? Ah, that’s some good athletic directing. Couldn’t move the game so Tuskegee could play in the playoffs. Had to just kill it.

So, the Legends Bowl? Maybe a low-rent Mountain West team versus some Sun Belt also rans? Can we support this plus our All-Star game? Who knows? The bet is that there is absolutely no limit to the appetite of people in Alabama for college football, no matter what it is. We can always look to the Papa John’s Bowl BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham for an indicator of how that might go. BBVA is pulling its sponsorship after next year? Oh. Maybe don’t look there.

New stadium ya’ll! And if the bowl game brings a parade, don’t expect to have a car waiting for you.

skate park – We have always thought that it was super cool that our city had a skate park downtown. But there is always talk in the media that it is going to be shut down. Not because the kids on skateboards are trouble-making bandits. That would be cool. No, they are always talking about shutting it down (or moving it) because it occupies some primo real estate.

To me, that’s part of what makes it great. It’s downtown and urban and a great location for people that like to skate. But first they wanted to put an apartment complex there. Rumor was, the developer pulled out because of the toxic underground pollution plume (known affectionately as “the downtown plume” or “Plumie, the shifting poison vapor trail you also mustn’t drink”). Yeah, it’s on the EPA’s radar. No, the development people don’t like you talking about it.

But what will happen to the skate park? Will the teens turn into Toxic Avengers? What about C.H.U.Ds?

Well, that’s enough for now. Leave all of your hottest new tips down in the comments section. We will either respond to them, ignore them or delete them. Love always,

Lost in Montgomery

Rusty Nail – New Orleans

Saturday is coming up. And then, after that, another Saturday. And then another, on and on, beating against us like the ceaseless tide.

Speaking of the Tide, that is the football team we pull for in the great Sunni-Shiite football wars of this state. [Sidebar: I have used that analogy multiple times to characterize the depths of the religious passion felt by college football fans in this state. It is useful to convey strong passion and the sense of the either/or binary. However, it has also resulted in several people asking me whether Bama represents the Sunni or the Shiite in the analogy, leading to some pained expressions of ignorance regarding Islamic theology, not to mention the political situations in any number of foreign countries.]

So, we pull for Bama and we happened to be in New Orleans. Perhaps you will find yourself in a similar boat, hoping to spend some part of some Big Easy Saturday in some sort of place with a television, in whose hypnotic light you hope to bask while pulling for your beloved Crimson-clad unpaid workers.

May we suggest that you find your way to 1100 Constance Street, to a bar called The Rusty Nail?

I only learned of the place when wearing my Bama shirt around town on Saturday morning. I was responding to various “Roll Tides” and such in my usual genial way, hoping not to be too much the tourist as I took the St. Charles trolley line for the first time. A woman on a bicycle not only gave me a RTR, but stopped to ask if I was going to watch the game at the Rusty Nail.

“The what?”

“Oh, dear,” she said with all of the empathy of a concerned mother, “you simply must go.”

It was as if she were ashamed of my ignorance. So I went. It was within walking distance of the place that I was standing when I received her suggestion.


A bar with bleachers. Yes!

They have bleachers in the bar. They have an amazing patio. They were grilling food on said patios, including veggie burgers. The bartenders were wearing Bama shirts. They had a half dozen TVs, all showing college football until the 2 p.m. game (versus Arkansas), at which time all TVs were flipped to the Bama game. The bar owner (named David, I think), is a Bama grad who not only stands there watching the game with the massive crowd of fans that assemble, he (and this is important) actually mutes the commercials during the breaks in the action.

It’s all well and good that this bar is where the New Orleans chapter of Bama alums likes to gather. That’s nice and it’s wonderful to watch the game with like-minded fans, wearing crimson and shaking shakers. It’s as close to a game day environment in a non-Tuscaloosa bar that I have ever experienced. But the fact that the owner mutes the commercials and plays the Alabama fight song, along with topical music, well, that’s just over the top. James Brown was in heavy rotation, and the commercial break after a Razorback TD brought us Cee Lo’s “Fuck You.”

The bar was nearly full, but not so crowded as to be uncomfortable. In case you’re wondering, yes, people really do pack out the bleachers. I didn’t take any photos (other than the one above of the empty bleachers) because I was busy getting drunk and watching the game. Folks were lively, but not out-of-hand, fueled by a steamroller of a Bama win and healthy pours from the bartenders. Did I mention that they have an immense collection of rare scotches?

Truly, this is the best bar for watching Alabama football in the nation. This owner, these bartenders, they know what’s up. I cannot highly enough recommend