Q: What is the point of the book? What did you hope to say?
FINEBAUM: Well, it was a couple of books in one. I mean, the original idea was to make it autobiographical but bring the SEC and the radio show in. I frankly didn’t think my story was all that interesting. I thought the SEC was a much bigger vehicle, and we started thinking about the launch of the network, timing it, and that’s really the genesis of that.
And then the GameDay thing happened, so we used GameDay as the basic point or the jumping off point of the narrative week by week with GameDay.
Q: Then you had that great finale of the Alabama‑Auburn game. You really couldn’t have scripted it any better for a book.
FINEBAUM: No, it was pretty dramatic.
Q: What was behind the decision to write quite a bit about your personal life? Your father died young, and it sounds like you had a mother that could be difficult.
FINEBAUM: Yeah, I’ve had more reaction to that than anything else because most of the other stuff people know. They didn’t know this part. I’ll never forget we were sitting on my couch in Birmingham, and Gene was asking me a bunch of questions in terms of the proposal. He goes, ‘Paul, tell me some more about your life.’
I said, ‘Honestly, Gene, I just don’t really feel comfortable about all this.’
He said, ‘Hell, Paul, this book is about you. You’d better start opening up or we’re not getting the proposal done.’
The point was you have to talk. It wasn’t easy for me. I told him everything there was to say about my life. I was very surprised that I’d opened up that door, but once I did, I figured people, if they’re interested in me and interested in the subject, then I should be honest about it.
Q: Obviously you feel very strongly about the SEC. It’s been pretty much your professional career. For someone like me who lives in Big Ten country and is tired of the SEC winning National Championships every year, why would a non‑SEC person read this book?
FINEBAUM: Well, I think it’s a good question. Yeah, the book is based in the South, but I dedicated the book to college football fans. To me it’s about the sport, it’s not only about the SEC.
We talk a lot about what was the intent of the book? Was this going to be obnoxious, in your face, or was it going to be fun? The goal was to make it fun. Yeah, there’s some shots at the Big Ten and other leagues, but I’m not trying to make people mad. I’m trying to make people laugh.
Q: What are the chords that you’ve struck with this book?
FINEBAUM: Well, when we first started talking about it, I think it really would be sort of a Big Ten versus SEC thing, but it really didn’t turn out that way. I think in all candor, the Pac 12 is the greatest threat to the SEC, and that’s because I think there are multiple teams out there right now who have a chance.
Listen, I know what the book title says. Some of that was done for impact. But I am also a college football analyst, even though I work for the SEC Network. I also analyze for ESPN, and I think you have to be broad‑based, and one thing I’ve always tried to be in my writing and my radio career is just to be honest. I mean, there’s a lot of good football out there. I happen to think the SEC is the best. That’s not a unique opinion by any stretch.
Q: You are going to have quite a presence on the SEC Network. How much is the adjustment having cameras in there with you?
FINEBAUM: Yeah, we’ve had about a month’s worth of live rehearsals, so to speak. We’ve been on ESPNU and ESPN2, which is good. I feel a lot more comfortable. First couple of days, it was just like, ‘Oh, goodness. It’s different.’ Radio is a very laid‑back ‑‑ in my mind. I’m reading, I’m just kind of concentrating. This is a little different being in front of the camera.
Mike & Mike don’t worry about the camera, Cowherd plays a little bit more to the camera. You have to acknowledge the camera, but hopefully once we start going for four hours a day (on a regular basis), it’s more about the conversation.
Q: You are known for being outspoken. How will that work on a network with the SEC’s name on it?
FINEBAUM: What I’ve been told, is we are going to be able to do the same thing on this program we’ve always done. There are a lot of people out there waiting for a train wreck or waiting to see what happens when we criticize a coach or a president or an athletic director. Sure, I covered sports for a long time. That’s what I would be looking for.
And I don’t know what the answer to that is, but I intend to keep doing the same thing I’ve always done. My bosses to a person have all told me, ‘We want you to be you. We’re not asking you to be a shill, we’re not asking you to be a house organ, we’re asking you to do a show under the same auspices and the same guidelines that you’ve always done.’