Finebaum brings to Vicksburg a career of stories

Published 10:22 pm Saturday, January 14, 2017

Paul Finebaum is a name that brings about a few emotions among sports fans.

Whether you love him or hate him, the author, radio and television personality has a lot to say about sports, and he visited Vicksburg Friday night to talk with locals and share his opinions on the current state of college football.

Finebaum stood on stage and paced back and forth as he spoke during the informal discussion based on questions the crowd had for him. Questions ranged from whether the final play of the National Championship game was a pick play— “Officials say it was not a pick play. I don’t think it was an illegal play,” if Dan Mullen is the quarterback whisperer— “He must be,” why Texas A&M can’t turn high revenue into football success— “I believe Texas A&M has the potential to be Alabama’s equal in the SEC when it comes to success,” and what Tim Tebow is really like — “He has done a lot of things for a lot of people. He is unlike the rest of us,” among other topics.

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WaterView Casino hosted the question and answer event for the ESPN host with a crowd of around 100 people eager to hear what he had to say. Finebaum took on the Q&A session almost like a stand-up comedy set with one-liners and quick quips that kept the audience laughing and engaged.

He told  story about how some blame him for Lane Kiffin being fired from the University of Southern California because of a comment he made on College Gameday calling Kiffin the Miley Cyrus of college football. Later he launched into the story of the infamous call into his show from Harvey Updyke claiming he poisoned the Toomer’s Corner trees in Auburn.

When someone asked if the SEC had lost its reign as the top conference in college football, some gasped at his answer.

“As far as the SEC being the best conference, it’s not. It pains me to say that because I wrote a book two years ago titled ‘My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why the SEC Still Rule College Football.’ Thank goodness we got our money up front,” Finebaum said.

Much of the discussion covered the University of Alabama.

Finebaum was asked to explain Nick Saban’s process and to compare him to Paul “Bear” Bryant. Finebaum said there are major differences between the two. He said Saban has the edge because he has won more championships in a shorter amount of time, but Bryant had something Saban doesn’t.

“Coach Bryant could walk in this room right now, and if he did it’d be a major story, and it was like Moses parting the Red Sea. Nobody had more presences, more charisma, more of an aura around him than Paul Bryant. Nick Saban could walk in here and you might miss him, and I’m not saying that because he’s 5 foot 9 inches. He doesn’t have a presence. He’s an introverted person,” Finebaum said.

Super fan Dorothy Miller was so excited to meet her favorite show host for the first time.

“I have been in love with his voice for years,” Miller said. “He’s a great guy.”

She said at 73, this is something she can check off her bucket list. She enjoyed herself and even got to ask him a question about Tennessee coach Butch Jones.

“It was wonderful. It was so relaxed with him talking to the people and the people just being able to ask questions,” Miller said.

When Finebaum was asked to come to Vicksburg at the end of the football season, he took the casino up or their offer.

“Someone called me, and it just sounded like a lot of fun. I have never been here before,” Finebaum said. “I just wanted to do something different. The football season ended, and we were able to do it.”

Finebaum said he had planned on coming early to take a tour of town, but he had to work on an ESPN show until mid-afternoon and didn’t get to town until shortly before the event.

“That’s my biggest regret, but I’m coming back. I’ve heard about Vicksburg my entire life, and I really want to see the historical sites,” Finebaum said.

He was gracious to the crowd as the night came to a close, and said he enjoyed his time at the casino.

“I really appreciate all of you coming out. This has been fun for me to do something a little bit different end unique, and you’ve been just an unbelievable fantastic audience. I thank you for being here,” he said.