Tuesday, December 4, 2012

'New Yorker' Profiles Radio’s Paul Finebaum

The Paul Finebaum Radio Network, which emanates from Birmingham’s WJOX, attracts nearly a quarter of the adult male listeners in Birmingham—by comparison, Mike Francesca, in New York, gets five percent—with a broad demographic range.

According to the New Yorker article Finebaum is, by his own admission, an unlikely candidate for the voice of the South: he is fifty-seven, Jewish, and bald, prefers MSNBC to ESPN, and expresses surprise that he has not ended up in a more academic profession (during one show, he made a reference to Sartre’s “No Exit” to explain his trouble ending an irritating interview).

Boisterous radio callers are hardly a new phenomenon, but Finebaum’s have developed a particular reputation for volume, crudeness, and blind loyalty to their teams of choice.  Some call multiple times a day. Some write out scripts. They have names like Moondog and Legend and Charles Allen Head, who calls nearly every week to deliver an original, football-themed poem.

Finebaum thinks of his show as a soap opera, on which he is the lead writer, conversing intelligently with his more lucid callers while also pushing the plot to the edges of sensibility.

Writer Reeves Wiedeman discusses Finebaum’s background and career, offers an overview of the rivalry between the football teams of Auburn University and the University of Alabama that animates Finebaum’s show, and introduces some of Finebaum’s most well-known callers, several of whom have become local celebrities themselves, because of their calls to the show.

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