Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shaking Finebaum's Hand

Its 342p on a Thursday when I type this.  My story takes us way back, back about three hours to about 1245p today.  The day that I met Paul Finebaum

Now, to say I'm a full fledged Finebaum fan is a bit of a stretch.  I enjoy his show, and because many days I get off around 2pm in the afternoon from my job, I listen in the car.  Sometimes I don't go straight home, making errand runs to the library or Target or Wal-Mart or wherever else I need to go before coming home... and in those times, I will flip the SiriusXM over to 94.5 Jox Sports Radio.

And let me tell ya, after a big win or a big loss for any of the state's big college teams, like Auburn, or ESPECIALLY Alabama, The Paul Finebaum Show might be the most entertaining time anywhere.  Because those fans that most people would prefer to remain hidden, even if they are rooting for the same team, come out of the woodwork to either complain about the officiating which caused the loss, about the sore loserdom of the other team, especially if its Auburn, or to congratulate their own team, coupled with bad officiating that almost cost them the game, plus the sore loserdom of the other team.

Many of these callers are people who call just about every day--heck, I can't even find time to blog more than two or three times per week, and some of the fans sit on hold for what must be an hour or more two, three, five times a week just to get on the air and share sometimes what amounts to 40 seconds with Finebaum.  And sometimes they call just to answer, even challenge, each other.  Occasionally, it gets personal. 

So, I'm in the store, standing behind a big espresso machine, making some mocha, steaming some milk, pulling some perfectly timed shots, and a spindly, short guy with glasses and a smooth dome came in.  He stood in line behind two women who were taking their time ordering, yet he seemed to be fine with the wait.

That looks like... wow... is that... ?

I had on a headset, so I pressed the button to talk to my fellow baristas, Melanie and Scotty2Hottie.  I whispered, "Is that Paul Finebaum?"

Melanie came back and said, "Whaaaa?" in a way that wasn't "Finebaum? What?!" but more of a "what did you say?"

I whispered a little louder, a little slower, a little more articulate, "Is... that... Paul... Finebaum?"

Melanie:  Whaaa?

So, here's how I felt...

Here's Chandler Bing.  Trapped in an ATM Vestibule.  With Jill Goodacre.
You know that episode of Friends, the one that came on in November of 1994, the one called "The One with the Blackout"?   Chandler Bing is in an ATM vestibule (is it a vestibule? maybe its an atrium?  Well, Jill says "vestibule", we go with "vestibule") when then-supermodel Jill Goodacre (who then, and now, is Mrs. Harry Connick Jr) comes in.  A blackout happens, trapping them both, as the automatic doors are locked.  Surprised by his good fortune, he calls Monica, but not wanting to alert Jill Goodacre that he's talking about her, he says in a voice that can only be duplicated if you clinch your teeth together, talk low and do your best to not move your lips while saying the follwing line:

I'm trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre

Monica replies, "What?"

Chandler sighs and says, "I'm trapped... in... an ATM vestibule... with Jill Goodacre.."

Monica replies, "Chandler, I have no idea what you are saying?!"

Chandler shouts, "Oh, put Joey on the phone!"

Joey gets on the phone, says, "Whats up buddy?" and when Chandler says, "I'm trapped... in an ATM vestibule... with Jill Goodacre!" Joey says to Ross, Rachel, Monica and Phoebe, "Chandler's trapped in an ATM vestibule with JILL GOODACRE?!?" 

Yeah, that was me today. 

Is that Paul Finebaum?

What?  Whaaa?

Is that Paul Finebaum?

Finally, Melanie says, "Yeah!  That's Paul Finebaum!  He comes in here alot in the midday."

Wait... what?  Paul Finebaum frequents the store I spend 45 hours in per week, and this is the first time I've seen him?  How did I miss this?!

Anyway, the visit was brief... he bought a grande cup of Pike Place, though I did manage to go over and shake his hand, introduce myself and tell him I enjoyed catching the show, especially days after big games for Alabama.  He laughed and said, "You shoulda heard Tuesday's show", and I replied, "Oh, I did... thats why I said that." 

He chatted for what was less than 45 seconds or so, I noticed it was close to 1, and I assumed he was headed to the station to get ready for his show.  Sad, though, because there is one question about the Bama nation I wanted to ask him.

This is a question I've posed to several Bama fans and have gotten varied answers from "you might be onto something" to "there's no way...", but if I have three minutes to talk to Finebaum, here's what I want to ask him:

We know that Roger Staubach, Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw were fantastic quarterbacks.  We know this from stories, from anecdotes, from marred highlight reels and scratchy video, from stories told by commentators that we know and trust.  We cannot know their greatness from watching them play, because either they played before some of us were even born, or at least before we were old enough to be congnizant of what a good QB looks like.

Conversely, we know that Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are fantastic quarterbacks.  We know this not only from those stories, from those anecdotes, from HD highlights run 40 times each on SportsCenter, but also from watching them play.  We know their greatness, because we've seen it with our own eyes.

Now, take Bear Bryant.  My generation knows nothing of The Bear except for what we've been told.  We read the books, we see the movies, we hear the stories told by those who were there, or by those who knew someone who was probably there.  We trust these sources, but we cannot really speak to our own witness, as we were too young, or maybe not alive.

Finally, here is Nick Saban.  Two championships in three years, fielding teams that are arguably some of the most dominant ever (did you see what they did to LSU's supposed juggernaut?).  He does not have a team that lucks out with one great player leading them to a title, a la Auburn, he has built a team that frankly, as a fan of The Go Gators, worries me a bit, because as Alabama and Florida meet in the next five straight SEC Championship games, Alabama will probably win 3. 

We don't just hear of his greatness, the evidence is there.  Like him, love him, hate him, he's got skillz. 

So, my question for Finebaum, and for you, Bama Nation, is this:  How many titles does Saban have to bring home to Tuscaloosa before the next generation looks at and reveres Saban based solely on what they have heard about him like this generation looks at and reveres Bear Bryant?  And, do you think this generation already looks at Saban as a Bear Bryant equal, even if they don't want to admit it, lest they be committing blasphemy?

Deep discussion and hard hitting questions is why you read Clouds in My Coffee... well that, and the uncanny ability to link Finebaum, Saban and Chandler Bing in the same post.  I rule.

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