The columnist and sports talk-show host can bring out the best and the worst in listeners who rant and rave about perceived indignities Finebaum heaps on their favorite team.
When on a Birmingham-based radio program, he offered a forum for true fans and crackpot wanna-bes, and he egged them on by taking issue with them.
Remember Harvey Updyke? It was Finebaum that Updyke called to brag about poisoning the trees at Toomer’s Corner.
Recently, when Finebaum signed a multi-year contract with ESPN, those who love him went into something akin to mourning while the other side happily bid him farewell.
But he isn’t gone.
On June 22, Finebaum will moderate a panel discussion on the integration of the college football programs at Auburn and Alabama.
The group, which includes people who were playing and coaching at the time, will meet at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, site of the 1963 bombing that killed four little girls — one of the events being marked as the city of Birmingham commemorates the 50th anniversary of the year that shaped the civil rights movement.
It is unlikely that this discussion will put to rest the debate over whether Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was overly reluctant to integrate his team or whether Auburn coach Shug Jordan supported integration as a way to get players who would help him beat the Tide.
However, there is much for us to focus on about how sports helped integrate the South in general and Alabama in particular.
Choosing Finebaum to moderate is a well-calculated publicity move.
It also is a good move in other ways. Finebaum can keep a discussion going, and he can ask the questions others won’t ask. This page only hopes he will.
Tickets to the event are free. (Go to http://50yearsforward.eventbrite.com.) We can hope ESPN or Alabama Public Television will broadcast the discussion or film it for a later date.
Whether you’re a Finebaum fan or a college football fan, it could be well worth watching.