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Finebaum’s ‘hole story … but is he sticking to it?

Xs mark the spot.
X marks the what?

Why didn’t any beat reporters touch the mysterious “Trooper Taylor said the n-word” subject during this week’s press conference with Auburn’s head coach Gene Chizik? Maybe because there was nothing to say.

Why would the Opelika-Auburn News‘ reporter Andrew Gribble not be asked about Taylor’s “non-word” on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network on Tuesday, Sept. 22, when it seems that the entire show Monday, Sept. 21, was devoted to it?

Why are there now four ominous red Xs where Monday’s archived show should be on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network’s Web site?

Why? Why? Why?

I’m talking about what appears to be an attempt to create and foster a story Monday on Paul Finebaum’s radio show that might have backfired on the host, Paul Finebaum. The story? That Internet message board(s) were abuzz that Auburn’s assistant offensive coach Trooper Taylor said “nigga” when referring to Mike McNeil. Taylor was miked for a ESPN2 segment before the game against West Virginia to show his enthusiasm and the close relationship between himself and Auburn players.

Taylor was not on Monday’s show. But he has said repeatedly now that he said “the kid’s name.”

Could Finebaum be in trouble over something that was said on his show about something that was not actually said by Taylor? I can’t seem to find out now because I can’t listen to the show! It’s gone. Erased. I’m trying to investigate something with a huge piece of the puzzle that is missing! Help!

Repeated calls for comment from The Paul Finebaum Radio Network were not returned by the time this story was published.

I want to know:

  • Who was on the show Monday? Were there any “experts”?
  • What was said?
  • What message boards were referenced?
  • Former coach Pat Dye is usually on Finebaum’s Monday program, so did he weigh in?

I’m looking around and all I’m seeing is the scorched earth after the bomb.

I’d look on Internet message boards for the answers, but I’d like to steer clear of using Finebaum’s methods of investigation.

So can Finebaum stand behind what he pushed on his show Monday? It seems not.

Jerry said it best: “The idea that a coach as image-conscious as Taylor would drop the n-word while knowingly wearing a mic for a nationally broadcast football game is just kind of dumb, if you ask me.”

Because of angry e-mails, Fox 6 WBRC’s Rick Karle “apologized” on the Fox6 Sports Blog about his TV appearance with Finebaum where he “simply asked Finebaum about the story without getting Trooper Taylor’s side of the story.” Karle is a self-described “co-hort” of the radio show host.

Karle’s “apology” seems to be directed to Auburn fans “who feel the fact that I raised this Trooper Taylor story to my co-hort Paul Finebaum on TV was not only unfair but unprofessional. After respondong [sic] to every e-mail I received, I have come to the conclusion that our Fox6 viewers bring up some valid points.”

The Birmingham News‘ Kevin Scarbinsky briefly touched on the subject the day after in column and video form. It was a column about the positive impact that Taylor has had on the Tigers, recruits and fans. About the dreaded “n-word”? He delivers a “nothing to see here.”

Jay G. Tate said on his blog Wednesday that he “expected The TV People to ask Chizik about Trooper Taylor, whom Paul Finebaum portrayed as racist, but that didn’t happen. I didn’t ask because I don’t think the ESPN clip included any untoward language — let alone racist rhetoric. As noted yesterday, O-A News ace Andrew Gribble went on Paul Finebaum’s show yesterday and wasn’t asked about Trooper Taylor. I find that odd. I also consider that confirmation that Finebaum knows the story isn’t legitimate. He doesn’t want to get crossed up by someone on the ground in Auburn. See what I mean?”

Montgomery’s WSFA 12 News did a short report and reaction on Wednesday from Coach Taylor:

If you listen to any sports talk radio the past two days you know that coach Trooper Taylor is the hot topic. The fiery Auburn assistant coach wore a microphone at last week’s game against West Virginia. Some callers thought they heard Coach Taylor use a racial slur when speaking to Auburn defensive back Mike McNeil. Taylor says, no way.

WSFA reporter: What was said when ESPN had the mike and people are wondering what was said?

Taylor: Well, I’ll tell you what I said. The kid’s name was said. And like I was taught a long time ago, my father and my mother both told me, you listen with your heart and not just with your ears. So the people that wanted to hear that, that’s on their heart in my opinion and I can promise you that was not what was said. I said the kid’s name and we did a little arm lock and that was it.”

ABC 33/40’s Mike Raita said in his TV report on Tuesday:

Trooper Taylor did say the “N word,” but it wasn’t the N word some people want him to have said. It started on the Internet and spread to talk radio: accusations that the Auburn assistant coach was caught using a racial slur during a taped segment during the ESPN2 broadcast Saturday. … Forget that he knew he had the mike on. Forget that ESPN would have previewed the audio and just listen and listen closely.

I spoke with Kim Belton [ESPN’s] producer for the [Auburn vs. West Virginia] game on Saturday who also happens to be African-American and he told me “I definitely wouldn’t put something of ill color, so to speak, on the air like that. I’m very sensitive to that kind of thing. What we heard was ‘Neil’ because he was talking to Mike McNeil.” Then Belton added, “People hear what they want to hear. If I wanted to hear that word, that’s what I’d hear.”

Besides Tate, why are these sports reporters not calling out “Finebaum” by name? That is very, very odd to me. They keep saying “sports radio.” Paul “Sports Radio” Finebaum?

You know what’s funny? Look at this gem on the “Finebaum bio” page:

In 2008, Columbia University named Finebaum’s Show as one of the winners of it’s annual “Let’s Do it Better!” Workshop on Journalism, Race and Ethnicity. The award singles out newspaper, broadcast and web reporting that fosters coherent, authentic coverage of race reporting. “Finebaum was selected for providing a strong and sometimes controversial view on racial issues in sports through his multi-media contributions that include the ‘Paul Finebaum Radio Network,’ his Web site, Finebaum.com and a twice-weekly syndicated sports column.”

I’m sure Finebaum’s reason for bringing it up Monday was devoted to fostering “coherent, authentic coverage of race reporting.”

So why was the subject breached in the first place? The “story” had no legs. It was a non-story quickly discredited by reporters, talk show hosts and others willing to listen to both sides (once “Sports Radio” established that there was more than one).

Finebaum’s show Monday caused a short-lived distraction (of course I know that is his raison d’être, I’m not an idiot), but this time it seemed particularly vicious and aimed at a very positive character walking the sidelines for Auburn this year — Trooper Taylor. But why?

[Major HT to The Corner of Wire Road and Shug for keeping its readers hip to the links and developing story.]

About J.M. Comer

J.M. graduated from Auburn in 1998 and again in 2000 with bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. He is currently a copy editor in Washington, D.C., and lives in Baltimore, Land of Pleasant Living. If you find yourself in beautiful Baltimore, he recommends Faidley's crab cakes, a stop at Atomic Books, an O's game at Camden Yards and plenty of Natty Boh.

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