Paul Finebaum recently signed a $500,000 book deal with Harper Collins for a memoir about his popular sports radio show. Provisionally titled "Is This Thing On? Laughs, Litigation, and Life On The Air", the book will detail his youth, his rise to fame as a reporter, and finally his tumultuous career as "the most dangerous man in radio."
An exclusive excerpt from the memoir follows.
My first memory of my eighth year was one that would determine my whole life.
It was 1963, and my father took me along on a business trip to Dallas. Dallas. For a wide-eyed kid from Memphis going to Dallas might as well have been a trip to Timbuktu. There wasn't a river, men wore big cowboy hats, and I half-expected John Wayne to ride a horse down the street.
The Lone Star State had this tiny boy from West Tennessee seeing stars, including one very literal one: Oklahoma football coach and legend Bud Wilkinson.
My daddy and I were walking to lunch from our hotel and decided to stop at a bookstore. My father, poor soul, probably always secretly wanted a quarterback. But he knew what he had: a child who loved books, particularly books about history and the men who made it. Whenever we could, wherever we were, my father always made time for his son to play a few downs on the gridiron of the mind.
My poor, poor father.
I was looking through a pile of Zane Grey novels when I noticed him. I recognized the Sooner's brilliant head man immediately by his hair. He had an immaculately pomaded head of hair and a huge championship ring on his finger. He, too, was paging through a Western.
He noticed me, too.
"Little boy, you know why I only wear one of my title rings?"
I was stunned.
"Because the missus doesn't like the feel of it, and neither does my girlfriend."
He winked, and then smiled. I introduced him to my father. The two spoke for a while. I have covered many men in my career, but none showed the kind of grace and class Bud Wilkinson did that day to an awestruck little boy. He signed my copy of Riders of the Purple Sage. It's first page reads:
"To Paul, a fine young cowboy I met on the Texas plains. Boomer Sooner, Bud Wilkinson."
I never saw him again, but I have all the memories I need in that battered, yellowed copy of a cowboy tale I keep on my desk to this day. I walked into that bookstore a little boy, but left as a sportswriter. For that I can thank Bud Wilkinson, the finest gentleman to ever walk a sideline.
That wasn't the highlight of my trip to Dallas, however.
That would be the time I spent murdering the 35th President of the United States with a long-range rifle.
Paul Finebaum's memoir will be released in full sometime in Spring 2014. PUBLISHER'S NOTE: as this is an early draft, some details may follow, and any similarities to the living or dead are purely conincidental. Follow him @finebaum on Twitter.