Front & Center: Paul Finebaum on ESPN Films’ ‘Roll Tide/War Eagle’

Paul Finebaum

Join us for another edition of the Front & Center podcast as we welcome radio host Paul Finebaum to discuss ESPN Films’ “Roll Tide/War Eagle” documentary that debuts tonight on ESPN (8 p.m. ET).

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Finebaum is featured prominently throughout the film. In our podcast, he discusses the fistfight that almost ensued after the film’s screening last week; Harvey Updyke; and the devastating April 27 tornado that — at least for a few weeks — united the two fan bases of Alabama and Auburn.

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  • Dianne Bryars

    Dear Paul – I was thrilled with the ESPN television presentation, Roll Tide/War Eagle. I have 4 grown sons and would love to purchase a DVD of this show for each of them for Christmas. I do hope a DVD is available. Thank you, Dianne Bryars, Mobile, Al. – Roll Tide!

    • Laurel Daggett

      Hi. The DVD is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. Enjoy!

  • IronBowlFan

    I do not like that the AU/UA rivalry has now been summed up and fed to the masses from the aspect of the Finebaum smut machine. He is NOT the authority on the topic. While he does have knowledge and experience to provide real insight and content to such a piece, that’s not what he’s done here. Basically, he and ESPN portrayed AU/UA fans as a bunch of lunatics. The hand-full of nutballs who call his show do not accurately reflect the real rivalry. I have always given him a pass because his Jerry Springer-like radio show was basically his gimmick. He has played it to the hilt. He has exploited an angle. Good for him. Make your money. Intelligent people know what’s really going on with his radio show, they take it or leave it. It certainly is not a sports show. It’s a carnival, a freak show. When ESPN anoints him as an authority and makes his zoo-like show exhibit A on the AU/UA rivalry, well, that’s too far. Auburn and Alabama have the greatest rivalry in college football. It deserves better than to be viewed through Finebaum’s dirty lens.

    • David Scott

      Thanks for your comments IronBowlFan. Sorry to hear your disappointment but after watching the film several times, I think you may be neglecting the other voices present in the film and the entire picture that is presented by the film’s director. But it’s passion and dedication like yours that ultimatley make the rivalry so vibrant and worthy of the film, “Roll Tide/War Eagle.” Appreciate you visiting the Front Row.

  • Colin O’Hara

    IronBowlFan hit it right on the head – ESPN and Finebaum did a lousy job of depicting the true Alabama/Auburn rivaly and the fans. How can you cover an Alabama/Auburn rivalry by giving about 60 seconds to Bear Bryant and 60 seconds to Shug Jordan. Are you kidding me? They give Finebaum about 30 full minutes, the nut that poisoned the trees at Tillman’s Corner about 20 minutes, and a married couple (the guy was a Bamma fan and the girl was an Auburn fan) about 9 minutes. This show was the worst ESPN ticket show done to date.

  • Bama Fan

    Was looking forward to watching Roll Tide War Eagle for a long time and feel that it was ruined with way too much Harvey Updike! I’m a Bama fan who can’t stand AU myself, but would never stoop so low as to “KILL” AU’s tradition of rolling Toomer’s Corner, yet alone part of Alabama’s environment! Hope all Bama fans aren’t judged by the actions of this asinine individual!

    • David Scott

      I too hope that viewers don’t paint all ‘Bama fans with broad strokes – having spent time in SEC country I can attest to both Auburn and Alabama fans being some of the kindest and most passionate.

  • TrojanmanDan

    How can you watch this film and not see how guilty Cam Newton is. Disgusting.

    • David Scott

      That’s one view, but I would think there are several opposing views.

  • Kathy Lewis McCool

    Dear Sirs: After watching ESPN’s special last night, our family was saddened and disturbed to hear Mr. Updyke invoke the name of our father and grandfather, Tommy Lewis, as his source of inspiration and passion for Alabama football. Dad’s off-the-sideline play in the 1954 Cotton Bowl has been a source of scorn, ridicule, and to many, heroics over the years, but no matter what the reaction, he responded with grace, humility and often, self-deprecating humor. Indeed, there is no doubt that he was “too full of Bama” but what most folks do not know is that he was also “too full” of our mother, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchild, nieces, nephews, children-in law, friends, pets, customers, charities, and everything he touched. He had enough passion and love to go around for everybody. His deep and abiding love for the University of Alabama was perhaps most evident to those who do not know him the way we do, however, and this is why we are writing today.

    Dad had an abundance of beloved Auburn friends. He had great respect for Coach Jordan and admonished us every season to “pull for Auburn when they are not playing us. Always be proud of your state schools.” He was a stranger to the bitterness the rivalry has taken on in recent years, and would have been puzzled and disappointed by it. Mr. Updyke’s hateful act perpetrated upon Auburn’s proud old oaks at Toomer’s Corner would have appalled him, as it has stunned and horrified us all—Auburn and Alabama supporters alike. For Mr. Updyke to compare his passion for Alabama to Tommy Lewis’s is heartbreaking to us. It is our sincere hope that our Auburn friends will not associate Mr. Updyke’s misguided act of “passion” with our Dad’s love of Alabama. We harbor no ill will for Mr. Updyke and hope for his continued healing and rehabilitation. But mostly, we hope for the health of the beautiful oaks at Toomer’s Corner. Dad has long since lost his memory and lives in a nursing home, but we know beyond a shadow of a doubt, he would be among the first to fight for those storied oaks at our proud state school—Auburn University.

    Mr. Updyke—there’s a long stretch of highway between “too full of Bama” and a deliberate and pre-meditated act of hatred. Tommy Lewis did not hate anyone, including Auburn.

    Kathy Lewis McCool
    David Lewis
    Scott Lewis
    Joey Nees
    Robert Lewis
    Callie Lewis Tubb
    Brandon Lewis
    Bill Lewis
    Lori Lewis Brown

    • David Scott

      Not much to say after tha impassioned note. We appreciate your thoughts and thank you for sharing.

  • Bob Borzak

    For the most part I enjoyed the story on the AU-UA rivalry. I went to school at AU and lived there for 17 years and have a great respect for this rivalry. However ESPN did a disservice to the story by giving Harvey Updyke too much face time; that is exactly what fans like him are looking for and unfortunately ESPN accommodated him. My experience is the Updyke’s of the world do not represent the fan base of either team.

    • David Scott

      Thanks for your comment Bob. Understandable, but the director and producers saw the need for Updyke’s inclusion as a way of expanding on the incedible story.

  • mellissa fisher

    I was able to catch the last half i’d the documentary this morning 11/12/11. My question is, when is this documentary scheduled come on again? Thank you,
    Mellissa Fisher

  • Kathaleen Gonzalez

    My son, who is a junior at the University of Alabama called me to ask me to record this show. I am the Alabamian native…he was born and raised in Orange County California. He was brought up hearing my stories of the south, the good and the bad. I told him of the pride most of us have in pulling ourselves up from a sad past of racism. But this show mostly made me sad. The people who call into the Paul Finebaum show are mostly uneducated people who was told since their birth they are either a Bama fan or an Auburn fan. Not ever Auburn and Alabama fan is like these people. My son originally went to Auburn to check out the school and we all joked that he was going to be a Tiger! I supported him because it was his decision, but I would always be a Bama fan and a UAB basketball fan because that is where I went to school. Then as a surprise he applied at Alabama and was accepted. He has fallen in love with the South, with UA and SEC football. I was upset that the TIDE FOR TOOMERS was not even talked about. Our family here in Southern California and in Alabama donated money to TIDE FOR TOOMERS and even had all their friends pray for those trees and for the Auburn fans that was so hurt by that horrible event. Why wasn’t that brought into the show? I love the South, I love Alabama and I love SEC football. This show had some good things about the rivalry and how the Auburn family came to Tuscaloosa to help. My son was in that tornado and I thought when he came home after that that he would transfer to USC. But he said he couldn’t wait to get back to Alabama and the start of his Junior year. I know there is racism in Alabama, not as bad as when I was a young girl. But there is racism in California because I witness it everyday. It is wrong and sad and represents the worst of the worst. Why didn’t ya interview Keith Jackson, why didn’t ya add a balance of people and comments that are not the nuts that believe Alabama/Auburn football is a reason to fight? I love Alabama Football, ROLL TIDE ROLL! I love Auburn when they are not playing Alabama, WAR EAGLE! This is from a woman born and raised in Alabama and is a real ALABAMIAN!

  • Demosthenes9

    IronBowlFan,

    I grew up across the river in Columbus, Ga and don’t have a dog in the fight. That said, I felt the film was pretty even handed in it’s treatment. Like it or not, with UA/Au, there ARE a lot of nuts and they are much more intense than most other rivalries.

    When I lived in Ga, we had a little rivalry with AU, but it was nothing like this. Similarly for the rivalry between UGA and Ga Tech.

    I now live in Ky where we have a rivalry between Univ of Louisville and the Univ of Kentucky. Yeah, it’s a fairly intense rivalry, but again, it pales in comparison to AU / UA.

  • Monte

    Off topic a little…where in the world can listen to that piano verson of “Sweet Home Alabama” again. That music and performer was great. Please tell us more about that.

    • Laurel Daggett

      The artist is Elew. You can find him on Youtube. Thanks for writing.

  • ehsrollon

    To the family of Mr. Tommy Lewis, in the words of the British House of Commons … “Hear, Hear”!
    Thank You!

  • neal

    If I was an Alabama fan I would be very disappointed with ESPN. The film gives the idiot tree guy way too much face time and goes out of its way to highlight fringe lunatic fans. Michigan/ Ohio St. and the U films did not use same sensationalism tactics. Saban, Chizik, and state of Alabama officals have to have mixed feelings about state. I guess when your conference wins the last three heisman trophies,last five nationals championships and holds the top three BCS spots, the haters will have to start attacking something else.

  • neal

    Correction: Saban, Chizik, and state officals have to have mixed feelings about the film.