SBD/October 7, 2011/Media

"OTL" Segment On Hank Williams Jr. Quickly Turns Into A Heated Scream Fest

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Guests on yesterday's "OTL" failed to stay on topic and attacked one another
Thursday's edition of ESPN's "Outside The Lines" was dedicated to the net's decision to drop Hank Williams Jr. from its "MNF" broadcasts, but one of the featured panels quickly denigrated into personal attacks on one another over Southern culture, country music and religion. The Nation's Dave Zirin in an earlier segment said Williams' song "If The South Had Won” was “profoundly offensive.” Zirin said, “You got to stand for something. Otherwise, you get to a much more frightening place where it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s all be racist, Confederate goons and see where the chips fall.’” Syndicated radio personality Paul Finebaum noted people in Alabama “love Hank Williams” and added, “What people down here don’t like are people like Dave Zirin making idiotic statements about country music songs that Hank Williams has written. I’ve respected Dave for a long time but I think the statement he made today is the single stupidest I’ve ever heard in the history of this program.” The following is an exceprt from the ensuing conversation between Zirin, Finebaum and fellow panelist ESPN's Bomani Jones.

Zirin: “It’s a slap in the face to country music because it’s a stereotype about country music that everybody who’s involved in it believes in the Confederate flag, believes in oppressing people and believes in the idea that comparing the president to Adolf Hitler is somehow a good thing.”
Finebaum: “Dave, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Zirin: “There’s actually a large African-American population in the south too, Paul. You might want to think about them as you talk about the south and what is or isn’t defensible.”
Finebaum: “No kidding? I have thought about it.”

Jones said the “problem” with Williams’ song is that “there’s not a single mention of black people anywhere in the entire song.”

Jones: “It is a Southern utopia and you would have no idea black ever existed in that song, so I don’t find that statement necessarily to be ridiculous that he made.”
Finebaum: “First of all, my parents are from New York. I happen to be Jewish. I lost relatives in the Holocaust, so I don’t need Dave Zirin or Bomani Jones lecturing me on my background or my culture.”
Jones: “I didn’t say a thing to you about your culture.”
Finebaum: “I’m just sick and tired of people from elsewhere ... making fun of people down here. These are good people. They’re not racist, they’re not bigots, they just happen to like country music.”
Jones: “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me -- you are not anymore Southern than me. I was born in Atlanta, I grew up in Texas. I don’t feel the need to prove that. I haven’t made any jokes about anybody from Alabama.”
Finebaum: “You’re the one talking about black people down here, not me.”

After Jones further discussed the lyrics of the Williams song, he said to Finebaum, "Please do not misrepresent me.”

Zirin: “Please don’t do that either, Paul. Paul, that’s an outrageous statement. If you want to talk about my relatives that died in the Holocaust or my time in the South, we can do that. That’s not germane to this discussion at all and frankly, it’s cheap and unprofessional to bring that into this discussion.”
Finebaum: “You’re lecturing me on what’s unprofessional, Dave. Give me a break.”
Zirin: “Paul! Let me finish! ... Why don’t you do a Google search of ‘Hank Williams Jr./Confederacy’ and see what comes up. It is a cottage industry.”
Finebaum: “I know Hank Williams Jr., Dave. I don’t need to do a Google search. I can call him up on the phone and I know what he stands for. He’s a country music entertainer. You get that? Entertainer!”

ESPN's T.J. Quinn, who was moderating the panel, said it is "very clear that Hank Williams’ name cannot come up right now without very strong sentiments from either side.”

Finebaum: "We’re re-fighting the Civil War, and I hear Dave Zirin making fun of the Confederacy. Well, a lot of people died in that. We just happen to be part of the United States of America, Dave. The Confederacy is long gone, buddy.”
Zirin: “A lot of people did die in the Civil War fighting to end human bondage” (“Outside The Lines,” ESPN, 10/6).

REMINISCENT OF DAYTIME TALK SHOWS: In Alabama, Ben Flanagan reported Finebaum "did not sound particularly proud of the segment." He said, "It was Ricki Lake meets 'Outside the Lines.'" Flanagan noted the "satellite delay didn't help matters ... as all four men on the show, including the host, began yelling at once to make points and attempt to keep the discussion in order." Finebaum said, "I'm sure they'll never have me back. I'll be banned from ESPN for life" (AL.com, 10/6). DEADSPIN.com wrote under the headline, "A Hank Williams Jr. Discussion Turned ESPN’s OTL Into 'The Morton Downey Jr. Show'" (DEADSPIN.com, 10/6). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder wrote Jones "tried to add some rational, good points to the argument, but any sense and perspective was drowned out with a lot of yelling" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 10/6). The Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein wrote, "Man, Paul Finebaum got absolutely decapitated today on ESPN's 'Outside the Lines'" (TWITTER.com, 10/6).

FEEDING THE BEAST: YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote, "And so it goes that a discussion about an ESPN decision on an ESPN show turned into an ESPN argument and, thus, more publicity for ESPN's 'Monday Night Football'" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/6). Bleacher Report's Dan Levy wrote, "Outside the Lines AND Around the Horn (and presumably PTI) talking about Hank Williams. Maybe ESPN is a little too out in front of this" (TWITTER.com, 10/6).
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