DESTIN, Fla. -- Justin Connolly, the ESPN senior vice president who will take the phone calls from screaming coaches or athletic directors every time some caller to Paul Finebaum's radio show makes mention of a "bagman," seemed perfectly at ease Wednesday with his decision to unleash Finebaum and his pigskin-loving version of Howard Stern's Wack Pack on the SEC's branded network. The choice, which proves once again that ESPN understands better than its competitors that people love college football and love to argue about college football, also proves something else.
This conference network will look nothing like the Big Ten Network or the Pac-12 Networks. "At the end of the day, we want to differentiate the network," Connolly said. "We don't want to just fill our days with re-airs of live-event content. What Paul does is bring some appointment television and some wow factor."
What Finebaum brings is controversy -- something the other branded conference networks have made a practice of avoiding. Instead of creating a 24/7 advertisement for the league, the SEC Network will attempt to gain viewers -- and the subscriber fees those viewers pay -- by entertaining and infuriating as well as informing and showing games. Finebaum is a key cog in that machine, but neither he nor the 40 or so football games the network plans to show in its debut season in 2014 can fill all the hours in your broadcast day. The SEC Network needs more programming, and I'm here to offer the shows that can overtake Duck Dynasty and The Bible and rocket the SEC Network to the top of the cable ratings heap. All I ask is a small consulting fee if ESPN actually uses any of these ideas. Don't worry. I'll charge less than Rutgers paid for Julie Hermann's background check.
Storytime with Mike Slive
Watching the SEC commissioner handle his interviews from the comfort of a leather easy chair on Tuesday, I couldn't help but be struck by his grandfatherly demeanor. The youngest SEC fans could start their day with a reading of Go Dog Go or But Not The Hippopotamus direct from the man who has presided over seven consecutive national championships. Slive certainly would have more fun reading those works than he did answering our questions about the possibility of a nine-game conference schedule.
Of course, Slive, a former judge, may want to make his half-hour a little more academic. That's fine. Once a week, he can read from his favorite Supreme Court decisions. Just imagine Slive wearing a cardigan and clutching a leather-bound volume:
"'I know it when I see it,' Justice Stewart wrote."
**Closes book. Pats cover.**
"Now join us tomorrow when special guest host Nick Saban abridges Yertle the Turtle."
**Cuts to clip of Saban holding beloved Dr. Seuss book**
"Now, Yertle was king of all he surveyed, aight?"
Finebaum is set to broadcast a syndicated radio show that will be simulcast on the SEC Network for three or four hours each afternoon.* At least that's what ESPN wants the SEC to believe. The producers of cerebrum-rotting hit First Take have actually been in the lab creating a new concept for Finebaum that they believe will be a ratings monster.
After Skip Bayless blacked out one day and unknowingly bought the old Jenny Jones show set on eBay, the producers began wondering how Finebaum, a ringmaster in the Jerry Springer mold, might fare as a the host of a daytime talk show. Several show topics have already leaked, including:
? Please Tell Me My Baby Won't Be a Big Ten Fan: Eighteen months after a tumultuous week that featured trysts with an Ole Miss grad and an Iowa grad, a viewer comes to Paul to find out which one fathered her baby. When Paul reveals that, with 99.9 percent certainty, the Ole Miss grad is the father, the crowd responds with Hotty Toddy, followed by the S-E-C chant.
? An Hour with Tammy: Channeling his inner Katie Couric, Paul sits down for a heartfelt chat with everyone's favorite Auburn fan.
? The Jorts Intervention: In a crossover episode with TLC's What Not To Wear, Clinton Kelly and Stacy London help Paul burn a Florida fan's collection of jean shorts and replace them with royal blue slim-fit chinos featuring embroidered orange alligators.
*That's actually what ESPN plans to do. I made up the rest, but I remain hopeful.
The Odd Couple
If NBC can remake Knight Rider and CBS can remake Hawaii Five-O, then the SEC Network can remake this classic sitcom. In the new edition, buttoned-down Missouri coach Gary Pinkel moves in with freewheeling South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. Hilarity ensues after Pinkel accidentally sells Spurrier's golf clubs at a garage sale. Sample dialogue:
"Gary, this is my friend Jadeveon. He's going to help you repossess my Pings with extreme prejudice."
**Massive laugh track guffaw.**
As The Plains Burn
Every network needs a trashy nighttime soap opera, and the Ewings of Dallas have nothing on the Clowders* of Auburn. Storylines will be adapted from the epic (closed) 1,911-page message-board thread produced from 2010-11 by the readers of LSU fan site TigerDroppings.com. Take every rumor ever attached to the Cam Newton saga, multiply by 1,000, and you'll have ATPB. Rumor has it John Grisham has used the thread to concoct the plots of his next three books, but there are still enough twists and turns remaining to populate three 22-episode seasons.
*Any resemblance to an actual booster is purely coincidental.
Les Up Late
LSU coach Les Miles waxes rhapsodic on the news of the day, then sits down with celebrity guests to discuss their latest projects. Every time house band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem -- on loan from ESPN corporate parent Disney -- plays out of a commercial, Miles attempts to recruit drummer Animal to fill the defensive end spot vacated by Intergalactic Overlord Barkevious Mingo. "His want to eat those drums suggests he is the kind of man who has the chest to chase the quarterbacks of the Southeastern Conference," Miles said before welcoming Rob Schneider to talk about Deuce Bigalow III: Are You Sure This Check Won't Bounce?