The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, August 1, 2005; 1:10 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon talked about the latest in sports news.

The transcript follows.

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Ashburn, Va.: I heard that Derrick Dockery looked good in his one-on-one blocking drill against Phillip Daniels in this morning's practice. In other news, an errant Patrick Ramsey throw knocked the cigar out of Sonny Jurgensen's mouth causing a minor brush fire.

Michael Wilbon: Who are you, Walter Winchell?

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Lake Ridge, Va.: It was a wonderful run the Nats had us on to open the 34 year absence of bb in dc. Now the question is can they regain the magic that was June, or will August follow in Julys footsteps. Isn't it wonderful to experience what 30 other cities went thru prior to baseballs overdue return to dc. To be major league again is wonderful, no matter what August and September hold for our hearts. Just keep playin' ball.

Michael Wilbon: I'm with you entirely. Having grown up with a team (two teams, in fact) I know how much fun, even through the tears, it is to follow your team the entire 162 no matter what. Nobody...Let me try that again...NOBODY had the Nats being in first place and contending. Nobody. So this was terrific. And it gets everybody who cares one season closer to the new stadium and real owners spending real money. Anybody who couldn't see the fun in this season, still, must be...a football fan...The lads are still playing hard, too. They've been blown out, what, once? The 14-2 game at RFK by Houston (and my only appearance of the season). Otherwise, they're in there battling in 3-2, 4-3 and 2-1 game...If they were my team, I'd be pretty proud.

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Mclean, Va.: Hi Mike, I enjoyed your article on Tiger Woods last week but have a burning question for you. Why do you continually refer to Tiger as a "black" golfer?? In the article, you even stated Woods' mother as a native of Thailand. When did being half black and half Asian constitute being only black?

Yes, it is difficult to label a person of mixed-race with one determining factor but I see everyone stating Tiger as a "black" golfer.

News flash to everyone - he is half black and half Asian. Being married to mixed-race spouse (half white and half black), I don't refer to my wife as either "white" or "black" but rather as both. Even Tiger himself describes himself as being half black and half asian. Anyways, thanks for letting me share my thoughts on this issue.

washingtonpost.com: Wilbon: I Come to Praise Tiger, Not Bury Him (Post, July 19)

Michael Wilbon: Of course he's half-Asian, Thai to be exact. You think I'm ENTIRELY black. Hardly and African-Americans are ENTIRELY anything. My grandfather was the son of a former slave and slave owner. So, what does that tell you? In America, as we've been told for 400 years, if you've got certain parentage, you're black. We didn't make those rules. They were imposed on us. The people who imposed them for 400 years didn't bother to make the distinction. I'm part-Irish, part-Indian...But who notices the "other" ingredients? Nobody. The 6th grade kids who spray-painted "Nigger" down Tiger's body on his first day of kindergarten apparently didn't get the memo that Tiger was half-Thai...Seems they didn't notice. Wonder why?

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Alexandria, Va.: Given that you're a Cubs fan and satellite guy Wilbon, you'd have an unbiased opinion on this.....what do you think of the ongoing battle between Comcast and the Orioles? Do you think the eventual owner(s) of the Nationals will be able to get out of the ridiculous TV contract MLB and the Baltimoron owner have in place?

Finally, why don't you fill in for Tony on his radio show? You used to do so.

Michael Wilbon: I hope the Nats eventual owner can get a better deal, but I'm not holding my breath. Angelos didn't get the reputation of being an extraordinary negotiator by playing Mr. Nice Guy...I used to fill in for Tony on the radio when I didn't have a TV gig, when I wrote a column, period. But I'm not about to try all three...Remember, Tony hasn't been full-time at The Post for some time. I was at Redskins training camp this morning preparing for a column in Tuesday's Post, and will probably be at the tennis tournament Tuesday to write a column on Andy Roddick.

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Arlington, VA: Hey there:

When a team...ummm, like the Orioles lose a player to a steroid suspension, do they have any rights to stop paying the player for that period. Furthermore, do they have any right to go to arbitration to adjust the salary they have to pay the player for balance of the season? Suppose Palmeiro's numbers end up looking like Sosa's by the end of the year. Can the O's get some of their money back?; I think the Yankees were looking into their rights a few months back until Giambi turned it on.

Michael Wilbon: Good questions...I don't know the answers to those questions, and I suspect the answers are hard to find...Remember, we're walking into unexplored territory here. The Yankees and Giambi didn't know the answers either. But for those who aren't on-line all the time, we're talking about today's news that Rafael Palmeiro is being suspended for violating baseball's substance abuse clause...He has issued a long and rather eloquent statement that says he didn't "knowingly" take steroids and then goes on to say he has to take responsibility for not knowing what he put in his body, on and on...I don't know what to think, quite frankly. I don't know what to believe. Sorting this out is going to be difficult.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think Sportscenter should include D.C. in its tour of 50 states?

Michael Wilbon: Yes. Period. No doubt.

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College Park, Md.: Hi Mike,

Most of us don't work in an organization or industry where run-ins with the law are so prevalent as they are in sports. So, it's hard to not feel some outrage at players (making lots of $$$) who get in trouble. You've been in the locker rooms -- what do the players think about Sean Taylor and other players? The excuse, "it's all just business and as long as he performs..." seems so contrary to what would normally not be tolerated. Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: Are you so naive to think that professional sports locker rooms work like, say, newsrooms or ad agencies or law firms? No. You think rock stars and actors and athletes operate under the same sets of rules as as plumbers or accountants? Come on. The players at Redskins Park don't care, for the most part. A few do. Some guys are incredibly old school and conservative and hate it...More are young and absorbed with their own careers and aren't paying any attention to Taylor or most others. My guess is that 60 to 70 percent of the players want Taylor to shut up, get his head in the playbook and play his rear end off to help the team get to the playoffs... And that's about it.

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Herndon, Va.: You have to choose one: TiVO or The NFL Sunday Ticket. Which do you choose?

Michael Wilbon: Question of the Year: Great question...love it...I think I'd go with Sunday Ticket...You can get a VCR to do some of things TiVO does, but Sunday Ticket is so priceless...Put it this way. I have Sunday Ticket on my mother's TV in Florida, just for the one or two Sundays a year I'm visiting her...I can't live with local affiliate decisions on what I should see...But they're on my short list of great inventions of the late 20th century...

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Normal, Ill.: Michael

First of all, I love your discussion, and I only wished you wrote for a Chicago paper and did the same great coverage for the Windy City.

I have primarily followed the NL Central Division in Baseball and have only now noticed that the top two teams in the West are 3 games below .500, and entire East division is above .500. That's incredible. What are the chances of the standings finishing this way, and how big a deal would it be? Would it cause any discussion about reorganizing the divisions or something? Also, how strong do you think the East really is?

Michael Wilbon: Thank you for the kind words...I can't wait to get to Chicago the third week in August for a five-day stay...Probably, it won't end up this way. I don't think it ever has. The D-Backs or the Padres will get hot enough to win 84 games or something like that. And the way the Nationals are going it's going to be difficult for them to finish over .500. Still, there's a lot of baseball left to be played, something like 60 games...It would be bizzare but I don't think it'll happen.

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Bethesda, Md.: Mike, Thanks for your answer ref : Tiger Woods / Black. Well said.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...

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Ohio: Now that we have gone back and forth about whether or not Palmiero is a Hall of Famer (I think he is), how are we to factor in the recent allegations of his positive illegal substance test?;

Michael Wilbon: Good question...I think we have to find out more about how long he supposedly has been doing this stuff, if indeed he has been...And sadly, we're going to have to start to examine how widespread it is...the "everybody was doing it" clause...I'm really at a loss here. I don't vote on MLB Hall of Fame, and now I'm glad I don't. If I punish Palmeiro, then what about Bonds, what about McGwire, what about Soa...what about Giambi...what about all the power hitters of this generation???? I'm at a complete loss here, and I don't see an easy answer coming 'round the bend.

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College Park, Md.: Do the Wizards have any chance at Michael Finley or Allan Houston?

Michael Wilbon: I wouldn't want Allan Houston...It seems he can't get healthy...I would have wanted him six years ago when he was hitting huge shots for the Knicks in the playoffs. But it seems he's done...Finley, on the other hand, just averaged 16 points per game on a team of consequence...I'd take Finley in a heartbeat, as long as I don't have to pay him any part of that $51 million or whatever the Mavs still owe him?

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Adelphi, Md.: Mike, another choice question for you -- Would you rather win a Pulitzer Prize or be inducted into the Baseball HOF?

Michael Wilbon: I'm very happy for my colleague Peter Gammons, who is one of the great baseball writers of all-time...I've read him since I was in college and I could go to the libary at Northwestern University and read his Sunday notes columns in The Boston Globe...I'm pretty certain it was there I first became aware of Gammons, through New England kids I went to school with in, like, 1979-1980...Me? I'm not a baseball writer and was only briefly. I don't have any feel for Cooperstown. To me, that's a place that was conceived to honor the greatest baseball players...I love that Shirley Povich and Gammons are in it. But the Pulitzer Prize is the ultimate honor for writers. And if you ask Gammons, as proud as he is this moment over being in Cooperstown, I bet he'd trade it for a Pulitzer, which sadly (and wrongly) has been awarded to only three or four sportswriters, to the best of my knowledge...I'm not saying I'm worthy, though I've been nominated and had my name/work advanced to a point in the consideration. But others have been and are. The Pulitzer Prize is writers dream of...

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Manassas: How did the Redskins look this morning?;

Michael Wilbon: Like a team about to start the regular season...There are so many mandatory and voluntary workouts through the spring and summer now, guys don't come to camp to get in shape. They come already in shape, ready to play a couple of preseason games and go...So, it doesn't look like the first camps I saw 23, 24 years ago where guys came to get into shape...Big difference...But don't ask me to assess the Redskins Super Bowl chances based on practice...I'm not a coach. I have no idea who looked great or not, even though I stood there and watched the entire 2 hrs this morning. It's football practice. I saw guys run, cut, drop passes, run through cones, listen to the coaches, throw square-outs...What does all that mean? Nothing. Thirty other teams did the same thing today...

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Fairfax, Va.: Who's the Most Popular Washington Area Professional Athlete right now? Arenas? Jamison? Arrington? Cordero? Adu?

Michael Wilbon: Good question. I'd say Arrington, but it could be Arenas...I wish we could put a poll to that one. Adu is so recognizable, but soccer ain't football or basketball in America...D.C. is so incredibly starless. The real answer is "Coach Joe Gibbs!" Still. Or Sonny or Riggo...

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Maryland: Now that training camps have started, I hope you will answer a couple football questions (no predictions requested).

What is up with Terrell Owens?? I haven't been paying much attention to football (yet), but I can't believe the Post article I read about him ranting and raving, demanding more money. I guess no one should be surprised, but he still amazes me.

Speaking of which, will things with LaVar be cool by the beginning of the season?

Michael Wilbon: I'm hoping the LaVar stuff is sorted out this week, though it might not be...T.O. is a great, great player and a nuisance. This is his m.o. everywhere. He undermines quarterbacks and wants to be the star...He also gives every drop of himself on the field of play...The guy is smart, tough, capable, selfish, and largely a bad teammate...There's certainly 360 degrees to Terrell Owens.

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Richmond, Va.: On the TiVo vs. Sunday Ticket argument...while you can obviously record with a VCR like you can with TiVo, the ease at which you can do so is no contest.

Also, the Pause feature on the TiVo is priceless. Last night, a friend who I went to high school and college with called during the middle of a show. Pause...converse. Problem solved. Can't do that with a VCR.

TiVo earns its money 24/7, 365, while Sunday Ticket, though great, is beneficial for 17 days each year. Additionally, akin to the VCR argument vis a vis TiVo, you can go to a sports bar and see all the games if you're so inclined. Additionally, if you live in the market where your team plays, you're at least guaranteed of seeing the game you care about most every week.

Michael Wilbon: My producer, Matt Kelliher, makes the sports bar argument...I don't want to go to a sports bar. I would never venture into one on Sunday afternoon unless I'm out of the country. (I went in Seoul, South Korea in 1988 and Sydney in 2000). But I avoid sports bars like the plague if I'm really trying to watch a game...But I love both TiVO and Sunday ticket and I'm glad I don't have to choose.

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Seattle: There's a difference between Tiger's situation re: his mixed race, and your own. And that is, the mixture in your background was largely forced upon you. Tiger's wasn't and he endeavors to acknowledge that part of his ancestry, which was borne solely out of love. Why should he dis his mom because of some outdated standard?

Michael Wilbon: Good point. But who said he dissed his mom? Where did you get that?

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Arlington, Va.: Did Jose Canseco just gain some credibility or is he still "out there"?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, absolutely. McGwire and Palmeiro look guilty as sin to a whole lot of folk. Pudge Rodriguez lost 22 pounds coming into camp. Giambi, well, we know what happened there...Jose is looking pretty good right now, better than originally. Those are the four guys he talked about in terms of shooting up....

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Burtonsville, Md.: Do you think that it is easier to get into the Football Hall of Fame than Baseball. Who do you think deserves to be in the Football Hall of Fame that isn't in?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know how the baseball situation works...But we don't have enough time to talk about all the football players I think should be in...Art Monk, for those of you who are local, is one of the guys I think should be in...

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Waynesboro, Va.: Mike, the White Sox look very good right now, but I sense a lot of mainstream media people don't like their chances of winning it all. Is there something wrong with the way the team's comprised, or is it that the Sox aren't considered a fashionable team because their fan base is blue-collar?

Michael Wilbon: Some of both...They're a team with no pedigree and a team in need of a slugger in the middle of the order and one more arm...The White Sox best pitchers--Garland and Buehrle--are guys who like to work quickly. And the best playoff teams, like the Red Sox, will sit at the plate and foul off 10 pitches each just to run up your pitch count...Just seems like the White Sox, who are having a marvelous season, are flawed in a way that won't allow for much post-season success...

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Ashburn, Va.: Hi Mike: Ashburn resident here....can you please tell the Redskins to take their camp back up to Carlisle? Have you been to Ashburn lately? As if our traffic isn't bad enough, now we get the joy of lost travelers for the next couple weeks!?! Ugh.

Go skins. :-P

Michael Wilbon: Sorry, no way I want to drive to Carlisle or Frostburg or wherever when I can stay home and make the 35-minute drive from Bethesda to Ashburn...I was there this morning and barely noticed a car moving...Sorry...

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Thank you for your article and comments about Tiger. I would much rather my children hold him up as a sports hero than many others in the community. It's much easier for me to explain away a little swearing out of frustration vs. shooting into someone's home or assaulting camera men.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for the comment.

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RE: DirecTv: Mr. Wilbon- I just wanted to point out to Nats fans out there that you do not need to purchase anything extra (MLB Extra Innings) if you have Directv, in order to see the Nats games. They have ALL of them, for no additional charge. Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: Good to know...I have the MLB Extra Innings and wouldn't have known that. Thank you.

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20170: Are you and Tony ever going to have Bill Simmons on PTI?; He's awesome.

Michael Wilbon: Never say never...But is Bill Simmons a TV guy? (Not that we were)

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Severna Park: What is your favorite training camp or spring training site to visit?;

Michael Wilbon: Training camp is a plague on humanity...I categorically hate them...And when I covered the NFL for The Post (1986-1990) as the beat writer, I got to go visit Cowboys camp in Thousand Oaks, the Raiders in Oxnard, the 49ers in Rocklin, Ca...and they are all the same thing: remote places with four, five football fields that are too hot in the middle of the summer...Spring training is one of the ridiculous non-news boondoggles of all time. But my love for Scottsdale and all things Arizona is well-noted, so I think you have your answer.

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Michael Wilbon: Gotta run everybody...Time to prepare for PTI, which is changing as we speak because of the Palmeiro story...He's having a conference call right this minute...Details soon. And Thomas Boswell, I believe, is writing a column on the whole thing...See you guys next Monday...

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