The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Tuesday, September 5, 2006; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

The transcript follows.


A shaven brother from another mother: Mike, is it just me or is the word great used entirely too much in sports? How do you now separate the truly good ones from the ones who are actually great? The third entry in the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary describes great as, "3 : remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness".

I'm sorry, but some of the guys being classified as great don't match up to Jim Brown, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana and Walter Payton. Those are examples of greatness in sports, but the word is thrown around like it's a Frisbee. Your thoughts.

Michael Wilbon: Hey everybody...I hope moving to Tuesday this week, after Labor Day holiday, isn't throwing everybody out of synch, but thanks for joining the chat...

Great question (pun intended)...There is too much use of the word great; no question about that. It happens because there are too many people who have no perspective, who aren't qualified to make the comparison nevertheless making these comparisons. People are leading these discussions, particularly on sports talk radio, who haven't covered these sports, haven't studied the history of any of the sports they're discussing...They're just running off at the mouth. If something didn't happen this morning, they have no idea of what it was, its significance or how it fits historically. Believe me, it bothers me, too. And what it does, ultimately, is lower the bar...


Washington, D.C.: Did we just see the entire first round of the 2007 NFL draft last night on display in the Miami/FSU game?

Wow, those defenses were just incredible, and if Buster Davis is not on a Heisman watch list yet, someone needs to have their head examined. All I can say about the defense last night is WOW!

Michael Wilbon: I know the defensive players are---uh, great--but what were we watching, relatively? I'm still trying to figure out if the offense was terrible or the defenders were just that talented...It may take us several weeks to figure it out and I also want to check in with some scouts as we get closer to October to see what they think about the defensive players we watched last night. Three yards rushing in a college football game, even one featuring players as physically gifted as FSU and Miami, is still a little disturbing.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: How do you see the Duckett-Betts relationship playing out during the season? Do you think one will automatically get more playing time than the other, or do you think it will be more performance or matchup based?

Thanks man. I always enjoy your work... GO SKINS!!

Michael Wilbon: Did Clinton Portis just go away or something? I know I've been away for five days but I think Duckett and Betts will have to split the time behind Portis. And Duckett, given his size, ought to be the short-yardage and goal-line back people have been saying the team needs. I know it might be tough to really get a rotation using three backs that makes everybody happy...But keeping Portis fresh (and perhaps injury free)for the entire season will be a great way to go.


New York, N.Y.: If Ari was your agent and blew a deal that could have landed you a starring role in a Ramones movie, would you have fired him too?

Michael Wilbon: Yes...unless he had something better up his sleeve to come back with!


Washington, D.C.: What did you think about Gilbert's outburst last week with regard to the USA Basketball team? I thought Arenas grew up and put episodes/drama in the past behind him, such as when he didn't shoot for a whole game in protest, forgot about the game while shooting pool, got into a disagreement with Kwame, claimed that his scoring average would go down after the all-star game, etc.? I don't buy the argument that he's just trying to motivate himself, saying he's going to score 100 points total against Nate McMillian and another team. To me, he's just a head case, even in the off season.

Michael Wilbon: Well, I don't want to use the words "head case." Gilbert's a different dude, which I've come to appreciated about him. He has used the chip-on-the-shoulder approach to make himself a pretty damned good basketball player. Now, if I was advising him I'd have told him not to say that stuff publicly. Looks bad, sounds bad...He should have just taken the disappointment and moved on...Like Bruce Bowen did. And I NEVER would have cut Bruce Bowen. He's too valuable in two ways (on-the-ball defense and three-point shooting). Now, having said that, I never thought Arenas was going to be a good fit with Coach K. And I understand why Gilbert felt he was an outsider and never had a chance to make the team. Still, I would have said, "Gil, don't do it...Just don't."


Fredericksburg, Va.: Michael,

It is a privilege to be able to see in my life time the greatest golfer who has ever lived - Tiger. Is there any doubt that the argument Tiger versus Jack is a meaningless one?

Michael Wilbon: Not if longevity means something to you. There is an objective criteria out there: wins in majors. Jack has 18 and Tiger has, what, 12? He has to get there...Okay, if he won the next five of eight and was injured or just walked away...would we consider him the greatest? Probably, yes. But there is this objective criteria and obviously Tiger believes in it because he grew up with all Jack's numbers and accomplishments in his head. Tiger respects those numbers, honors them. So why shouldn't we?

The other element here is that it doesn't seem that Phil/Ernie/Retief/Sergio/Vijay are equal to Palmer/Player/Trevino/Watson. Okay, maybe the difference is that Tiger is just that much better than Jack and closes the door on his closest pursuers in a way Jack couldn't...Boy, that's a tough position to take, but maybe it's true. Either way, this is so much fun to watch. There's nothing I get a bigger thrill from now than watching Tiger Woods and I'm sorry to see the season winding down. That match-play in England, followed by the Ryder Cup and then the AMEX event...that's huge stuff...Look, I'm a pro football fanatic but the NFL is so No. 2 right now to me in terms of what I'd rather see...Tiger, no doubt...Tiger.


Washington, D.C.: What is this non-sense of if Brunnell is down mid-week Campbell is the start, in game, Collins is the starter. Is Gibbs doing too much to appease egos in his return to the "new NFL"?

Michael Wilbon: I just don't pay that stuff any attention. It's mumbo-jumbo, to steal a phrase from John Riggins. Brunell is the starter and if the Redskins are going to do anything with this season he has to be healthy for the great majority of it.


Dallas, Texas: Now that Terrell Owens' hammy has healed, and he's back at practice the sports media have gone silent. How long until they manufacture another story about the non-existent Parcells/Owens rift? Week3? Week4?

Michael Wilbon: I don't think you were paying much attention last week when Parcells made his comments, were you? While I admit, and am tired of the hype surrounding Owens, much of it nonsense...if you think Parcells was happy with Owens you don't know how to read Parcells at all.


Arlington, Va.: Hey Mr. Wilbon

Love your writing and work on PTI. What is the most electrifying sporting event you have ever experienced live?

Michael Wilbon: Wow...I can't narrow it to one...About a half-dozen Mike Tyson fights are toward the top of the list. Cathy Freeman winning the 400 in the 2000 Sydney Olympics would be above those fights, I think. Michael Jordan's shot to beat Utah in 1998 is way up there. Ben Johnson vs. Carl Lewis is up there, even though the result was later changed because of Johnson testing positive for steroids...Villanova-Georgetown and North Carolina-Georgetown are way, way up there...I didn't attend the Duke-Kentucky, Hill-to-Laettner game, so I can't include that. OOOH, Virginia getting beat by Chaminade...I was there in Hawaii for that. How about this: no Super Bowl result would make my top 50...I haven't covered many World Series games at all, only a handful. Oh, McGwire hitting his 62nd, in St. Louis...That was unreal, but like Lewis-Johnson, there's a P.S. that sort of changes things. I know I'm forgetting something...I didn't attend Jordan-over-Ehlo...Magic's Junior Sky hook I did see live. As well, as "Bird steals the ball, over to D.J...D.J. lays it in..." I was courtside for that as well...I gotta stop. I could do this all day.


Minneapolis: Wilbon-

Seeing as how the Houston Texans are having a bit of a running back crisis, are they finally kicking themselves and realizing how stupid it was not to take Reggie #1?

Michael Wilbon: Not yet. But if Bush is productive right away, then they will. I thought it was insane at the time, but let's see how it plays out.


Washington, D.C.: Give us your inside scoop on Portis. He starting this week? My fantasy world depends on it.

Michael Wilbon: I don't have any scoop on Portis. I'm 2,200 miles away in Scottsdale, Arizona where the only concern is Leinart's non-throwing shoulder, how much Edgerrin James has left in the tank, whether Kurt Warner can stay healthy...No Portis info out here in the desert. I know I wouldn't start him. Against the Vikings? For what... to satisfy fantasy geeks? See, this is why I don't play fantasy football, because common sense goes out of the window for fantasy stats...I wouldn't play Portis in the real game; I'd play Betts and Duckett and let my star try and skip the first two games.


Stafford, Va.: Mike,

You've been around John Riggins a lot and have laughed with his terrific sense of humor. Funnier than Dandy Don Meredith. What kind of color man would he make on a national telecast and why in the world doesn't someone give him a chance?

Michael Wilbon: This is one of my top pet peeves. Riggins is the funniest football analyst around...he's smart, edgy, funny in the context of football, totally unafraid to say something tough and critical. He's GREAT, okay. GREAT! He should have BEEN on national games 10 years ago. TV execs say they want to push the envelope, but apparently not. If so, they'd hire John Riggins.


Seattle, Wash.: Say hey, Mike...

So, as a prominent member of the national sports media who undoubtedly is in regular contact with other members of same, can you tell me why seemingly none of your brethren have any faith in the Seahawks repeating in the NFC? I mean, c'mon -- Dallas?? Carolina??? Chicago????

Michael Wilbon: Very, very good question. Well, there's this one stat perhaps you know about: of the last five Super Bowl losers, all five have missed the playoffs the following year...Now, normally I hate short-trend stats. But this one actually bothers me. In my case, I'm torn between Carolina and the Giants, who are positively loaded. Look, people don't often repeat as conference champs. So while I can see you're a Seattle person, fact is that the odds are against the Seahawks. I also think a lot of people making these picks realize that the Seahawks management folks (including Coach Mike Holmgren) were sort of at odds with one another before last season, and figure now that they've reached the Big Game, maybe individual agendas go right to the front burners again. Now, maybe that's an unfair read but when you're previewing the season you'd be a fool not to take into account everything you know exists.


22204 - depth in golf: Tiger's dominance is stunning and exciting. His evolution to becoming a team leader in Ryder Cup play is wonderful to see, and I think it was just a matter of time, so that other veterans would respect the man (incl his age & experience) in addition to his play. Now, as to the question of whether Phil/Vijay/Ernie/Retief are equal to Palmer/Player/Watson/Trevino, I think that question is partially a disservice to the depth of other talent, top to bottom, on the PGA Tour and worldwide compared to what it was 20-40 years ago. My gut says the #30-#50 money winners on tour today would totally smoke the #30-#50 from 1976. But in the meantime, Tiger is just beyond super.

Michael Wilbon: Oh, we agree with from No. 10 through No. 50 is much stronger today. But it's the top five that figure to challenge the top player of any era.


Bethesda, Md.: Tiger has done a lot more to Golf to date than Jack has done in his entire life. That itself qualifies him as the greatest golfer ever. If it was not for Tiger, I don't even know what golf is not to mention watching it. Anyway, it was fun watching Tiger win against Vijay Singh who has been very critical of Tiger for no reason.

Michael Wilbon: What measure are you using that confirms Tiger has done a lot more for Golf than Jack has his entire life? What are we basing this on? Your observations. Of what? You'd better come with a lot more than that, homey. Tiger has done a tremendous amount for the game and the industry. He's brought people to the game in ways that nobody imagined, ways that were not possible in Jack's time because of the amount of media, endorsement opportunities...There are so many more ways to reach people now, in this 21st century media-dominated era, than there were for Jack and Arnold Palmer before him...But to discount Jack's contribution over the last 40 years seems pretty ignorant to me.


Alexandria, Va.: Team USA clearly lost because they had no inside presence. Dwight Howard? Chris Bosh? Brad Miller?

It has been proven as a pillar through the course of NBA history, no reputable big man, no title (exception to MJ's Bulls).

Michael Wilbon: No they didn't. Don't go spewing that junk. Inside presence? Do you watch international basketball. The Greek team shot 70 percent from three-point range. What are you talking about? Dwight Howard is a beast on the boards and blocking shots. Bosh is green and Brad Miller is functional. But other than Pau Gasol, look at the international big men. They're not thinking about these American terms like "inside presence." They're playing basketball. They're facing up and shooting, they're running the floor, playing defense out on the floor whether it's man-to-man or zone. Please. Not only did Jordan's Bulls win six titles, but the Pistons won two back in 89-90 and just won another one two years ago with big men who were team players. Stop, please. Americans grow up now completely disrespecting the opponent, whenever the opponent isn't American, and that more than anything else is what bites us in the rear end. That, and we don't shoot anymore because we all want to slash and dunk and star in some video game.


Harrisburg, Pa: I know baseball isn't your regular beat, but is there a chance for a baseball column before the end of the season? I think a story about Ryna Howard might be right up your alley (both for your column and PTI). What a player! I now know why my brothers used to wax poetically about Willie Stargell.

Michael Wilbon: Ryan Howard is A MAN. My goodness! He might hit 62-65 home runs this year. It's unreal the way he hits these things out. He will not be a guest on PTI; youngsters rarely make good guests because they're nervous as heck and don't have much to offer in the way of perspective. We don't just put people on to say, "Hey, we had Ryan Howard." That's not what Tony and I do. We want talkers, people who can offer some perspective or mix it up or are somewhat entertaining. Of course, there are exceptions. Freddie Adu is most notable. He's FABULOUS as a guest and is, what, 17? Big Ben Roethlisberger, 24, is another exception. But mostly, people in their early 20s get nervous and just don't add much to the show...Just like people who talk on television for a living used to be nervous to the point of being frightened when they (we) were in our mid-20s...So, slim to no chance for Howard on PTI...and there's even less a chance for me to write on Howard, given that we're into football season as of Thursday...Tom Boswell, hopefully, will tell us all we want to know about Mr. Howard...Is he the NL MVP?


RE: Seattle Seahawks: Is is just me, or did the organization go on far too long about the officiating in the Super Bowl? Yes, there were some questionable calls but the refs didn't lose the game. Could the hangover from the defeat, and the way they dealt with it, be a problem?

Michael Wilbon: Boy, I hope that's not the case. By the way, Seattle did improve itself on defense...On paper, the Seahawks should be better...On paper.


Bethesda, Md.: Do you think the NBA should adopt some of FIBA's rules? Personally, I like the trapezoidal lane, and I also like the rule where you can swipe at the ball after it hits the rim. Both rules make sense, and the latter makes it more interesting and may speed up the action.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I'm with you. I like the international rules better in some cases...


Washington, D.C.: Can you explain to me the appeal of watching golf? Look, I'm not going to blindly disparage a sport that is so popular to so many people, I know better than that, but I can't watch more than 5 minutes of golf on TV before my eyes glaze over. For me its like watching chess. Tell me, do you need to be a golfer to appreciate watching it on TV? Were you always such a big golf fan?

Michael Wilbon: I think you're onto something. I watched a little bit when I was young, but I wasn't an addict like I am now...Yeah, I think you need to play golf to appreciate it enough to watch all the time...Although I do have a friend (Eddie Cornwell, are you listening) who doesn't play, but who watches like a fiend...It happens. But for me, once I began to play and understood stuff like club selection and the break of putts and why it's so much easier to his 3-wood than driver...or how insane it is to hear that Tiger might hit his 6-iron 224 for the second shot on a par-five...that's a huge part of what creates the excitement in watching golf. So much of it, like baseball, is in your head. The action is there, not in the physicality of the sport.


Hoop Dreams, USA: I'm sure you've addressed this before, but I watched Hoop Dreams on Classic this past weekend and was just wondering your thoughts on it, particularly as a Chicago native. With the increased commercialization of high school sports, it just doesn't seem like we've learned anything. If anything, we have become worse with our obsession with youth sports.

And this comes from someone who believes it is OK for kids to leave school whenever they want to pursue sports.

Michael Wilbon: You said it all. What have we learned? It's more commercial now than 10 years ago. All these Little League and high school games on TV. I hate that stuff. Hate it. All the abuses and excesses...It's not going to stop either. It just won't.


Washington, D.C.: Is the "Streetball" culture such that it is spoiling the foundation and future of American basketball? You'd take our athletes and their skill-sets 100 times out of 100 against any other country, but we just don't win anymore. It might not be readily apparent on the surface, but our group obviously lacks a level of cohesiveness that makes it inferior to other less talented but "true" teams.

Michael Wilbon: It's not just cohesiveness, whatever that it. We DON'T have the skill sets. Dunking is not a skill. Shooting is a skill. Dunking isn't developed. Passing is. Rebounding is. Playing defense is. And the worst part of today's "Streetball", as opposed to the streetball every generation has played for the last 70 years, is that one of the fundamental themes is to trash the opponent, that the opponent is just a prop for your theatrics. This, in my opinion, has carried over right onto the court.


Detroit, Mich.: Would guys like Teyshaun Prince and/or Rip Hamilton have made a difference at the World Championships? Obviously I am a Pistons fan so how about Redd and keeping Bowen on the team? All those guys can shoot and defend.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, and I actually like the suggestions you make. I don't know that it would have made the difference in this tournament. I never thought Team USA was going to win this year. 2008 in Bejing? Probably. But the World Championships? Check the recent chats...I thought we'd lose to Argentina or Spain...not Greece...but I didn't think we'd win. We're not good enough. Don't tell me about talent. Tell me how good the team is. And these Euros and South Americans must be pretty talented...They keep beating us, don't they?


Columbia, Md,: If a had a buddy playing for the Steelers, I would suggest not standing next to Roethlisberger during a thunderstorm this fall. Sheesh.

How much of an impact will Ben's absence have on Thursday night's game? And does Culpepper still have game?

Michael Wilbon: What a downer this opener is going to be, huh? Who knows about Culpepper? He had one of the best seasons a quarterback has had in 10 years in 2004...If he's healthy, I guess he must have some game left. He's not even 30. I just hope Big Ben will be okay by Week 3. The NFL season is reduced without him.


Burke, Va.: I realize that this would never happen, but do you think an NBA team would fare better representing the U.S. in international competition (e.g., the Heat, Pistons, or Spurs, minus their international players)?

Michael Wilbon: Absolutely, yes. And I'm starting to wonder if that might be considered...although the championship NBA team would be at such a disadvantage the following season from having played all summer. Here's a question: what about a team that missed the playoffs? Would, say, the Minnesota Timberwolves have fared better? Just wondering.


Fairfax, Va.: What Tiger has done for golf? I HATE golf, but I watch when Tiger is near the top on Sunday. People like me are why Tiger is far and away the greatest thing that ever happened to golf. Jack who?

Michael Wilbon: Just because you're too ignorant to know what Jack did doesn't mean he didn't do it. Try not to be ignorant all your life. Part of the reason Tiger is so great for golf is that he respects the game and those who came before him...Be less an idiot...Pick up a book, or in the absence of actually reading, find a video.


Star in a Video Game?: Wilbon, you sound like an old man. While Alexandria is wrong about the lack of inside being the root of Team USA's failure, its also a bit more complex than "we don't shoot anymore." The fact is, guys who play in the NBA, who've spent their entire lives working to make it to the NBA, aren't best suited for international basketball. Players like Gasol and Nowitzki can jump back and forth because they're games are rooted in FIBA and they are given years to acclimate themselves in the NBA style. They become bilingual basketball wise. American players on the other hand are expected to play one way 11 months out of the year, then hook up with a new group of teammates, a new coaching staff play against unfamiliar opponents by unfamiliar rules and still come out on top. This worked when the American pros were miles ahead of other nations. But the gap has closed, which everyone knew it would. The U.S. has to change the way it prepares for international basketball competition, whether it be by changing NBA rules to fit FIBA (unlikely) or forming a national team comprised of non-NBA players who only play in international competition (even more unlikely). Otherwise, we need to get used to bronze medals.

Michael Wilbon: I don't disagree with any of this. I've been preaching all of this. The question asked about Redd and others, presumably because they shoot. Also, and if you ignore this you're not paying attention, we don't shoot. We hit 10 of 40 threes against Italy and nearly lose even though Italy's most talented player, No. 1 NBA pick Andrea Bargnani, wasn't even competing for Italy in this tournament. Shooting is a part of what we don't do. What are you, blind? We couldn't shoot in 2004 in Athens, couldn't shoot in most of the recent tournaments. What are you, an AAU coach getting defense about the evolution of American basketball that simply doesn't emphasize the most important element of the game?


Washington, D.C.: Wow is it hard to admit that we are not the best basketball or baseball players in the world. THESE ARE SPORTS WE INVENTED!!!!!

This must be what it feels like to be British.

Michael Wilbon: That's funny. Except, the Euros (which includes several British players usually) are back to winning at Ryder Cup, so they're okay.


Laurel, Md.: Tiger or Jordan ... who is more dominant? If not Tiger ... what more would he have to do?

Michael Wilbon: Great question. Jordan had teammates to rely upon and Tiger doesn't. And Tiger is dominating a sport that has never been dominated by an individual, not even Jack. I'd still say Jordan because of the records he set (team, 72-10, and individual records galore) but I'm not saying I can't argue the other side on this one. If Tiger wins the Masters and U.S. Open to hold all four again at the same time for the second time in his career, I'm probably work the other side of the street.


Houston, Texas: How far can you hit a 6-iron?

Michael Wilbon: Good way to end today's chat. On average, 170 yards. Once in my life, while trying to lay up after a tee-shot in the rough, I hit it 224 yards to the middle of the green, startling the group playing in front of me at my club, Four Streams. There wasn't even any wind. Just caught it perfect from a flier lie and watched in horror as it kept saying 50 yards longer than I could fantasize. (Sadly, I missed the birdie putt, so there!)

Okay, we'll do it again next week, though we'll need to select a slightly different time on Monday, Sept. 11 hours before the Redskins kick it off against the Vikings at FedEx Field...Because of the early Monday Night time, PTI will air at some insanely early time...I think 3:30 p.m. In fact, why don't we plan on 3:30 next Monday...although I had better first check with to make sure that's not in conflict with other plans...Either way, Monday it is. Thanks. MW


Re: "Streetball": Do you ever worry about the racial undertones of the whole streetball vs. "skill" discussion. Now we all know American white/Asian/Latino/-insert your ethnicity here] kids are just as taken with "streetball" culture as African American kids, and there are plenty of black kids playing excellent fundamental basketball, but people in the U.S. always seem to want to put an easy, color label on things. And, since outright bigotry is now frowned upon (thankfully) people look for proxies like "streetball" to talk about disdain for an ethnicity or culture. Do you perceive this or am I being too sensitive?

(I'm a Latino male by the way)

Michael Wilbon: Quickly..."Streetball" has little to do with race and everything to do with attitude and culture. The kids buying these videos and up to their necks in this stuff come in every color, including rich white. I think what's crept into basketball hurts the way American kids of all colors see basketball and see their opponents, particularly ones they grow up feeling are inferior.


Baltimore, Md.: Re Tiger vs. Jack: I am old enough to think that, if you are talking about impact on the game of golf with the general public, the comparison should be between Tiger and Arnold Palmer. Palmer was the first player to make golf a sport watched by the masses--his kind of proletarian style was a breakthrough. As great as Nicklaus was, he worked the ground which Palmer had tilled, as far as mass popularity for golf is concerned.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...


Evans, Ga.: With regard to judging Tiger Woods at this point in his career, it seems to me you have already addressed this question, last month in your column on Andre Agassi. As you said, we do not know how someone will turn out based on what we see in someone at 18. Or even 30, perhaps? Tiger is not yet done. May he leave as gracefully as Andre, when that time comes.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for the mention of Agassi, whose speech was absolutely befitting his career and the way the tennis public came to adore him. I hated to see him lose, but what a way to go out.


Washington, D.C.: Will you be doing the Redskins Report with George Michael and Riggo this season? If so, when does it start up?

Michael Wilbon: Thursday night, 7:30 WRCT-TV-4...Yes, catch it. MW


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