The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, July 16, 2007; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, July 16, at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive


Kodak Theatre, L.A.: Did you watch the ESPY's last night? I vote LeBron and Kimmel for permanent hosts!

Michael Wilbon: I'm TOTALLY with you on this. They were great. Kimmel, you expect to be great. He's paid to host. That's his gig. LeBron? Who knew? The kid was fabulous. Seriously, the Bobby Brown/Hammer number late in the show was laugh out loud. I gave him a standing ovation at home! I didn't plan to stay with the ESPYs for more than one minute, and stayed with it the whole way because of LeBron. And he and Kimmel actually had some chemistry, which is surprising because they barely know each other. Unreal.


Herndon, Va.: Mr. Mike: We're almost at the "cusp" -- when questions to you about the NFL and the Redskins will multiply like demented rabbits. Football -- college and pro, has always been No. 1 with me (being born and raised in Lincoln, Neb., I sometimes think football has been imprinted in my genes). Over the past few years the overwhelming publicity for football -- especially the NFL -- has been somewhat of a turn off. Do you see any signs that the U.S. craze for football of all varieties has peaked?

Michael Wilbon: Great question. No, I don't see any signs. And trust me, I've been looking for them because America tends to "Millionaire" everything, which is to say, get carried away to the point of saturation, then turn on it. We do it with virtually everything. So far, football has been immune. But with games on virtually all the time now, I think it's going to happen with football, too, especially pro football. A great part of the huge popularity of football is the limited nature of its availability. Once a week...Then once a week plus Monday...Then once a week plus Monday and Thursday, and Saturday in December...I don't want to get into forecasting this as much as observing it, and I think it's really something to keep an eye on. But right now, no question America is as in love with football as anything in sports/entertainment/pop culture. No question about it. It's a superior product, managed brilliantly...but baseball once had that kind of hold on America, too, and it didn't many things do?


From Peter King's Column: Thoughts on Peter King's comment in his column today, since he brought up your name?

"I'll be the first to admit that ESPN is full of wonderful programming, but whoever thought up this idiotic 'Who's Hot Now' racket and debate needs some sort of reality check. The aim, evidently, was to find the 32 hottest/most talented/handsome (I guess)/People-magazinish athletes in the world, pair them off against each other, and see who is the most 'now' guy. I got a kick out of Matt Leinart being in it, with the ESPN anchor talking about him like he's one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Injecting performance into the debate made this all the more laughable, seeing that Leinart was the 23rd-rated quarterback in the league last year, completed 56.7 percent of his passes, with a minus-1 TD-to-interception ratio. And the panel discussions arguing the levels of nowness. Silly, silly stuff. Poor Mike Wilbon. This is why ESPN lured one of the best columnists and journalists in America to work there full time, so he could debate who's more 'now' -- Kobe Bryant or some soccer player from Brazil?"

Michael Wilbon: I love Peter King. Love him. He's one of my favorite people, period...not just sportswriters. But I don't take myself nearly as seriously as any football writers. That's why I'm glad I'm not one anymore, and it's why I took the "other" fork in the road when I had a chance to continue being a football writer. "Who's Now" is simply a bigger platform (some would say too big) for a traditional PTI "toss-up" segment without the news peg. Tony and I do this every week, and have for 5 1/2 years. And I LIKED doing "Who's Now?" and would do it again if the schedule permitted. Football writer s -- 99 percent of them, and yes, they are dear, dear friends -- think we're war correspondents and that we all care to be serious 100 percent of the time. They don't see other sports, they don't cover other sports. They think all of us in the profession crave football 100 percent of the time, and therefore the seriousness it conveys.

I could give a damn.

And I love football.

But I'm not beholden to it every day, nor feel the need to be serious that most football writers (sometimes including Peter) feel. I have had these discussions with another very, very close friend, Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. I've got other interests, some of them frivolous. I like pop culture, though I don't go any deeper than reading "People Magazine" and even then only on flights. I like "Who's Now?" and as frivolous as it is, it speaks to a huge number of people, and it's the kind of things old newspaper guys like Peter and myself usually don't indulge in...But this, for me, has been a treat. I wasn't ordered to do it, wasn't nudged to do it. And I volunteered to do it again for the next round; too bad for me the schedule won't permit.


NYC: Wilbon,

Thanks for doing these chats. They always make the beginning of the work week a little less painful.

Gary Sheffield: how can he continue to get away with saying things like this? I understand that some think of these statements as "Gary being Gary", but what if David Wright were to say something similar about Willie Randolph? He'd be crucified. I'm not naive, I know racism still exists and is prevalent in much of the world (sporting and otherwise). But how can he make a seemingly baseless comment about a man and organization that have never been accused of this in the past? It's a double standard. For the record, if TO were to say that about Parcells or Andy Reid, he would also be torched.

Michael Wilbon: Did you hear Kenny Lofton's comments? Darryl Strawberry went the other way. Who should I believe? How do you know they're baseless comments? Were you there? I wasn't. I don't know whether they're baseless or not. I've never heard Lofton complain about anything in 20 years of public athletic life and he says Sheffield is right on the money. So, I'm supposed to discount that 100 percent? Why? People always say, "I know racism exists, but..." But what? I reject the notion that because Sheffield is a loose cannon that what he's saying doesn't have merit. Does it make him less credible, probably yes, to many people. I'm reserving judgment until I can hear from more black players who've played for Torre as manager of the Yankees. T.O. is less credible than Sheffield. Yes, the messenger in these matters does count. But I'm not one to throw out the message entirely until it's looked at a little more critically.


CKS (D.C.): As a fellow fan of Naughty by Nature's "OPP," I was amused by your back and forth last week with Lebatard about OPS and OPP on PTI (sorry for so many acronyms). But, I'm really curious if you were serious when you said that batting average is more important than on base percentage? It seems to me that the Sabermetrics folks have pretty well established that on base percentage is a far better measure of a hitter's ability than simply his batting average.

Michael Wilbon: My bigger point was that stolen bases aren't factored in to OBP and how much more important it is to put one's self in scoring position to be driven in. Ichiro has a ton of stolen bases, and can be driven in from second or third when a player with a higher OBP or OPS is standing on first. Hmmm, tell me that isn't important in assessing Ichiro's worth.


Evanston Exile in D.C.: Lifelong Cubs Fan. Question: How badly are the Cubs going to lead us on before breaking our hearts? Will they reach first place then collapse, and if so how close to clinching, or are they ready to start the parade of hilarious injuries now?

Michael Wilbon: I've been thinking about that all weekend, as the Cubs swept the hated Astros. I don't know. I can't foresee this one clearly. Lou Pinella is the x-factor. He's a fighter. Lou doesn't give into anything, even curses. Since the Sweet Lou tirade on June 2 the Cubs are 25-12, which is the best record over that time in the majors. How about that? Now, as a lifelong Cubs fan you know (as I do) that we think we're just being set up for the big crusher. I don't know yet. I think they're going to catch the Brewers, but then? I don't even want to let myself go down the patch just yet. Can't you just enjoy this until September???


Bristol, Conn.: Wilbon,

Any chance of you replacing DP on his radio show?

Michael Wilbon: None whatsoever. No chance, no interest...


Agent Zero: Michael,

In your opinion, should I be excited about the direction the Wiz are headed or should I be shopping for a house in a new city come next season?

Michael Wilbon: I like, to a degree, what the Wizards have done. I just hope they find a way to keep Juan Carlos Navarro, who I've liked a lot in the few times I've seen him play (like the Olympics). Last I checked, Agent Zero has had one postseason success, and a limited one at that, on which to hang his hat. And that was two years ago. Agent Zero isn't even...Kobe. He's not yet that important in the bigger scheme of things NBA. He'd better come back healthy and prove he can lead a team past the first round. Let him become a better defender and lead the Wizards to a division title so they won't have to be a 7-seed or 6-seed and then figure out his real stature in the NBA.


Washington, D.C.: With Ichiro, though, his value is so much greater (to both Seattle and baseball as a whole) OFF the field than it is on the field. That's why he's worth the nearly $20M/yr -- because of the promotional value he has for Seattle and the overseas marketing opportunities.

Michael Wilbon: His contributions on and off the field make him worth it to Seattle.


Chicago: Your answer to Herndon about the NFL's staying power immediately brought two things to mind: NFL Europa (bust) and the NFL Network (bust so far). I honestly think we're at the saturation point here in the US. And if you look at the top sports around the globe right now, the NFL is pretty much the only one that has NO support outside the US. Everything else -- soccer, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, cricket, rugby come to mind -- has a broad appeal across several cultures and continents. That's crucial in the long term. Our football has nothing outside American corporate support, blue collar rust belt cities and college campuses. Heck, even L.A. doesn't seem to mind missing out on the real thing.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you for a very smart answer.


Chicago: What do you think the chances are of Cuban buying the Cubs? Personally, I'd love it. I have no idea if he would be successful or not, but it would be fun to watch him try. Also, it's my birthday today. Any chance you and TK sing "Happy Birthday" for me on PTI?

Michael Wilbon: You think YOU want to see it. I've gotten to know Mark Cuban over the last few years and I would LOVE to see him own the Cubs. I worry that Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf have taken control of the last few ownership searches, to the point they weren't searches. They process, in the case of the Red Sox and Nationals, wasn't open from what I can see and am told. And we know that Bulls Chairman Reinsdorf, as close as he is to NBA Commissioner David Stern, isn't a fan of Cuban's. I would love, love, love, love to see it but you'd have to have doubts. There are already reports that a finance mogul, last name Canning (I'm drawing a blank on the first name) is the leader of the pack.


Washington, D.C.: It doesn't make sense to include stolen bases in OBP. Once they're on, they're on. What happens when someone is caught steeling? Would that then lower their OBP? But you make a good point when saying that being in scoring position is more important than being on first. Perhaps a solution would be to break OBP down into scoring position or create a different stat: SPP -- scoring position percentage to show how often a player gets into scoring position.

Michael Wilbon: I like that suggestion. Thanks.


Evanston, Ill.: Following up on an earlier question/comment regarding the NFL's popularity, I have to agree that it is very annoying when folks like Mike & Mike devote so much radio time to football during the spring and summer, when clearly there are other sports like the NBA and MLB going on. I don't care at all about the ongoing sagas of Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson and when September rolls around, then I will turn my attention to football. Before that, why should I care?

Michael Wilbon: Amen. I'm with you. I think we might be a silent majority and just watch quietly as the football sycophants try to take over the world. What's even worse about them is they look at you as if you're somehow inadequate for not going along with their herd mentality.


Baltimore: In response to the NFL question I must disagree with the notion of saturation. Football is the most American Sport we have, good and bad. Bad being the ultra violence. Good being the meritocracy of it. Football, like America is the only place where determination and pure will can lead to great sucess. Only in football can pure heart and hard work make you the best, ie. Jerry Rice.

Michael Wilbon: So, it can't make it in basketball, like, say, Larry Bird...Garbage truck to Icon? Can't work in baseball like Cal Ripken Jr. or Tony Gwynn? It's okay for you to drink the Kool-Aid, but don't expect all of us to drink after you. Don't tell me football is the "only" place this can happen.


Alexandria, Va.: Mike,

Any thoughts on Phillies fans cheering their 10,000th loss?

Michael Wilbon: None whatsoever, but thanks for asking.


Arlington, Va.: Mike thanks for taking the question,

There has been several attempts of soccer stars from abroad to come to America to popularize and play the sport here.

My question is that do you think we would ever see an American sports superstar like Shaq, Derek Jeter, Michael Vick, etc. going overseas to popularize a US sport in a foreign country?

Michael Wilbon: Great question...Yes, in the case of sports they care about. Basketball and soccer are global sports. This isn't debatable. People play them almost everywhere. Baseball is growing and moving into new areas all the time. Pro football. Nobody cares but us. They don't even care in Canada. And we don't care about soccer. I don't mean me, personally. I covered the last attempt to bring global soccer icons to America. Johan Cruyff played for the Diplomats, here in D.C. Pele and Georgio Chinaglia, among others, played in New York for the Cosmos. And the NASL still went bankrupt. And those were much MUCH bigger stars than a washed up David Beckham. Pele or Beckham? Please.


Brooklyn, N.Y.:

I think it's time MLB is stripped of their special anti-trust status. Mark Cuban would be good for the Cubs and possibly baseball.

More importantly, this is a free country. Having the owners of other teams decide whether Cuban can buy the Cubs is like Coke having a say as to whether a company could buy Pepsi. It's completely anti-capitalist and rather un-American for America's pastime. It simply isn't in the other owners' interests to have a new competitor like Cuban. I just can't see this approval happening. And it will be a shame.

Michael Wilbon: Here Here! You guys are taking all my sentiments today...Thank you for expressing this one.


Alexandria, Va.: Hey Wilbon,

Are you ready for Becks to elevate soccer to one of the major sports in the U.S.? He's still playing at a very high level and Real Madrid desperately wanted to keep him, so it's a lot different than Pele going on a retirement tour with the Cosmos back in the day.

I think soccer could easily surpass hockey as the fourth sport in the near future, 10 years. The question, will you ever go to a DC United (or MLS) game?

Michael Wilbon: Soccer has already passed the NHL as the No. 4 sport in America, and trust me, I've watched more professional soccer games in person (NASL and MLS) than you have. Wanna bet?


swing-n-a-miss: I love golf, but watching and reading pieces on Jean Van de Velde bore me. He hasn't said anything new in six years relating to his debacle. Once The Open is finished this Sunday, can we expect to be saved from this?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I hear you...I must admit though, as a golf fanatic, I'm obsessed with Van de Velde. I am. I should quit. It's Bill Buckner II, but I can't help it. Just once good piece, and I hope to be over it...


Anonymous: How does Roger Federer not annihilate Tony Parker? Parker is only in the discussion because of ANOTHER person...

Michael Wilbon: YES! That's right. And Federer is as boring as it comes. It's about who's got more sizzle. Federer and Parker have NONE, but Parker has Eva. Yes, you get it. Yes!


Takoma Park, Md.: Mike: Your colleague Sally Jenkins wrote this morning in her column that Barry Bonds should just walk away from baseball, short of the home run record. She sees this as the only way Bonds can redeem himself, and as the only happy ending. We know it won't happen, but what do you think of the proposal?

Michael Wilbon: I love Sally to death and think that on this topic she's nuts.


Washington, D.C.: Mike:

I saw the Ali-Ken Norton fight on ESPN classics this weekend and it made me think that pro boxing is pretty much dead. Are there any decent fighters on the horizon, in any weight class, worth watching?

Michael Wilbon: It's more than pretty much dead, it's virtually dead. I love boxing so much...thank God I've got those old fights to watch and watch again until the end of time.


Ashburn, Va.: Hi Mike,

Do you think Lefty's loss in a playoff yesterday will have any effect on his performance at the British Open? I wonder if losing like this is actually getting easier for him to take, and it will make rebounding from tournament to tournament a little easier. At least, I hope so. I'm a pretty big Mickelson fan.

Michael Wilbon: Good question to end on...I watched every stroke of the fourth and final round that was televised. I don't think Phil choked...I don't think it was like the U.S. Open last year taking out driver on the 18th tee. But he did bogey three of the final five holes -- all par 4s -- to get caught from behind. And he did have some things you have to attribute to sheer bad luck. Twice, approach shots landed six inches too far to spin back. One foot on each shot and people would be talking about his brilliant short game. I think this might be a step in the right direction for Phil, especially if he's healthy. That slash-out back into the fairway in the playoff hole suggests that wrist is healthy. I can't wait for this weekend's British Open.

Okay, we won't be discussing it Monday because I'm headed out on vacation for two weeks...I'm back Aug. 6 at work, when NFL camps will be all the rage...Stay tuned, I think the next Chat will actually be Aug. 13 once we have some preseason football to discuss, in addition to pennant races and the upcoming PGA Championship. Enjoy the summer everybody. And thanks for chatting...mike.


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