The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, August 27, 2007; 1:30 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Aug. 27, at 1:30 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive


Vick non-sincerity: Michael,

After reading Vick's plea today, I still have a very difficult time believing that he truly believes what he said in his document that he is truly sorry, blah , blah, blah.

What is your take on today's plea?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...Sorry for starting late, but seeing and hearing and reviewing all of the Vick statements/news conferences/reaction pieces...This is the only place to start and what we'll deal with most in the next hour...

I thought that Michael Vick's 4 minute-plus statement was a pretty impressive first step. That's all. A first step. I thought it was good he spoke without notes, which would simply have made most of us feel his attorneys or some handlers wrote something that he read. But he didn't do that. I would take major exception with his contention that he made a mistake. Turning the wrong way onto a one-way street and causing a bad accident is a mistake. Vick conducted criminal activity, and according to his sleazy father, has been doing so since the late 1990s. That's not a mistake, that's a pattern of criminal behavior. Still, I thought this is the first note of apology and atonement in what has to be a two-year symphony...If Michael Vick thinks he's going to apologize 10 or 15 times and be done, he's sadly mistaken. He needs to and ought to apologize and find some desperately needed humility from this day forward. But again, I thought he started by sounding the only note we'd want to hear. What would you have him say that he didn't? He owned up to every single accusation, which to tell you the truth, was a pleasant surprise to me.


Alexandria, Va.: Mr. Wilbon -- Re: Michael Vick. Maybe I'm missing something in the ongoing coverage of Vick's problems, but I fail to see how Vick's carefully-worded plea about his involvement in "gambling" does him a whole lot of good as far as Roger Goodell is concerned. Sure it's helpful if Vick did not himself gamble on dogfights or profit from the illegal gambling. However, he financed the operation -- without him, it is pretty clear the gambling and other illegal conduct would not have occurred. In a different context, if he financed an illegal casino, with slots, roulette, blackjack, etc., but did not roll the dice or make any money, would that be okay with the NFL? I think not.

Michael Wilbon: Good point...I don't think today was the day to set up his return to the NFL, which is more concerned with the gambling than the killing of dogs, which ought to raise all of our eyebrows, by the way. Today was the day to issue a general apology, not tick off every single concern of Roger Goodell. As Vick said, he's got some downtime. He's got time to deal with every single item on the laundry list. And will need to do so.


Detroit, Mich.,: What has become of the NAACP? An organization that has done so much good is now defending convicted felons simply because they are African American? Is this the example they really want to set and what happened to personal responsibility and accountability? MLK Jr., Rosa Parks, Booker T. Washington, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass must be turning in their graves.

Michael Wilbon: I think you misread the NAACP. In fact, the national leader -- and I'm sorry, I do not know his name -- said that while the local organization in Atlanta is knee deep in Vick issues that the national organization had bigger issues to confront and would not spend its time and resources defending Michael Vick. So, cheers to him.


Re-Vick: Reading interviews with both Mom and Dad I'm beginning to see the problem here.

I'm reminded of when Bill Cosby discussed that the Mom who cries as her son is sent prison didn't do much to stop the anti-social behavior years previously that built up to this.

She doesn't know why her baby is going to jail? Everybody else does.

Michael Wilbon: Amen. I'd love to talk to Bill Cosby today. He's one of the few people who has the courage to cut right to the heart of the matter and not pull punches.


Washington, D.C.: John Feinstein argues that Michael Vick should never be allowed to play in the NFL again because he has become a "bad guy" who has forfeited his right to be cheered as a hero. Is that the new standard for professional athletes? Must be deserving of hero worship? Better call the commish, they might have a hard time fielding 32 teams this year.

Michael Wilbon: I love John, but I disagree with that sentiment, if that's what he truly feels. No second chances because you're a "bad guy?" Then leagues and networks and workplaces of all kinds would be half-empty...if that.


Iowa: Is it fair to compare the reaction of NAACP members to Vick's situation and the calls for rehabilitation to their comments in the Don Imus fiasco? As loathsome as Imus is, his comments didn't violate the law.

Michael Wilbon: Once again, Google the comments last week from the NAACP official who was widely quoted. He didn't back or endorse anything Vick said or did, and specifically distanced the national organization from Vick...Don't make up your own news. What I read in no way jibes with what you or the previous chatter have suggested.


San Francisco: Mr. Wilbon, thank you for taking the time to do this, I always enjoy your insight even when we don't agree (sometimes I like them more then -- discussion is good for the mind and soul)

Why are people so shocked and outraged about Michael Vick and all that surrounds him? Dog fighting is heinous, but are we so delusional as to think that money and the privilege that it affords changes people for the better? Maybe I am too jaded to be this young, but I feel that the sense of shock and outrage is 98 percent manufactured by people who live with blinders on. In a world of suicide bombers, how does dog fighting offend people so much?

Michael Wilbon: Even in my criticism of Vick, I very much am mindful of thoughts like yours...and thanks for leading this next part of the discussion. I feel a lot of the outrage is being led by the animal lobbyists, many of whose views and outrage over any little thing I detest. And I do mean detest. Personally, I'm frightened by the lack of outrage over players who assault women. That's MUCH more of a priority to me, and if I hear of those kinds of crimes this year and see no outrage from the NFL, trust me, I'll be swinging with both fists. I don't think the NFL, which is so powerful it goes almost without challenge, even in the media, cared much about the dog killing at all...mostly the gambling. Did you read Roger Goodell's statement Friday? What did it deal with? Gambling. That's the NFL's self-absorption...Beyond that -- and keep in mind, I'm glad Vick is going to jail -- there are people who commit sexual assault and confront less outrage. How is this possible? I wonder about private agendas and worry when the people who wield them take control of the conversation.


Reston: I find it very hard to believe that none of Vick's teammates were aware of what he was up to. Do you, and do you feel they'd have an obligation to share this information if they knew what he was into?

Michael Wilbon: Sorry about the interruption...Some kind of strange technical problem...Anyway, I might have suspicions about the behavior of somebody I work with -- and no, not Tony -- but I'm about to monitor the lives of my colleagues unless it's right out in the workplace...Also, just because players work together doesn't mean they live together or hang out together. This isn't the 1960s; you think Tiki Barber and Eli Manning went home to the same neighborhood and barbequed together? Sorry, nope.


D.C.: If dog fighting was in the news everyday, and spousal abuse and vehicular homicide were the odd stories, I think people would be much more outraged over the latter rather than the former.

Michael Wilbon: So we should only be outraged if something is odd? That, my friend, is exactly the problem. Wife-beating is every day therefore it's okay to yawn? Not here. I love dogs. I grew up with one for 14 years, from 4-18. That dog was like a second brother to me. But as much as I loved him, the dog's life wasn't as important to me as my mom's, or my brothers.


Washington, D.C.: Does Vick remind you of Mike Tyson?

Michael Wilbon: Not really, but fair question since Tyson is the last athlete of consequence in his prime to have his career interrupted by a jail sentence. But Tyson was produced by circumstances so poor and so depraved and so unfortunate...Likely there were even sexual abuse issues (Mike has talked about these things himself) that I can understand, to a degree, why Mike Tyson can barely find the tracks, much less stay on the rails. Vick has no such excuse. I'm not saying his childhood was a bed of roses, but he grew up like millions, and better than tens of millions, a child who seemed to be given everything by age of 12 or 14...except discipline. But other than being professional athletes who squandered hundreds of millions (and remember, Vick will lost the final $105 million of his contract but another $150 million plus in endorsement deals and perks) and had to do time.


Dumfries, Va.: A current phrase being used regarding Vick is that "we are a country of second chances."

If this is true for Vick, should it hold for Tim Donaghy and to what degree?

Michael Wilbon: Tim Donaghy's second chance might come in witness protection as somebody else. When you're linked with the mob it's not only up to society whether you get a second chance...if you know what I mean. Donaghy won't get a second chance with the NBA. And I think we're a country of second chances in many cases, perhaps even most cases...but not all. Anybody found to aid terrorists, for example, would be up for second-chance status in my opinion.


RE: Lack of Outrage over Abuse, DUI, etc.: There were people cheering Vick this morning as he entered the courtroom, just like people cheered for Mike Tyson - and Paris Hilton - when they were released from jail. Above all else we worship celebrity in this country, and we ignore and then forget the celebrities' transgressions.

Michael Wilbon: Yep. There's no arguing that.


San Diego: Mr. Wilbon, what is your view on Little League baseball? I don't mean the local neighborhood variety, but the spectacle that the LL World Series has become.

Don't they ruin young arms? Is all that media attention healthy for 12 year-olds?

Michael Wilbon: Good question...Kudos to the kid who hit the walk-off home run to win it all. Talk about a moment to remember for life. But no, I don't think the national TV attention is good for these kids. I think there's too much pressure; just look at their reactions. I don't know about young arms, but just think kids need to do this stuff in the relative privacy of their own communities.


Washington, D.C.: What is the number one thing that caused our US basketball team to dominate in this tournament?

Michael Wilbon: No competition. Pay a little closer attention to what the tournament is. It's not the World Championships or the Olympics. Argentina, the defending Olympic champ, didn't even bring Manu Ginobili, Oberto, Hermann or any of its best players because Argentina already qualified for the Olympics. We haven't qualified yet, but will. But the Tournament of the Americas is just this hemisphere; it doesn't include the European powers like Spain or Croatia or Lithuania...This U.S. team is better in that it's not given over the star appeal. It has four guys who've never made an All-Star team (Tyson Chandler, Mike Miller, Tayshaun Prince, Deron Williams) and all those guys are dying to simply fulfill roles. Better to have those guys fulfill roles naturally than force stars to do what they don't really do well...just to justify having them on the team.


Clarify: "Anybody found to aid terrorists, for example, would be up for second-chance status in my opinion."

I'm assuming you meant "not up for second-chance status"

Michael Wilbon: NOT be up...thank you..Luckily for me, there was already context...not be up at all...And I can think of a lot more criminal situations that would not leave us screaming for the offenders to have second chances.


Hampton, Va.: If mere "association with gamblers" draws a lifetime ban from the NFL, why does Mike Vick get an "indefinite" ban? Why not do the right thing and kick him out of football permanently? Even if the guy goes on Oprah and cries forgiveness for dog fighting, can the NFL let a guy who participated in a gambling ring back in? Ever?

Michael Wilbon: The question -- and you already know this -- is whether he bet on NFL games. If he did, I think you'll see a lifetime ban. If not, he'll be like a lot of players. You think NFL players are banned from casinos or office pools or going to the track? Think again. They're not.


Washington, D.C.: Mike,

Have you had a chance to read Howard Bryant's column on about the NFLPA's silence on the Vick issue? I think he raised some excellent questions, not the least of which is what good is a union if it's not going to defend its players? And before anyone blows a gasket, by "defend" I don't mean justifying someone's horrific actions. I mean making sure that however heinous the allegations are, the player gets a fair hearing and if guilty a fair punishment. It seems to me that the NFLPA is allowing Goodell to be judge, jury, and executioner while the union sits on the sidelines. And Vick is a dues paying member -- unlike the oldtimers that Upshaw and company seemingly could care less about.

Michael Wilbon: I think this is a very, very, very important issue to raise, and I'm glad Howard Bryant, who just left The Post for, raised it...Smart column and must reading. As sad as I am to see Howard leave the newspaper, I'm happy he'll get to stretch out and develop his voice, which will very likely become an important one in sports discussions.


New York, NY: No question just a comment. I just want to commend the Little League champs from Georgia for the incredible sportsmanship they displayed yesterday. They did not celebrate their victory with each other for more than a minute before they went over to the Japanese players - hugging them, consoling them and reassuring them. It was such an honest and emotional display that professional athletes should learn from. No chest bumping, no dancing on scorers tables. They represented our country well on the field, but even better after their victory.

Michael Wilbon: Great observation, and thank you...It's something we plan to talk about on PTI today...Standing O for those U.S. kids from Georgia.


Falls Church, Va.: Great Chats Mike Thanks for doing this...

Some of the recent articles on the 'Skins had me wondering about the role of a "beat reporter" and while you do not do this anymore, I know you have plenty of experience.

I know the columnist is there to comment and theorize on the happenings of the day, and often this takes the form of criticism. What about the beat reporter...should they be purely objective or should they be a bit of a homer?

Should the beat guys be true to journalistic integrity and write just the facts as they see them or do they owe the home town fans a bit of a "positive" outlook?

Michael Wilbon: Good questions. People used to know this stuff about newspapers but rarely seem to know or care anymore. And it's an important distinction. NO writers -- none -- should be homers. And none should be looking to offer a positive outlook. That's what leagues/networks/teams/players pay public relations professionals to do. We're there to look at things with a skeptical eye. It should, in my opinion, stop short of cynicism. But I don't like the use of the word "objectivity." It's a nice journalism school word. You strive for it, but never reach it because we all have our baggage. The beat writer is there to chronicle what happens...not just take the coach's word for it or settle for what the team wants to reader/viewer/listener to know, but to chronicle as best is possible everything going on worth discussing.

This might sound naive, but it needs to be said as people know less and less about what newspapers do. The Washington Post, not the Redskins, pays the beat writer who covers the Redskins, whether that was Paul Attner, Christine Brennan, Gary Pomerantz, Richard Justice, Tom Friend, David Aldridge, Mark Maske, Jason LaCanfora, Howard Bryant or anybody else (God, I hope I didn't forget somebody: that's the roster since 1977). We're not there to be positive or turn a blind eye and deaf ear. We're there to report what's happening as if it was Capitol Hill, and to be fair about it, which means getting the view of all sides included. The columnist is there to comment, which also should entail talking to people, and being fair.


H Street: I know you dislike fantasy football, but you've never addressed it in detail. You say "Cheer for your own team!," but don't you see the appeal of giving meaning to otherwise meaningless games?

Michael Wilbon: Very few if any of the games are meaningless to me. I don't need a trumped up incentive to watch, say Houston-Kansas City. If it's not worth it, don't watch it. I think fantasy football is a smart way to involve people who in the main wouldn't involve themselves otherwise. I know I'm in the vast minority on this, but I don't want to cheer for a Packers receiver for ANY reason when I'm a Bears fan...But I realize 90 percent of people now would think I'm nuts.


Washington, D.C.: Isn't it rather hypocritical of the NBA to discipline officials for legally gambling in casinos, when the Maloof brothers are owners, the All-Star game was held in Las Vegas, and a WNBA team plays in Mohegan Sun arena?

Michael Wilbon: Oh, yes. Ummmmm, yes. Absolutely and positively, yes.


Houston, Tex.: Vick made a short statement after his court appearance, saying "dog fighting is a terrible thing" and taking "full responsibility for my actions."

After years of involvement in dog fighting activities, how can he turn around and say something like this so soon? What he really means to say is "dog fighting is a terrible thing because it possibly ruined my football career, not because it is inherently bad." Am I too cynical or has celebrity spin out of control these days?

Having said that, I believe that once he's paid his debt to society and the NFL, I have no problem with him trying to play again.....

Michael Wilbon: On no, you're not too cynical at all. I wonder whether he yet feels any real remorse over anything but losing his career. I really do. And I doubt it, to tell you the truth. He HAD to do what he did today, but time will tell whether he ever gets it.


Winchester: Is Tony right when he says that the Redskins beat is the hardest one at The Post?

Michael Wilbon: Yes...Because every section's editors historically think they know what's going on with the Redskins. The sports editor isn't suggesting story ideas to the White House beat writers.


Non-Vick question: I was wondering if you have an opinion on the show "Friday Night Lights"? The best show on TV that isn't "The Wire."

Michael Wilbon: Sorry, I don't watch either...And I hear overwhelmingly great things about both...I watch SO little TV in the summer. But I'll start again next week, what with college football coming back, fall prime-time programming around the corner...I hate July/August in D.C. It's so intolerable. I can't wait for it to be over, even though it means a return to miserable traffic for the first time since Memorial Day. Anyway, we've got a lot to deal with on PTI, obviously. Tony will be coming to us life from Atlanta, of all places, where MNF is for the Bengals-Falcons game. No Chat next Monday but we'll do something later in the week before the NFL season opens.


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