The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Wednesday, November 14, 2007; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Wednesday, Nov. 14 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


Herndon, Va.: Hi Mike,

So you and Tony sit outside in the rain and 50mph winds for Monday PTI. Who in the ESPN senior management did you upset? Who thinks that having you all sit outside in the rain in an empty stadium ADDS to the ambiance of the show? Are they crazy????

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...I'm in sunny Arizona, Scottsdale to be exact, where it's 78 degrees and not a cloud in the sky for the fourth consecutive day...couldn't be better...and it's a far cry from Seattle where it was in the low 40s, raining and blustery...And for those of you who don't watch PTI often (and that would be most of the world's population) the Monday show Tony and I do is on the ESPN set in whatever NFL stadium the MNF game is in. You don't just put up a couple of directors' chairs, grab a camera and say, "Cheese!" It's a set. Several sets travel by ground every week to the MNF location. So the weather is what it is. If we had done the show live that day (5:30 eastern) it would have been partially sunny...But we taped it at 3:30 eastern and the last remnants of a very strong storm were blowing through. By 4:30 eastern blue sky was peeking through, the winds were absolutely calm and there wasn't a drop of rain...So, you don't get to decide where you're going to sit for PTI...Ooooh, ooooh...there's a tunnel...let's do it in there. By the way, it was great. I love doing the outdoor shows every Monday and I HATE when it's in a dome...and we have two more of those (Atlanta and Minneapolis)...Okay, that's more than anybody needs to know, but you asked...


D.C.: Why are the members of the BCS so adverse to having a playoff system? It's not like the bowls will vanish, or that people will stop watching.

Michael Wilbon: It's not the BCS officials. It's the college presidents who have mandated "No Playoff." And the answer to "why" is because they're arrogant, smug, powerful men, most of whom think they're the greatest thing to walk the planet. Quite a few are not. Too many are the most self-important people in America and they shouldn't be let within 50 miles of decisions on college athletics. They sanction a system in which every other sport, regardless of gender or division of play, is settled by playoff. Anything they say about too much travel or anything else is pure lies..."Tradition" is the only honest reason any one of them could give.


Alexandria, Va.: The Wizards keep preaching the importance of defensive improvement. I think it's just not gonna happen with the current makeup of the roster. In this case, it's not on the coaches. The Wizards defense is characterized by habitual gamblers in Arenas and Butler, an undersized forward in Jamison and a softie in Haywood. When will Ernie Grunfeld pull the trigger on a trade (if ever) to improve this team defensively and take the team to the next level?

Michael Wilbon: You know what...the Wizards could be at that point sooner rather than later. They're not going to play championship-level defense with this group of players. It's not going to happen, now and not later. They can win the Southeast Division and maybe a first-round series but that's about it. One note of caution after looking at the Wizards upcoming schedule: they should go on a run now that could start with six straight victories. If they don't go on a run over the next 15 games (and I think they will and hope they do) they're looking at a long, disappointing season. Their first few games, particularly at Indy to start the season, were stunning. The Bulls and Wizards are the two most disappointing teams in the NBA right now.


Warsaw, Va.: Mr. Wilbon,

Just wanted to say that I love your work for the Post and with PTI. Do you enjoy doing these chats? It seems like you are very busy all the time. Are these chats required for you or are they something that you just like to do?

Michael Wilbon: I've done these chats for, what, seven or eight years...maybe nine. I love doing them. I am busy all the time...most people are. Forty years, during Shirley Povich's long reign, ago something like this would have been unthinkable...interaction with readers/viewers/listeners...for newspaper people anyway. Now, it's essential. I don't blog...I'm not that contemporary. But I love the give and take here and I'm thankful there's an audience for it...If not, I'd be in big trouble. Tony and I were among the first to "chat." Turns out our PTI producer, Erik Rydholm, got to know us as sportswriters through the Chat House before any of us ever met...Hasn't turned out too bad for any of us...


Wasington, DC: Are the Colts in trouble? Are the Steelers now the second best team?

Michael Wilbon: That could be the case by this Sunday...That's why the Colts needed to finish off the Chargers and win that game. Now, with Dwight Freeney being gone for the year probably, the Colts are going to be fortunate to hold off the Steelers for the No. 2 spot in the AFC. I don't know that they can. Look, this is what injuries can do to a season. It happens all the time...Fans of every NFL team can point to a season that went 180 because of injuries...I hope the rest of the Colts can get back by mid-December...But Freeney is a guy who caused offensive coaches nightmares during the week trying to prepare for Indy's defense. Without him, I'm not sure they can get back to the AFC Championship game.


State College, PA: Hi Mike,

Since Annie Duke is going to be chatting later on, I have to ask -- poker: a sport or not? What's your definition of sports?

Michael Wilbon: isn't a sport anymore than Chess is...It's a game...a demanding, glamorous, high-profile, big-interest game. But it's not a sport. It involves NOTHING physical. It is, has and always will be a game.


What's The Answer?: Hi Mike,

Sports can't get away from the spectre of performance enhancing drugs. And it seems no sport is immune. What's the solution? Is there one? Some say just make everything anyone wants to take legal. That would work but the ramifications are too scary to give that solution serious consideration. Testing isn't the ultimate solution, as we know. Do you think this issue could ultimately be the demise of professional sports as we know it?

Michael Wilbon: Great question(s)...I don't think it will be the demise of sport because this has been going on for hundreds of years. Going to Athens for the 2004 Olympics, I learned about athletes of the ancient Olympics taking various poisons and concoctions that were said to give them an advantage. Nothing's changed in that regard and it appears, as you insightfully suggest, that nothing will.


Columnist vs. Reporter: I've enjoyed your columns for a long time, and am old enough to remember your beat reporting. Do most beat reporters strive to become columnists, or do some like to stick to reporting? I think of Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News, as he's a wonderful beat writer for the NFL, and seems like he should have "risen" to columnist a long time ago. Can you describe -if possible- the driving force from going to reporter to columnist? Much appreciated.

Michael Wilbon: A lot of reporters live to report, period. They like gather information that nobody else has and handing it to their readers/viewers/listeners. Many aren't as comfortable giving their opinion or revealing themselves personally. When you write a column you do reveal yourself...You'd better or the column won't be any good. You need to (in my opinion) open yourself up and tell people why you believe what you do, and why they should believe what you believe, which is what you're trying to convince them to do...

The best sports conversations aren't about whose bullpen is better; they're about gender, race, education, drugs, ethics. They deal with the law and politics...And you have to reveal what you stand for and why. You tell, through taking positions on various issues of the day, what it is you believe in. Everything. All of it. Otherwise, I think you're cheating the reader.

I liked beat writing. It was necessary to learn how sports work, how teams work, the dynamics between players and management, teams and their fans, leagues and sponsors, etc. It's no coincidence that columnists are much more insightful and authoritative (and therefore credible) on the subjects they covered as beat writers/reporters, and the issues that relate to those sports.

So, a great many reporters aspire to be columnists, but not everybody...not by a long shot. With the position of columnist comes scrutiny, pressure from just about everywhere to believe in what others do...And it ought to lead to a whole lot of introspection...which guys (and 97 percent of columnists are men) aren't socialized from an early age to do anyway...

My dear friend David Aldridge says, "It's not a real job, but it's certainly not easy." And I agree with David 100 percent.


I've done these chats for, what, seven or eight years...maybe nine.: Huh, I had no idea the chats were going on that long.

We're having an argument in my house about who's going to the Super Bowl. I'm sad to say I went with the obvious pick of the Pats. Husband is going with Green Bay. Any merit to his pick? I just don't see it myself.

Michael Wilbon: I don't know that there is ever "merit" to picking stuff like who's going to be in the Super Bowl. The Patriots and Cowboys look like the safe picks now. Green Bay is right there. The Giants and Saints look like long shots...The Steelers and Colts in the AFC are behind the Patriots. I care much more about observing what happens as it does than looking three and four months ahead, though we all know how much fun that is to do...In the case of the NBA right now, I like seeing the development of the Rockets and Trail Blazers and Orlando...I don't care yet at all who's going to be in the Finals, although as a culture we start there with every season..."Who's going to be in the ?????"


Olney, Md.: asked its readers if they would want A-Rod to join their favorite team, and by a 2 to 1 margin the respondents said "no". There is a lot about A-Rod not to like, but the results are disturbing enough that I have to ask, if he were named Alex Smith or Alex White, would the results be so negative? I know it is only a single survey, but to me it reflects the very negative attitude held by many fans against a guy who is a MONSTER player who never gets into trouble off the field. Am I wrong to see it this way?

Michael Wilbon: Not at all. I'm not going to say you're "right" to see it that way. But I wonder, too. A-Rod has done lots of this to himself, letting his agent Scott Boras set his agenda. His own peers very, very often perceive him as phony. I like him...a lot actually. I'd like to have him on my team (the Cubs)...but there's such a backlash against him...Again, I think he's responsible for much of that backlash.


Arlington, Va.: What are your thoughts on all these outstanding freshman in college hoops. Love, Rose, Gordon, and Beasley have all been phenomenal.

I left off Mayo because I believe he is highly overrated and will hurt USC more than help.

Michael Wilbon: Once again, freshmen are THE story of the college basketball season. The one who catches my eye the most is Beasley, or as I've started calling him, Michael Beastly...His numbers channel Moses Malone. Who gets 20 rebounds a game these days? Nobody. The kid, so far, seems to be a flashback player. I normally don't get into college hoops until mid-January, late-January...This year, because of all these kids, I might start watching college basketball reasonably closely Thanksgiving weekend.


Moline, IL: Who's the most interesting sports personality you've met this year? I'm talking someone you've met for the first time and were totally impressed by?

Michael Wilbon: Oh goodness, I have no idea. You realize, of course, I probably meet 50 people a year that might enter into that discussion. I could take the easy way out and say Dale Earnhardt Jr., who I only met Saturday...But he's just the most recent, and so high-profile I could justify it...And it could be him...But could also be some high school coach I met in January, or some freshman back during the NCAA Tournament...My memory isn't that good. I wish it was. My producer at PTI, the aforementioned Erik Rydholm, once showed me a column from 1993 or whenever it was that Joe Gibbs retired. He just told me to read it and give me my reaction. I read it...In it, the column talked about Gibbs probably coming back to the NFL one day in 10 years or so to work for a young owner loaded with money...I'm reading it thinking, 'Damn, this is pretty good.'

Erik showed me the byline...I'd written it...Trust me, there are many I've written, I'm sure, with disastrous forecasting...But the point it, I don't remember many of my own columns from years gone by...I could give you one answer now, and in 15 minutes would think of somebody else I'd forgotten.


Boston: Mike,

Is KG the NBA's first player-coach since Russell?

I am not hoping to drag this into a criticism or defense of Doc, whom you may even know well and like from Chicago, but the you-tube clip of Garnett running the time out was good stuff. Are there any other similarly vocal players in the NBA, that can take over and have it stick with their teammates?

For what it's worth from a fan's perspective, Doc comes across as an honest and decent guy. Let's hope he has a positive impact on the team throughout the year. I don't think of KC Jones or Fitch as the key to the Bird teams.

Michael Wilbon: The NBA isn't the NFL...In the NBA the star player had BETTER have co-ownership of the team during a game. You could go back to the days of the championship Chicago Bulls teams and see Michael Jordan and/or Scottie Pippen running a timeout while Phil Jackson sat and listened. Pippen did it more, I think, than Jordan...This ALWAYS happens in the NBA...if the coach is smart it does. You think Pat Riley didn't shut up sometimes and let Magic run the timeout. That's the job of a great player in professional basketball, and it's very different than in pro football where you might not know what the star quarterback's voice sounds like. I do know Doc, I like him tremendously and have for 30-plus years, and I think he's exactly the kind of personality and manager of men these Celtics need.


DC: If you were an NBA GM, wouldn't you be worried about giving a kid like OJ Mayo a big time guaranteed contract?

Michael Wilbon: Damn right I would be.


Baltimore: You can probably guess the question by my dateline: Is Brian Billick gone as coach of the Ravens?

Michael Wilbon: Depends on how the season plays out. I don't think so. I know Steve Bischotti just gave him a 3-year extension...So why get rid of him now. Nobody but the Patriots/Steelers/Colts is going to the Super Bowl from the AFC this start looking to the immediate future. The Ravens could change all that by losing out, but I don't think they will.


Rockville, Md.: Did you ever think the day would come where you expect Duke to win at Notre Dame in football? Is this the most bizarre CFB year ever?

Michael Wilbon: No and yes. I love this season. I think this has so many more people across the country interested...Can't wait until this weekend, actually. I think Duke can win...I haven't decided yet whether I think they WILL win...Anyway, anything I say about Duke will be biased considering the Blue Devils have one victory this year: at Northwestern. You think I'm not still angry over that? You think I have no rooting interest in Saturday's game at South Bend?


Lacey, Wa: Mike, Love your columns.

I have a quick question that has nothing to do with sports. My daughter is being pursued by Northwestern. Can you give her some reasons she should go there?

Michael Wilbon: Of course...It's not hard to give a student good reasons to attend a top 12 university...It's a great school, located in a fabulous metropolitan area, sitting on a beautiful campus on Lake Michigan. I don't know your daughter's specific academic interests but the schools of journalism, speech, music, engineering are among the best in the world, respectively, at what they teach. We don't have an undergraduate business school, but Kellogg is always rated among the top three nationally in graduate business schools...It's a Big Ten school, so you get the big-time college feel to some degree on game days but it's not Oklahoma or Ohio State or other words, a school given over to that as a high priority every week...I love the place...I could go on, but won't...


DC: Ohio State vs. Michigan. If Lloyd Carr pulls it off he will win the Big Ten title. Amazing turnaround. But if he he out? With the way the year started can only beating the hated OSU Buckeyes save him?

Michael Wilbon: Perhaps. It is an intriguing story line. An 8-4 finish plus a bowl game is pretty darn good from 0-2 with a loss to App. State...But two straight losses will get the Maize and Blue folks looking south toward Les Miles...And there's talk now of Carr stepping down, either way, after Saturday's game...


Washington, D.C.: Has the NFL become more of a quarterback driven league with the implementation of the salary cap? It seems so much tougher now to develop a great defensive team than in the past.

Michael Wilbon: Ahhhh, that's as much about the rules (are you listening competition committee) as it is quarterbacks...You can't touch anybody on defense anymore. The league has been sanitized...defense is being legislated out because the league and its network partners will try and convince you people will tune in if there's scoring...


Washington D.C.: How good are the Celtics?? I think they could challenge the Bulls wins record in the weak East. Given the Pistons loss last night, is there any team in the East that can play with them??

Michael Wilbon: The Celtics are really, really good. I pick them to go to the Eastern Conference Finals...But 72 wins good? Not a chance. I doubt they'll win 60. They haven't played anybody yet, they have to stay healthy and they're not heads and shoulders above the Pistons, Bulls (despite their awful start)...It helps the Celtics that Miami is so awful, and that the Wizards look clueless so far...But there are teams in the east that show signs of coming alive...The Nets aren't bad...Cleveland has played better early that I expected....70 wins? No way...60 would be a great season.

Okay, gotta run and start the prep for PTI this afternoon...Thanks for chatting two days later than usual. I had trouble getting to Seattle Monday for MNF...We should be fine for this coming Monday...I'll be in Denver for Titans-Broncos...Look forward to chatting with you then. MW


Dodgeville, WI: Mike,

I think it's time for Brian Billick (and everyone else) to realize that Steve McNair is no longer Steve McNair. Why is that so hard for a coach to see? At some point players are done and, sadly, Steve McNair is done. Is it that a "done" Steve McNair is still a better bet than Kyle Boller? Maybe. Whatta you think?


Michael Wilbon: Real quickly...Steve McNair is done. He had a distinguished career and led a team to the Super Bowl. He, as players like to say of guys they admire, left it all out on the field. He never drew a paycheck or got a word of praise he didn't earn...But he's done being the Steve McNair we knew in the last 1990s and early oughts...That means the Ravens don't have a QB...Boller's been there five years and they didn't trust him enough to make him the starter. He didn't earn it. So, it seems to me, they're starting from scratch.

And congrats to the University of Illinois and Ron Zook, who never should have been fired in Florida, but has found a home where he won't be booed for going 6-5...Good for the Illini...Now, I hope they lose Saturday to my boys in Purple down in Champaign...Unlikely, but the whole college football season has been so crazy. MW


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