The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, November 26, 2007; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Nov. 26 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


Washington: The 49ers and the Saints are the only two teams that are below .500 that haven't had to use backup quarterbacks. Why are they both struggling so much?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody ... I'm in Pittsburgh for "Monday Night Football" and while we've got a lot of questions on everything from the BCS to Gilbert Arenas to the Redskins to the NFL craziness, we obviously will start with Redskins safety Sean Taylor, shot after midnight this morning at his home in South Florida, now reported in critical condition. ... There's a ton of speculation about the details of his condition and the details of the incident, but this isn't a blog and we're not going to get into wild guessing and speculating here, though we will try and responsibly discuss other points of interest surrounding the latest strange episode relating to Taylor.


Washington: Where can I send cards and flowers for Sean Taylor?

Michael Wilbon: You should contact The Washington Redskins for that information...


Dulles, Va.: Michael, what our your thoughts on pro athletes' need to protect themselves? Or any celeb for that matter? If you make this kind of money, shouldn't you employ security for protection and chauffeur for driving? I keep seeing celebs getting into altercations that should have been handled by someone else, or getting arrested for drunk driving. What's up?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know that professional football players, who aren't even recognized by 95 percent of the general public, are obvious targets outside of their own communities, though this is a very good question. Actors, people in the music industry, TV personalities and basketball stars are instantly recognized...and I mean instantly. Football players, other than a handful of quarterbacks and star running backs or wide receivers ... not so much. I've seen Sean Taylor walk into places in D.C. and hardly anybody knows who he is ... same with Clinton Portis, who is on TV without his helmet much more than Taylor. Still, I'm no expert on what people should do to protect themselves, their homes and families. I will share that growing up in Chicago, in a middle-class home on the South Side of Chicago, my dad had a gun and was very specific with no wiggle room on how my brother and I should treat it and any use of it. So much of this and how people feel about it depends on where you live, how you grew up. My dad was a Southerner, very used to guns and rifles. But my feelings are colored, like most people, by what my dad did and felt about it.

Despite the constant discussion about how much money professional athletes make, most outside the NBA and MLB do not make enough money to have 'round-the-clock security without soon going broke. More should have chauffeurs, in my opinion, especially if planning to drink ... agents and leagues should insist on it, even help arrange it. But don't hold your breath. Most have no need for either. But the cases of misbehavior are so public and often so spectacular we tend to think "most" athletes are involved in this kind of stuff, when the vast majority have no need for any of it.


McLean, Va.: Will your opinion of Taylor change if this does not turn out to be a random incident (e.g. home invasion)?

Michael Wilbon: No ... people's opinions are shaped by the way they've grown up, the way they see the world, what they know about the world the person in question grew up in, etc. Sean Taylor isn't the only guy I know who fits his general profile. I've known guys like Taylor all my life, grew up with some. They still have shades of gray and shouldn't be painted in black and white...I know how I feel about Taylor, and this latest news isn't surprising in the least, not to me. Whether this incident is or isn't random, Taylor grew up in a violent world, embraced it, claimed it, loved to run in it and refused to divorce himself from it. He ain't the first and won't be the last. We have no idea what happened, or if what we know now will be revised later. It's sad, yes, but hardly surprising.


Silver Spring, Md.: Do you believe in curses? Browse the list of Redskins to appear in an Eastern Motors ad, then combine with that players current status and/or good or bad fortune: LaVar Arrington, Sean Taylor, Carlos Rogers, Clinton Portis (fumbles ball during the ad) Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El, Jason Campbell.

Michael Wilbon: This is so crazy, I just have to put it out there ... I hope you're saying it with a wink and a smile.


Little Rock, Ark.: Mike, I wanted to congratulate you for correctly picking the Ark.-LSU game in last week's chat. Here's my question: If you are in charge of the University of Arkansas, do you fire Houston Nutt? There is a growing contingent here in the state that is outraged that he still hasn't won an SEC title or gone to a BCS bowl. I guess they feel we are on equal footing with Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn and 'Bama, and only our coach is holding us back. Football in the SEC, there's nothing like it.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks ... I feel very good about that pick since I'd been touting it for two weeks. ... And I would not fire Houston Nutt. ... There are several SEC schools that simply don't get it ... Arkansas shouldn't want to join the group of schools nationally that fire pretty good coaches, mistakenly thinking they're somehow promised a BCS Bowl every couple of years.


Anonymous:"You should contact The Washington Redskins for that information..."

Can you be a little bit more specific? Redskins PR says nothing has been decided yet about where to send cards or flowers; once a decisions has been made it will be posted to their Web site.

Michael Wilbon: There is the response from Redskins Park at this moment ... specifically, look up the phone number and get the address ... I don't walk around with the address of the Redskins in my pocket ... sorry. I'm sure you can go to the team's Web site and find the address...


Herndon, Va.: Mike, there probably is no sportswriter who has written more extensively or thoughtfully on the larger societal issues that surround and affect the sports world than you. On that note, is it possible to consider the horrible Taylor shooting without thinking about why it is that young black athletes in particular seem to have such a hard time leaving the "street" behind when they become successful and wealthy? Or is race and culture just a red herring in what really is a personal or random tragedy?

Michael Wilbon: It's too complex, too big an issue with too many subtleties and nuances to simply label as anything. The ones who do have a hard time leaving the "streets" struggle because it's leaving home...for the same reasons the sons of rich families don't want to leave the country club or the beach house in Delaware. It's comfortable. Most know nothing else. They don't travel, don't go visit Martha's Vineyard for a week every summer. Some have no problem getting the hell away ... I know dozens of kids who took the first plane out the moment they could and never looked back. Forget what Isaiah Thomas has done lately as a coach/executive -- he's one who rejected the life from the moment he left the west side of Chicago for Indiana University and said "that's it, I'm out." Thousands do exactly why he did, a couple of dozen cities in the U.S. Some, increasingly, romanticize it, or are addicted to it, or find it irresistible. ... Some take awhile to divorce themselves from it ... think Allen Iverson, who after years of living dangerously, seems pretty far removed from that life now. Everybody's circumstance is different. But it always seemed to me that Sean Taylor loves his life and the way he's living and has no instinct to change...


Detroit: So Favre throws 20 straight completions and during the postgame interview, Joe Buck says "you lead the league in smiles." Why not ask him if he likes rainbows and candy?

Michael Wilbon: Sportscasters and sportswriters, including great ones like Joe Buck and my dear friend Tony, love Favre and fawn over him all the time. I've done it, writing columns from Green Bay. Is it over the top now? Yes ... way over the top. On the other hand, he's earned a degree of mushiness. But it has gotten to the point where the praise now is unbelievably syrupy...


Woodbridge, Va.: Now that Gilbert Arenas is out for most of the season do you think he still will opt out of his contract? Also, do you think it was unwise for the Wizards to proclaim this a make-or-break season? I do.

Michael Wilbon: How could the Wizards have known the first week of November that Arenas would be out for three months? I think the Wizards can be okay without Arenas until the All-Star break. I know few share that opinion, but I believe it. I have no idea how this will affect his strategy regarding free agency. Seems to me at this point the Wizards have, because of the injury, all the leverage. Are teams going to be out there offering top dollar for Arenas coming off this injury and forced absence? I doubt it ... not unless he has an April-May that re-establishes him immediately as a healthy star.


Columbia, Md.: What makes you think that Taylor was still embracing his old ways? Everything we have heard from the Redskins and Portis is that this is a new Sean. Apparently the birth of his child really helped to straighten him out. Is this contrary to what you know?

Michael Wilbon: Sorry, but I'm not in the habit of having companies with their own public relations agenda tell me about black men and what they feel or don't feel. Pardon me if I'm not that easy.


Washington: So would Devin Hester being doing this on any team he's on, or do the Bears have the art of the return all figured out?

Michael Wilbon: Good question. It's hard to know that, though. Would Mike Nelms and Brian Mitchell have done what they did for any team, or just the Redskins? I don't know. I do see the Bears special teams are the only good part of the squad this year. Look at the blocked punt, the blocked field goal attempts, the great blocking on returns. Remember, the Bears in general are great in the return game and were in the games last year before Hester emerged. But Hester is so fast, so instinctive, so decisive in most of his returns ... it's a great partnership, but I think if you put Hester on half the teams in the league he's nearly as successful or about the same. It's stunning. Without him, the Bears are the Dolphins, or frighteningly close.


Rockville, Md.: Follow-up on your comment on Sean Taylor walking into an establishment and no one recognizing him. Do you think the anonymity of NFL players results in the league as a whole getting a pass from the public (and the media) on bad behavior -- a pass that doesn't apply to MLB or the NBA? I'd bet that 10 NFL players could flunk steroid tests and no one would care because they're essentially fungible. Or does this say something about the fans?

Michael Wilbon: Great, great question and read one of the major issues of the day in sports. NFL players, beyond the handful of star quarterbacks, RBs and WRs, are fungible. And fans don't care because they accept pro football blindly. They don't care about the details ... for a great many it's just give 'em some beer and a seat in front of the TV and don't bother 'em the next three-plus hours. The anonymity is why the league was able to stage the replacement games, which is why NFL players have less leverage than their counterparts in MLB and the NBA ... and therefore make a lot less money, little of it guaranteed.


Chevy Chase, Md.: Sports Illustrated ran a nice piece this week on the Michael Vick situation that addressed some of these concerns. I thought it was very well done -- on what is, as you say, a very complex set of issues.

Michael Wilbon: I'll take that as a recommendation.


Pittsburgh: Still in shell shock about this Taylor situation, makes everything else seem trivial. I haven't read any articles about the game or reaction, but do you think these close losses are encouraging to Jason Campbell, knowing it just a matter of time and experience before it all comes together?

Michael Wilbon: Again, I'm not the least bit surprised about the Taylor episode ... why would I be considering his history, even since he joined the Redskins? As for yesterday's game, I doubt Jason Campbell is feeling very encouraged right now. I would bet he'd been pretty angry right now, even as he grows into the role of starting QB. If he isn't upset, or angry, or frustrated at throwing those two picks yesterday, the Redskins should be a little worried. Who was it who said, "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser." What a great line. I like Campbell and think there will be days like this as a young QB, and probably fewer as he goes along and matures ... but there always will be the odd day like this, no matter how good a QB he becomes.


Washington: Wilbon: Logistically speaking, how do you do all of that traveling? For example, tonight do you watch the game in the 'Burgh and then catch a flight back first thing in the morning, or after "PTI" do you come home? Do you drive, as it is 3.5 hours away? Does Tony really have a bus or some conversion van with fluffy carpeting? We want behind the scenes.

Michael Wilbon: Okay, I'm already in Pittsburgh for "PTI" and our mini-PTI halftime segment ... I'll go to bed here at the hotel, then fly home at 8 a.m. Tuesday ... go home for a bit, then get to the "PTI" studio in Washington around 2 p.m. and do it all over again ... Monday and Tuesday morning wake-up calls (that's 4 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., by the way) aren't easy but when I compare it to the work my father did for 40 years, it's cake. Anyway, I love the travel for the most part ... even after 28 years of it.


New York: Does Missouri beat Oklahoma to remain No. 1, or will Ohio State backdoor their way in the championship game?

Michael Wilbon: I can't make any sense of the college football season, other than to say that nobody is great and a bunch of teams are pretty good...I love watching Missouri play ... I think they'll beat Oklahoma, but I don't have a feeling about that game like I did Arkansas beating LSU (which could have gone either way). An Ohio State-West Virginia game does nothing for me...nothing. Talk about being in need of a playoff. ... Who'd be in it? Let's see ... Missouri, West Virginia, Ohio State, Georgia, Kansas, Virginia Tech and (drum roll) Hawaii. ... Let's see one of those highly-touted BCS schools go out and stop Colt Brennan. Don't promise me they can do it because they've got all these highly-recruited athletes ... let's actually see it. Too bad we won't.


San Francisco: I know that this will get lost in the shuffle today, but how about some kudos to the Bucs for signing Jeff Garcia? Okay, so he doesn't put up Manning/Brady/Favre/Romo numbers, but he also doesn't turn the ball over umpteen times. Should a team like Baltimore or Buffalo have given him a longer look; better yet, should Philly have re-signed him?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, to answer your question. How about this: He begged the Bears to sign him ... said it publicly. How stupid do the Bears look for not saying, yes? Very stupid. They don't have a QB ... maybe they should just snap the ball to Devin Hester in the shotgun and let him run...


New Orleans: Would it be an accurate statement to say that the spread offense in college has been the primary reason for such an up-and-down year?

Michael Wilbon: Well, the spread offense is something of an equalizer for less talented teams, but let's not oversimplify to that degree...I think the big schools sign all their recruits early and leave late bloomers choosing among the mid-level Division I schools. That swings the balance. The big schools are far too arrogant, sometimes aren't as well coached as the hype from TV analysts would have you believe ... for instance, who do you think is better coached the past two years, Notre Dame or Boise State?


New York: If the Giants called and said they would trade Eli Manning for Jason Campbell straight up, would you make the trade?

Michael Wilbon: No. Why would I?


Maryland: Mike, I know there's not much hockey talk in these chat houses, but what are your thoughts on the Caps changing coaches? In today's world of sports where "players win and coaches lose," obviously it had to be done ... but do in-season coaching changes stir up enough of a team's juices to really make a difference? Thanks. Hanlon Out as Caps' Coach (Post, Nov. 23)

Michael Wilbon: Do you actually pay attention to the NHL? Teams change coaches like they change underwear. They change them going into the playoffs after some other coach got the team into the playoffs. The Devils have done this and won the Stanley Cup ... or at least gotten to the Finals. Are you kidding? Does it help? Hockey players seem to react to a change in coaches like no other team sport athletes. I'm not about to speculate on the Capitals switch because I haven't seen the Capitals in person in over a year ... I simply don't follow the NHL the way I did as a kid, teenager, young adult or young sportswriter ... there aren't enough hours in the day, days in the week or weeks in the year to follow everything, even for guys like me who are paid to follow sports. The NHL is what I dropped, as I've increasingly gotten into soccer and (lately) NASCAR ... and it seems, from looking at attendance figures, I'm not the only one who has dropped out lately.


Portsmouth, U.K.: Mike, I'm not sure I should ask this question (as a Bears fan), but why oh why do teams kick to Devin Hester?

Michael Wilbon: Some do it, like the Raiders, because they're certain they can do it successfully ... they know they can cover the kick or the punt. ... Devin Hester is the most exciting player in the NFL today. Tell me it's not great to watch. ... If nobody kicked to him, how boring would the league be this season other than the Patriots?


Michael Wilbon: Okay, gotta run and get to the Stadium to prepare for PTI and "MNF" ... have fun everybody. ... Chat with you next week from Baltimore.


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