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The Chat House

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, December 3, 2007; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Dec. 3 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

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The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive

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washingtonpost.com: Wilbon is on his way to Baltimore but should be online soon.

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Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody ... sorry to start late but it's taken me longer to get into the stadium in Baltimore than it did to drive from D.C. to Baltimore. ... No matter, we start and go for a full hour ... and we'll probably devote 95 percent of today's chat to Sean Taylor, the Redskins game yesterday including Joe Gibbs call of a second straight timeout, and the BCS situation...

My comments during last week's chat and my column in Wednesday's newspaper have generated a lot of response, about 40 percent in agreement and 60 percent in disagreement, much of it passionate, some of it ugly. So, I'm compelled to deal with that ... in a second.

I thought the tributes to Sean Taylor yesterday were smart and creative, especially the decision to play with 10 defenders at the start of the game to symbolize Sean's absence. I'm not surprised -- to use that phrase again -- that Joe Gibbs didn't know and didn't want to do it, particularly. Joe Gibbs is, almost stereotypically, into football ... not much else, just football. It's who he is, it's how he became a Hall of Fame coach and how the Redskins won three Super Bowls.

What it sounds like to me -- and I have no proof -- is something cooked up by Dan Snyder and the defensive coaches who were the closest people (besides players) in the organization to Sean Taylor. ... I'll try and ask Dan Snyder about it later, though there's no way he'd take any credit for it ... it just sort of has Dan's signature on it. ... I don't know how people feel about it. I thought it very appropriate, even if it cost the team yards in the short run. ... And I feel for the players who wanted more than anything to deliver a victory yesterday perhaps more than any other day in recent years...

As for my comments, much of the anger was generated by me saying I wasn't surprised at the tragedy in South Florida of a week ago. I have friends and family members who were ticked at me, and perhaps understandably so ... but would people rather I have lied and faked being stunned? What would that have proven?

That didn't make Sean Taylor's death any less tragic or less senseless or less violent or less depressing. I'm not going to phony it up so some people will agree with me or pat me on the head. Those of you who felt similarly, fine. Those of you who felt differently and shocked, fine. We don't need to agree in this country. In fact, disagreement that sparks discussion we wouldn't otherwise have is healthy. People who simply want to have nice, comfy conversation are free to look elsewhere for it. But I don't do what I do to find agreement all the time.

As it turns out following the arrests, it appears Sean was not targeted, as I suspected. But it appears his home was targeted, which by definition makes it not random.

Those of you who are upset that I wrote that Sean's past and his associations had likely caught up with him should stop screaming and burying your heads under the pillow and read the comments from his lifelong friend, Antrel Rolle of the Arizona Cardinals who talked forcefully and with insight when he said his dear friend of 18 years was afraid to go to Miami in recent trips because he thought people were after him ... Rolle's words, not mine.

This is what I was talking about last week when I said just because Sean was in the process of changing his life doesn't mean others would let him, or that a complete change is possible in months (18 months, according to Joe Gibbs). ... His own cousin talked about how people wanted Sean to leave South Florida because they feared something would happen. His cousin's words, not mine.

Those of you who thought that column was printed too soon...perhaps it was. But it didn't appear the day after Sean died, it appeared two days after. The Washington Post ran dozens of pieces, many talking about Sean's career and impact in this community and in South Florida. That's what we attempt to do, look at 360 degrees of an issue, in this case a tragic one. Is it going to turn out that the people who murdered Sean were in any way connected to his past? Perhaps not.

Whether it was random, connected, or something in between, the only thing I can wish now is that he had been healthy enough to play and not in South Florida for any reason. And I can hope that the senseless violence that visits American communities so often, for whatever reason, and whether it's random or part of some sick pattern, can simply stop...

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Silver Lake, Calif.: Re: The Taylor article -- have you ever been as criticized as you have been in the past week?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, it's not the first time and won't be the last. ... Conversations that make people (including me) uncomfortable bring exaggerated criticism and exaggerated praise. I'll tell you this: the people who loved the column were as passionate as those who hated it, and I find both views a little stilted. ... I was uncomfortable writing it, but taking an easier way out wasn't what I wanted to do ... I can always look back on a piece and wish I could change a word, or the way I wrote a sentence. But having the conversation and raising the issue? No, I don't regret that.

Sometimes people read what they want to read and not what's on the page. And sometimes writers aren't clear enough about what they're saying. ... That struggle is ongoing.

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Lafayette, Ind.: Hey Wilbon. It was sad enough losing Sean Taylor last week and it was my saddest week as a Redskin fan. What made it even worse were journalists like you who gave the impression that Sean "had it coming to him" and "did not divorce himself from his past." I think you really need to apologize to Sean Taylor's family, all Redskins and football fans, and the readers that have supported you through the years.

I know you are human and you can make a mistake. But this one was horrendous. I will be willing to give you another chance if you apologize and can admit that stereotyping and judging people is just plain wrong. You did not have all the facts. It made you look foolish. Sean was a hero and it is up to you to help spread the word, especially after last week.

Michael Wilbon: You won't read an apology here. Go back and get Wednesday's newspaper and read the column. Don't ever suggest I said anybody "had it coming" or you should be the one apologizing for making up a sentiment that wasn't expressed. I wonder, in many cases, if people doing the criticizing read the piece or simply listened to what somebody told them or listened to somebody who was angry on sports talk radio.

Those who knew Sean Taylor best very carefully articulated how he changed his life. If he changed it, what did he change it from? The discussion I attempted to lead was about what might have happened in the context of old associated or people on the periphery not changing their lives. ... Read the piece. If you want to write your own, fine. But don't make up the sentiment mine expressed. It was a tough enough discussion without inserting your own resentment in my words.

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Washington: The tribute to Sean at FedEx was very moving. I can't remember this type of event at a Skins game before; any other events like this that spring to mind from the past?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, quite a few. Sadly, Hank Gathers, when he died while playing for Loyola Marymount ... I'm not going to go through a list, but it's damn sad anytime and every time it happens.

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Herndon, Va.: RIP S.T. It is now Saturday Night and Sean Taylor's possible murderers have been taken into custody. Since reading the articles on CNN, ESPN, and The Washington Post, one thought has been running through my mind -- the "Stop Snitching" video. The reason the suspects are in custody is solely because of tips from the public (friends no less).

If it was not for the snitches, I firmly believe that we never would have found out who did this. I would love for the media (or you) to re-address the snitching issue. If you do not speak up nothing will happen. Do you have to be a Sports Celebrity to get a local (neighborhood) response to your own murder? Buzzed and rambling on a Friday night.

Michael Wilbon: You just spoke to it very eloquently. Thank you.

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Boston: I'm a young African American man from Boston. I'm saddened to report that the pride I once had for being black has left me. The Sean Taylor death really has impacted me. I really can relate to Taylor. I too played in the Big East and grew up in caring household but a violent community. As a school teacher, I couldn't handle the disappointment of seeing my own people fail, so I enrolled in an MBA program. I always gave back to my community, but know that I want to put as much distance between me and the community as possible. Most of our children are ignorant, prideless and dreamless people, hell-bent on finding the worst out of life. It isn't fair that I had to endure all the struggles to make it out of the hood to have it all taken away these monsters. I'm so ashamed to be black at this point, and it hurts so much to say this. I really respect you and watch "PTI" faithfully and would like your advice on finding the love for the folks again!

Michael Wilbon: I'm going to simply print a lot of questions today and try and let people vent...

As for this one, I don't think feeling ashamed helps in any way. And I don't think this tragic episode reflects on anybody specifically, but things we're fighting culturally in a very general way. I think you might need to reach and and talk to somebody professionally. I understand people feel despair differently. If anything, greater pride in who you are and all that it means can help fight against the people who have so little pride. These incidents happen far too often in far too many communities but the only way to fight back is with pride and, again, being unafraid to express what it is you feel at the moment without fear of attack. ... What other place is there to start?

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Bowie, Md.:"Whether it was random, connected, or something in between, the only thing I can wish now is that he had been healthy enough to play and not in South Florida for any reason." I know this is trivial, but the 'Skins had played in Tampa the previous Sunday. Even if he'd been healthy and active, wouldn't he likely have slept there that night?

Michael Wilbon: Teams almost always, 99 percent of the time, return to their headquarters via the team plane after games ... exceptions are granted, but rarely...

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Oxon Hill, Md.: I'm not some Redskins or sports zealot, but I felt your comments re: Sean Taylor were irresponsible and extremely disrespectful to the family and others who cared. Yes, the conversation is good to have, but you had no evidence that this man's murder was related to the points you made. I didn't know him and you didn't know him. What made you the expert on the hows and whys of his murder?

May I point out that any of us can become a victim in this manner? FYI, I sleep with a huge knife under my bed and I've never associated with "thugs" and live a very boring life as a single working mom. I take precautions with my safety and don't apologize for it. Why should his having a machete under his bed be some big deal? Something to be explained? May I also point out that the wife of a former Alexandria, Va., sheriff was found shot to death in her home? Both of these murders were tragic and sad. No difference. You should consider all points before spouting off about someone you don't know.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...

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New York: Michael, for years I have enjoyed your columns and the insight that you have brought to the subjects you were covering. I do feel, from reading these chats and reading your more recent work as well as watching "PTI," that you have changed a little -- become a little more harsh and less forgiving of ideas that you don't agree with. It almost seems a little on the bitter side. I don't expect to see this on your chat, but I wonder if perhaps you could reflect on this (not defend it), and maybe any impact this change may have had on the recent outcries against your writings and comments on the Sean Taylor situation. Meant with much respect.

Michael Wilbon: And it's taken with respect, and not only am I not opposed to looking carefully at what I do and how, but I have to do that and that's why I've read every criticism ... and will continue to do so. ... Doing this without some self-examination would be dishonest, so I thank you and already have taken the question seriously. ... Thanks.

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Arlington, Va.: This is meant in no way to disrespect Sean Taylor; his death is very sad - perhaps even tragic. But I was a bit uncomfortable with all the displays yesterday -- especially from so many people who did not actually know him. It seemed to be more about these people than about Taylor, which I find very disturbing.

Michael Wilbon: Again, another point of view and thank you.

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Washington: Mr. Wilbon, as a kid growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago, I always turned to Mike Royko's column first when I opened the paper. Now that I live in Washington, I look for your column first. For me your columns are just like Royko's -- always entertaining and very well-written, but most important they always are thought-provoking. Your column on Sean Taylor was no exception. Thank you very much.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks.

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Washington: Taylor's funeral service drags on, right now. It has been on for about four hours today. Currently, a pastor is using the podium to prosthelytize endlessly to make the funeral more about Christianity than it is about Sean Taylor. It seems an unfitting tribute to a father, son, brother and teammate.

Michael Wilbon: Again, thank you ... I'm unable to see the funeral here in the bowels of the stadium in Baltimore, but thanks. I know others will have a different point of view on this ... still, thank you.

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Washington: Re: 10 defensive players for the Redskins. Terry Bradshaw on the Fox pre-game show said that if he knew the other team was doing that, he would have taken a knee on the first play. That would have been a very sweet gesture.

Michael Wilbon: I think Dick Jauron sort of suggested the same thing ... and you're right.

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Bethesda, Md.: In your article you stated that you weren't surprised given what you knew about Sean Taylor's past; given that, you must be surprised now about all that is coming out now about the person he truly was.

Michael Wilbon: Not at all. His change of life was acknowledged and praised, as it should have been. My question to those of you who act as if Sean's past life was completely inconsequential is, why did Antrel Rolle, who knew Sean better than any of you who are so outraged, went way beyond what I said when he said, on the record, that Sean was afraid to go to South Florida. Rolle didn't have evidence, but he said he didn't believe it was random. Would any of you who object to this conversation tell Rolle he was off-base about how the past can affect the present or future? You want to assail his cousin who begged him to get out? What am I missing? Or what are some of you missing?

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Ashburn, Va.: Let's just say that your article was 100 percent accurate. I do not really agree with that, but let's just say it was. Don't you think that you should have showed more restraint (as J.B. put it so eloquently)? It seems like you want kudos for speaking your mind no matter what the public says, but shouldn't your stance be one that reflects the compassion of humanity rather than brutal honesty? At what point is being a person more important than being a journalist?

Michael Wilbon: Good question ... I don't know there's an absolute answer. And J.B. and I talked back and forth last night. Not only do I respect his opinion and his right to disagree, I welcome it. J.B. and I run our feelings past each other all the time ... seriously, all the time. ... We disagree on this, but I'm not saying I was right ... it's just how I felt at the time and something I felt needed to be addressed at the time. People always say, "it's not the right time." Then when would have been? Today, during the funeral? Thursday, the morning of the Bears game? ... We can respectfully disagree ... we have to. But I'm not about to separate the two, or try to act as a "person" and not a "journalist." What would you say to the people who say I shouldn't have held the column for 24 hours? Who say I have a responsibility and shirked it for an entire day?

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Arlington, Va.: I can see both sides to your comments and don't really think what you said was offensive; however, I do agree with the earlier poster who commented that you seem bitter lately. I have been following you for years and it doesn't seem like you are enjoying yourself as much in the past year. Thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: I'm enjoying myself and these chats and writing columns more than ever. Might I be crotchety and angry more frequently? Yes. I am. I wake up angrier more often because I see stuff that makes me angry, like 24-year-olds dying, whether it's here or in Iraq ... and I lash out at that in a way I didn't not at 35. Yep, accurately stated ... it doesn't mean I'm ashamed of it. I have to monitor it, maybe put a leash on it sometimes, maybe not ... it's day-to-day. ... I'm not here to cheerlead ... well, sometimes ... but I'm not here to handhold. Plenty of people are, and I can support what they do. We don't all need to do the same thing the same way ... your point, though, is very, very well taken.

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Washington: Okay, so many of us were not "surprised" by Sean Taylor's tragic death -- but I was very surprised that last week you dismissed any positive statements about Taylor as Redskins PR spin. Why the cynicism and hate there?

Michael Wilbon: Again, good question. ... All teams and organizations -- all -- put the best spin they can put on even the worst situations and it's the job of people who do what I do to put it aside and try to find out something that isn't pure spin. ... There are plenty of people, I should add, within the Redskin organization like any other who aren't dealing with spin, who don't want to hear it, who are more cynical than I am ... you don't see theirs; mine is on display by design.

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Washington: You have a point that this attack was not random. And it has been published that people close to Taylor urged him to get out. However, that is a far cry from saying that Taylor himself was violent, rather than just an object of envy. Your comments in the online chat claimed that "Taylor grew up in a violent world, embraced it, claimed it, loved to run in it and refused to divorce himself from it." Nothing that I've seen published, including Rolle's comments, have suggested that. What information did you have that you made this statement? Do you stand by this statement? If it was carelessly worded in a hastily typed chat, I can understand that, but please address this statement.

Michael Wilbon: He divorced himself from it within the past 18 months or so, which is what his friends say. ... But claiming it and running with it in the years before is indisputable ... otherwise, what did he change from?

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Columbia, Md.: Peter King wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback piece this morning about how the events and revelations of the past week have caused Chris Samuels to purchase a firearm. King says that Samuels always had been afraid of guns, but that he wanted to have one now. Your thoughts on this?

washingtonpost.com: Honoring a fallen teammate (Sports Illustrated, Dec. 3)

Michael Wilbon: Great question ... I understand exactly what Chris Samuels is thinking. I also wrote in last week's chat that I grew up in a home with a father who believed in having a handgun to protect his family. So, and not surprisingly, I believe in it, too. ... Sorry some of you will be offended, but that's what I believe. I understand completely, Chris Samuels's reaction.

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Columbia, Md.: Sean Taylor was not a thug, and I'm glad any thoughts of that are cleared up by this point. However, the four (possibly five) men who did this are thugs. It represents a problem in society that they think it is in some way acceptable to steal things that someone else rightfully gained through hard work. It's a pretty serious problem that needs to be addressed, but I'm not optimistic that it ever will be fixed.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you.

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Baltimore: Wilbon, you, Peter King, Bob Costas and Shapiro make me sick. Just because Sean Taylor was charged with something does not mean that it actually happened. He was not a thug, did not live the street life, and only took a plea deal to make the case go away. There was a prosecutor who had no evidence and even was advertising Sean's case on his MySpace page to give him publicity. I hope you watched his funeral service, understand that your inaccurate remarks hurt family, fans and friends, and apologize for being an Uncle Yom and hopping on the bandwagon.

Michael Wilbon: That's your view ... though I would ask, if it didn't happen, why did he plead to assault and batter and why did he change his life. I don't much give a damn what you think of me, but give Sean Taylor credit for changing from something he wasn't proud of to something he was very proud of ... and others were proud to see him do. You might want to work on your spelling of "Uncle Tom" or were you attempting to speak in code?

washingtonpost.com: Editor's note -- the submitter did in fact write "Uncle Tom." Moderator's typo.

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Clifton, Va.: Hey Mike. I admire you for hosting the chat today and letting people take shots at you. Takes a man to do this. You stood by what you said, didn't cave into our P.C. culture and have a set large enough to give as good as you get. This is how a reporter or journalist should be. Most of your colleagues aren't this way. Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...

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Fort Washington, Md.: Mr. Wilbon, thank you for your insightful article, " Dying Young, Black" -- it has sparked many conversations among my friends and me. As the 42-year-old father of a 15-year-old son, your article and a similar one by David Aldridge leave me almost numb. I desperately want my son and all black boys to grow up to become strong, self-aware, intelligent men. Most of the time I feel like a salmon swimming upstream against a culture and society that is working against the success of our children. Thanks again and keep up the excellent writing.

Michael Wilbon: Again, thanks.

By the way, someone asked a question I cannot access, now about timing and if I regret not waiting a day to chat since Taylor was near death ... and it's a totally legit question, and "yes" I wish I could have waited is the answer. Now let me ask you a question: Should we have avoided any discussion of Sean being shot last week in the hours after it happened? On a 1-10 scale of 1 (should have waited) and 10 (jump right in), I'm probably at a 7, but I can be persuaded that isn't the right thing at the right time ... and what should we have discussed, and what should we have avoided. Is there a formula in these instant times when people want to talk about stuff now, the instant things happen? I don't know the answer.

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Miami: Since the issue of firearms has been raised, Randy Shannon does not allow his Miami players to own guns. Isn't that a little short-sighted considering four current or former Canes have been involved in gunplay in the last year, and the two who still are alive are so because they were able to get rid of the intruder, compliments of a firearm?

Michael Wilbon: Great question, and I have zero idea how I feel about that right now...

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Are you aware that Antrel Rolle has complained that he was misquoted and misconstrued in what he was saying? That he was saying Sean was scared of criminals who wanted to steal his money and not of any people he may have "run with" in the past?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, and everybody predicted people would sit on Antrel and try to get him to moonwalk from his original comments, which I heard and thought came straight from his heart, on behalf of his friend who was like family. ... We already know those guys he referred to were involved with or on the border of criminal behavior because they were the ones he suggests hated to see Sean change...

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Washington: One thing people should keep in mind is that "PTI" and the chats are different kinds of forums, and sometimes a "PTI"-style comment that sounds aggressive but is all in good fun on TV just sounds mean in print. I enjoy when you speak your mind even when I don't agree, and I think people shouldn't take it so personally.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks, and I'm the one who had to keep that difference in mind more than anybody else.

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Madison, Wis.: People have been pretty harsh. It was a tragic situation and you called it as you saw it -- I don't think you have anything to apologize for. Unfortunately there are a number of bloggers out there who do. There are reasons why Sean Taylor died; to say he deserved it (as some bloggers have stated) goes too far.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you.

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Anonymous: I disagree only with the timing of your comments in an online conversation while Sean Taylor was on the verge of death and not dead yet. You should have held off. The timing was the only thing that offended me about your comments. Please tell me you regret that, or have at least learned something from it.

For example, when Richard Nixon died, I was glad that Rolling Stone had a strongly anti-Nixon retrospective amid the chorus of praise for the newly dead (and thus suddenly saintly) ex-president. Good for them for reporting reality as they saw it. But I would have denounced them for doing exactly that (on a Web site, for example) either while he was gravely ill but not yet dead or within hours of his death. Human decency demands that, out of respect for the dying person's closest family and friends. If you had it to do over again, would you have waited to give your online comments until a day after his death, rather than while he was actually dying? (Perhaps even writing that you felt it was too soon for you to comment?)

Michael Wilbon: This is the question I tried responding to earlier. ... Thank you...

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Down by the River: Mike, as an alumni of the SEC, I'm pleased as punch that LSU snuck into the BCS title game, especially since both of their loses were in triple overtime against two bowl-eligible teams with Heisman candidates on their squads. But, don't you think it's crazy that a team ranked fifth can jump to No. 2 simply by winning a conference championship game? Is the SEC champ always going to get a spot in the final game (a la Florida last year as well)? Also, if Georgia was two spots better than LSU on Friday, how can they lose so much ground after Saturday? Peace (and we miss you, No. 21)...

Michael Wilbon: I promised BCS talk, but the discussion about Sean Taylor and his tragic death are 1,000 times more important. I will say this about the BCS selections and the Ohio State vs. LSU game: it's a joke. Not the teams, just the notion that these are the best two teams and should be playing in the ultimate college football game this year. Anybody who wants to keep arguing against a playoff should look at this as Exhibit A for a playoff. How can you disagree. As Pete Carroll so eloquently said, every college sport in every division decides its championship in playoff format, while Division I college football continues to push this sham on the sporting public. The university presidents who keep this system in place ought to be ashamed, but they're too arrogant to be.

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Arlington, Va.: Do any sportswriters have the guts to step up and say that there is no such thing as a national champion in college football? Anyone claiming that OSU or LSU are substantially better than the other top ten schools is kidding themselves.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks.

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Baltimore: On your side re: last week's chat -- Mike, I know you have taken a lot of grief for your comments last Monday re: Sean Taylor. Just wanted you to know that one reader knows why you said what you said. You have covered pro athletes for 30 years following growing up on Chicago's South side; you have seen this kind of story play out over and over again. If readers think you are too hard-boiled -- well, I think you have earned the right to be.

And it now seems that one of Taylor's assailants was related to the man his half-sister and another had done work on his house. So it does come down to the fact that a young man of great promise was done in by people who knew him. Maybe they weren't sketchy old running buddies, but they had a prior connection. So, now one man is dead and four (or more) young men are looking at felony murder charges in Florida -- where they hand out the death penalty like it was lunch (to paraphrase Richard Pryor).

Michael Wilbon: Thanks ... believe me, I know it's possible I'm becoming too hard-boiled (great phrase).

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College Park, Md.: How much of your column was a reaction to the 24-hour news cycle? It seems like, in today's world of instant news and demand for headlines, your column was actually an attempt to place a reasonable spin on the situation.

Michael Wilbon: Last weeks's chat was that (I prefer my interpretation to "spin') but maybe not a good enough attempt. ... The column I had much more time to think about and said what I wanted to say ... the column, unlike the chat, was thought over, pored over, thought about again, agonized over, then edited, then published. ... I'm a big boy, I can take the heat if people didn't like it ... Timing? ... I might second-guess that, but I might not...

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Alexandria, Va.: Similar to a previous poster, I too have followed and enjoyed your work -- paper as well as video -- for many years, and also have detected a harder edge to you in recent times. However, on self-reflection (some of it spurred on by the discussion today) I probably have a harder edge now than years ago, in large part because of the actions of those in power who think little, in my view, of the deaths of 24 year-olds in Miami or Iraq or elsewhere -- a discussion for another chat at another time. But for what it's worth, I appreciate an edge that contributes to constructive dialogue, as opposed to fawning behavior that overlooks important issues transcending sports. Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you very, very much. You expressed better than I did what I was trying to do and why I feel as I do.

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Rockville, Md.: Just a vent, I suppose. The news coverage of Sean Taylor's death has been sensationalistic and overdone. It's sad, but it is not a tragedy of epic proportions. Will the Skins retire No. 21?

Michael Wilbon: Why would you make that statement through the form of a question, then ask the latter about the jersey?

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Washington: Tough day. What's Tony's take on all this?

Michael Wilbon: He and I are alike on parts of the issue, and very much disagree on other parts. We haven't talked about it ALL that much, to be honest. I spent the week in an angry funk and he was off to prepare for "Monday Night Football"...I guess we'll sit and talk today...

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Saratoga, N.C.: How would you feel if it were your son, even with a sordid past? Understanding black youth is hard, and if we don't attempt to, who will?

Michael Wilbon: My God, that's what I'm talking about. Thank you.

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Philadelphia: Wilbon -- your comments about Taylor's death last week were on the mark. Let's face it, this was another black-on-black murder, and people are sick of it. To call it random and to obsess over how wonderful Sean Taylor was is to ignore that another black man was senselessly murdered. To bicker over your overtones is to miss the point. This issue needs to be examined, action must be taken, and people should not allow sentimentality to interfere with the process of figuring out this nightmare. Thanks!

Michael Wilbon: Thank you.

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McLean, Va.: I have read your column for 25 years or so and I had no problem with the Sean Taylor column. Lots of reporters were ignoring that elephant in the room, and nothing you said was disrespectful to anyone. I also completely agree with your "how did he change his life" thing. Thanks for saying what is on your mind, and keep at it.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks...

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Anonymous: I am going to attempt to respond to some of the things you have said and written about Sean Taylor. I realize it is somewhat futile because you believe what you believe. But I need to get this out. I am a football fan who is deeply devoted to social issues more than football. I won't give you my resume, but I'll just say I am not ignorant to the issues you have focused on this week.

I take great offense at the way you have described Sean Taylor without really any strong examples to back up your description of him as running in a violent world, other than one incident. I also take deep offense to your comment that you would be surprised if it was Shawn Springs, but not Sean Taylor. I am sure that comment was hurtful to both Springs and the Taylor family. I realize that you don't concern yourself with that, but you have lost a lot of credibility. I hope that your need to "have the discussion" while a man was fighting valiantly for his life has given you some sense of satisfaction.

Michael Wilbon: Oh, but I do care deeply. And I care, personally, about the Springs family because I'm friends with Shawn Springs and his wife Lily and I don't even write about Shawn Springs because it's a total conflict of interest. I met him when he was in high school, got to know him when he was at Ohio State and in Seattle...My relationship with Shawn Springs is personal, not professional...And I used him in that analogy quite intentionally. So don't presume what you presume...

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Washington: I think there is a big difference between having friends who are involved in criminal activities and being involved in violence yourself. Having grown up in a rough neighborhood myself (as I believe you may have too?) I know that many of my friends were involved in things that I wouldn't touch. It's not clear to me whether or not Taylor's "previous" life was one of violence or merely being associated with violent people.

You seem to claim that it was the former. Is that what you're saying? If not, I hope you will clarify. Even though I've had friends who have done some ugly things (I've since gone through the uncomfortable process of distancing myself from them), I know that I'd roll over in my grave if I died and everyone said I was up to the same junk that some of my friends were.

Michael Wilbon: Great question, and I was talking primarily about the people one runs with...Sean Taylor did have that "no contest" plea to misdemeanor assault and battery, but still, I was talking about environments we're in and how and when and whether we can extricate ourselves...Thanks...And yes, I go back sometimes and put myself at some risk (though in my naivety I think not much) when I go and hang out on the South Side where perhaps I shouldn't...Emmitt Smith and I had this conversation last week, and when I told him I did this he looked at me like I was nuts and said, "why?"

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Columbia, Md.: Your Sean Taylor column was possibly the best piece you've written in the past six months. It seemed well-thought-out and balanced (some of your recent stuff has lacked this; on the Taylor piece it read like some of your previous work that might give one reason to think), with more than a couple points to ponder.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...

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Chicago: This would have never happened to Gale Sayers, nor Tiki Barber. Sean did not ask for this, but he played a high-risk game of being true to his neighborhood regardless of whether it was rife with violence. I may sound cynical, but any man who is given a free education should have turned his life around then! Any man who is then given millions of dollars to play football should have turned his life around then! This murder was tragic, but statistically, he was much more likely to die a violent death than Michael Strahan.

Michael Wilbon: I don't think I agree with this, but today we're putting much of it out there to consider...

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Washington: Just wondering -- has anyone from Sean's family talked with you about your column? Also, didn't Jason Whitlock (I think) practically say the same thing as you in his column a day or two after Sean died?

Michael Wilbon: Jason did...and I know he's getting it from a lot of people, and I need to talk to him but haven't...

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Maryland: Hi Mike. I've been following the chat and I understand what you meant when you said you are not bitter, but you see so much on a daily basis that makes you angry, or frustrated (or whatever -- I'm paraphrasing here). I can't help but agree. You are human and whatever you see, hear and feel is going to reflect through anything you say or write. I don't really have a question here, but I respect you as a writer and as a member of the media, so please don't change at all.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...I'm going to really be on alert about my anger...Really...And that is something I might have to change. I'm not sure...There are people who read everything I write who I trust to tell me what they really feel and I solicit advice and reaction from them...and the ones I'm really close to...I don't need to wait for it...They come flying in...which is why we're close. I also miss the late Ralph Wiley's 5-minute voice mails that would set me straight or pat me on the head...He was a moral compass for a lot of us, certainly for me. For Aldridge, for Whitlock, for J.A. Adande...for a lot of us...He might be missed more than we know. Sometimes a laugh can accomplish what a scowl can't...So it's time for some introspection on this issue of anger...doesn't mean I'll change it entirely, but it's such a valid question.

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Washington: Wilbon, thanks for writing the piece on Taylor. It's not so much as a direct attack on Sean Taylor, but more to show that making smart decisions is a key to life. Now that it has come to light that Taylor's death was not premeditated, it shouldn't deter us from having those conversations -- black, white, American, Asian, European, whatever.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks.

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Great discussion: It seems a shame to end it. I know you're busy though.

Michael Wilbon: I do have to end it. ... It's past time to begin "PTI" ... Tony is waiting in makeup and you wouldn't want to put that off on any makeup artist. ... But we can take this up again next week, if you all want to do it. I'm never opposed to have the difficult conversation ... never. ... I know the world moves on. People want answers about Joe Gibbs now knowing the back-to-back timeout rule (I can't believe he didn't know ... just can't believe it and I feel for Joe, I really do). and the BCS and the Wizards.

But nothing in years and years resonates the way this does, and Sean Taylor's death is much more important to me than any of this other stuff. ... So, we'll open up the box again next Monday -- I will be in Atlanta -- and see what we can see. Thank you to those of you who participated today, whether you agree or disagree or asked questions or ranted ... whatever. ... Thank you. I think this space is supposed to function just this way, hopefully in the future without tragic circumstances which have a community in lots of pain ... hopefully, it's a week for recovery. Thanks you all ... Mike

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