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The Chat House

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, December 17, 2007; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Dec. 17 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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Rockville, Md.: Wilbon, all of my coworkers have called me nuts for thinking the Redskins have pretty much no shot at going to the playoffs. I say this mainly because they're playing against a resurgent Vikings team and the ever lethal Cowboys one week later. To me, it seems the only prayer the Redskins have is to force the Vikings to beat them in the air as we all know they will try to ram it down the Redskins' throats with the run game. Also, is it just me, or did Portis look like a new player out there on Sunday (perhaps due to healing of undisclosed injuries)?

Michael Wilbon: Hello everyone...I'm in Minneapolis for Bears-Vikings, which obviously is now hugely important to Redskins fans, so we'll start with that whole big picture...That was a great victory last night for the Redskins...They were everything the Giants were not, which is to say disciplined and inspired and tenacious and resourceful...Todd Collins got it done again, which makes for a pretty amazing story, to go 10 years between starts...more impressive was him throwing as accurately as he did in those winds...Very, very nice win by the Redskins...And now, all the Redskins fans get to join me in rooting for the Bears tonight...me because I always do, everybody else because the Redskins need a Chicago victory to bring the Vikings back to 7-7...I don't think that's going to happen; Minnesota is simply a better team and Tavaras Jackson is playing so much better at QB than he did the first 9-10 weeks of the season...Actually, the Vikings are what the Bears aspire to be, which is to say a great running team whose QB doesn't kill the offense...

As for the Redskins chances, I think they're pretty good if the Bears can win tonight. The Redskins would be an underdog up here, but there's nothing overwhelming about the Vikings. They're good, but certainly not great. And as for a possible Redskins-Cowboys game to get the Redskins in...I haven't been as impressed with the Cowboys as much as some (Tony K, for instance)...I think the Redskins have a shot...It's much more than a prayer but less than a cinch.

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Tysons Corner, Va.: As an outspoken black man do you think there is a collective sense (with African Americans) of vindication relating to the exposure of Roger Clemens as a fraud? I've always believed that Barry Bonds was vilified in part because of his race, not just his bad attitude.

Michael Wilbon: Great question...And the answer is, I think there's some sense of "Told you so" among many African-Americans that Bonds wasn't the only mega-star taking illegal performance enhancers. And I think there's a great curiosity now among African-Americans to see whether Clemens (even more than Andy Pettitte) will be vilified by the mainstream media and white baseball fans who lashed out at Bonds as a villain. Already, I hear people jumping to accept Pettitte's apology, that it was "only two days...and I did it to help heal an injury." Hell, WE KNOW WHY he took HGH. To help get well faster than he would have been otherwise. That's the very reason it's banned...Taking it "only" twice doesn't excuse it...And taking it because he was injured doesn't excuse it either. Bonds says he took "the cream" and "the clear" only a time or two, but did that stop the onslaught?

No, of course not.

Look, they're all cheaters as far as I'm concerned, one no different than the other. But let's see if history will treat them the same...Black folks, including this one, are skeptical...if not downright cynical. Suddenly, the screaming has stopped and there's this new tendency toward listening and asking for explanations. I don't recall Bonds receiving that benefit of the doubt...

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Downtown D.C.: Michael-

I've enjoyed your work in The Post for years. Do you read ESPN Ombudsman Le Ann Schreiber's columns? What do you think of her criticism that ESPN (and sports media generally) are too focused on competing opinions, without underlying factual reporting -- though she's been complementary of your work. Also, do you know how her pieces are received by others at ESPN? I think she's usually on target.

Michael Wilbon: I spend very, very little time in Bristol at ESPN headquarters so I don't know how her pieces are received up there...She's a very, very bright woman who has some very valid criticisms...and I'm sure there are things that Tony and I do she may object to, and if so...good. All the people in our business need to be introspective...and not just some knee jerk fan garbage like, "You guys like the Giants more than the Jets..." Issues like whether there's adequate reporting and whether there's enough reporting to justify the opinions in the case of big stories is something she SHOULD be looking at...Obviously, some opinions (who's better, who should be MVP, the barroom stuff) isn't going to be tied to a ton of reporting. But the central issues of the day are...

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Adams Morgan:

Mike,

Have you seen anything like the Brian Westbrook play, downing the ball at the 1-yard line instead of scoring? Made me happy in the fact there are a lot of angry Philly fantasy players out there.

Michael Wilbon: I don't care about the fantasy nuts; I only care that Westbrook did the right thing. Talk about a demonstration of intelligence on the fly and under pressure. If he scores, yes, Philly is up two scores and very, very unlikely to lose. But since the Cowboys would get the ball back on the ensuing kickoff, they could score and recover an on-sides kick. We've seen it this year. We see that every year. But when you enable your team to simply kill the clock and keep the Cowboys from even having THE CHANCE to score, that's smart...very, very, very smart.

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"only a time or two": Wilbon, come on! With all due respect, Bonds had to have taken steroids more than that -- the guy blew up like Popeye! Are you claiming that was a natural weight/muscle gain? Please. That's hugely different than taking HGH for a day or two to heal, whatever the color of your skin.

Michael Wilbon: The point is why you believe Pettitte only took it two days. Why do you believe that? Because he's white? Why doe you believe Pettitte and not Bonds? That's the central issue here. How do you know Pettitte only did it twice and because of injury. Why does your benefit of the doubt extend to him and not to Bonds? And how accepting are you of Clemens' denial? You think he didn't blow up? You think he went from a 6-inning pitcher with an ERA over 4.00 in his mid-30s to a lights-out, 8-inning pitcher with an ERA under 3.00 in his 40s just...just because?

Now, maybe that happened. Maybe Rocket imply worked his butt off to get in better shape and did nothing?

But maybe Bonds did that, too.

Neither failed a drug test that we know of. Why are you (and I'm using the plural "you" here in setting up this line of questioning) willing to extend to Pettitte an acceptance of explanation that you don't extend to Bonds?

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Washington, D.C.: The difference with Bonds was that he played through and during the criticism and knocked down the most famous record in all of baseball without a hit of apology or regret for what he had done. Look at other players -- McGwire essentially disappeared, Giambi had a major apology, Sosa disappeared for a good year or two before coming back as half the player he once was. Bonds, meanwhile, has seen his trainer go to jail for a year and a half just to protect him. There's a difference, and it's not just a black/white thing.

Imagine if Clemens came back this year to break the all-time strikeouts record (just a hypothetical), and his trainer was sitting in jail while he did it. Imagine the media storm then!

Michael Wilbon: Imagine if Clemens does it! That's right, take the leap. You think it's 100 percent certain that Roger Clemens never plays again? Suppose he keeps denying it and comes back to win 15 more games this year? Will we hear the same screaming? No...these last two questions demonstrate that. McGwire set the single season record for home runs, so what the heck are you talking about? Disappear? From where. Wasn't that McGwire and Sosa who had those big seasons that supposedly "saved baseball?" Sosa is still playing, so what logic are you applying?

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Philly: I'm surprised Brian Westbrook didn't get more press about taking a knee at the one at the end of the game yesterday instead of taking the stroll-in touchdown (except among fantasy players). I figured a win-first, selfless act like that would get more appreciation from the national sports press. Especially considering all the me-first stuff that goes on in pro sports these days (see: taunting penalty by Laron Landry that almost reinvigorated a Giants' drive last night.)

Michael Wilbon: The thing about pro football is there's a whole week for stuff to be analyzed and over analyzed...Westbrook will get credit in this newspaper on on PTI today, and that's certainly "the press."

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Taos, N.M.: Mike -- Great Redskins' win in the wind of the Meadowlands. You gotta be happy for Todd Collins!

My question is: will the Giants' "fans" be happy when they drive Eli Manning out of town?

Michael Wilbon: I don't try to assess what fans of various teams feel because it would be largely a waste of time...but Eli Manning does not look like a QB that can lead a team into serious contention. He just doesn't. He reminds he, in some cases, of Rex Grossman...not knowing where the rush is coming from, the inability to make routine medium-length passes when needed...Look, the Giants dropped a bunch of passes last night, and the wind was unmerciful...Still, Manning had the touch of a blacksmith on some of those short tosses...He retreats instead of stepping up into the pocket when rushed from the outside...He's no better now than he was two, three years ago and that's not a good sign. I don't think the Giants can win a championship or even reach the Super Bowl with Eli Manning at QB. That puts him in the company of 90 percent of QBs in the NFL who can't either...But I don't see how he's going to be an elite QB this far into his career having so many games like last night's.

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Washington D.C.: What are your thoughts on the big game between Memphis and Georgetown? It seems as though Georgetown has been experimenting with a line up that will allow them to get out and run?

Michael Wilbon: This is a TOTALLY valid question, particularly for somebody who likes college hoops as much as I do...But it's just not time yet for me to pay attention to college basketball...Stretching the NFL season has hurt college basketball on some level. I don't even pay serious attention now until late January, which is crazy. Whatever JTII is doing with his lineup, it's not to try and deal with Memphis. It's to figure out how to give his team, this specific group of players, the best chance to improve in February and win in March.

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Bethesda, Md.: Mike,

I know it's still football season, but a college basketball question for you. You may have only seen the score, but the score said it all. How concerned should Terps fans be at this point in the season that their team got run out of their own building by the squad from the ever-contending Ohio University. Down 17 in the second half. And not to THE Ohio State University... to the Bobcats of Ohio University.

Michael Wilbon: Believe me, I have enough friends and family members who are Maryland alums to have heard to groaning. It's not a good sign, but it's not the sign of gloom and doom I've heard either. Look at all the big powers who lost early games to programs smaller than Ohio U. No question, Maryland needs to get better in a hurry to be a factor in the ACC. But we've seen teams make giant strides once the conference season begins, so it's a little early to write off Gary Williams' team just yet.

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Speaking of Barry...: Where do you rank him in the pantheon of all-time great players? Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and others have said that he was the best pure outfielder they have ever seen. He could cover more ground than anyone, ever (according to them). His bat has always been good. When he bulked up, he sacrificed his defensive ability for power, and broke the all-time HR record.

Where would you rank him? I still have him as a top 5 player of all time...

Michael Wilbon: Great question...I don't. I've got Mays and Ruth and Aaron ahead of him, no question...probably Frank Robinson...I know it's hard to start comparing guys of different positions and eras, but Gehrig and Ted Williams are way, way up there. Serving their country in war time probably cost Mays 90 home runs, maybe more...and Williams something like 150...Bonds is a great player, steroids or not. But I'm very very skeptical about his ability to generate all that power and stay that healthy at 39, 40, 41, 42...I think that's where the performance enhancing argument kicks in. Aaron didn't have benefit of that, and neither did Mays or Williams or Aaron, or Joe DiMaggio or Stan Musial or Jackie Robinson, or Josh Gibson...This is why the discussion become so heated, and sometimes so depressing. What are we now measuring?

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Indianapolis: I noticed your boy Rory Sabbatini is up to his old tricks again. It takes some big ones to walk out of Tiger's tournament like that. What I find so hilarious about Sabbatini's ridiculous campaign to tweak Tiger is that he's sponsored by Nike. How long do you think that Swoosh will remain on his visor?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know, but I know Rory Sabbatini behaves like a sleaze. He's disgusting...Where's the outrage over his lack of sportsmanship. Quite simply, he behaves like a bum.

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NYC: If you're Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, is Jacksonville the team you would least like to see in the playoffs? They were awfully impressive in the foul, Western Penn elements.

Michael Wilbon: Yes Sir...You and I are, as the coaches say, on the same page. The Jaguars may live in Florida but they're built for January weather in the NFL. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor might be onto something special...And their quarterback makes so few mistakes he gives them a chance...I think Jacksonville, right now, is the second-best team in the league.

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Philadelphia: A couple of NBA questions for you. First, did anyone around the league see Portland coming? I know they have some very good (maybe great?) young talent, in Roy and Aldridge, but .500 in the West without Oden? Wow. Second, can the Wiz keep pace when the competition starts getting tougher?

Michael Wilbon: I thought Portland would be pretty good this year, but not THIS good...Not 7 straight wins good...Boy, talk about a bad trade, the Bulls drafting LaMarcus Aldridge and trading him on draft day for Tyrus Thomas! And wait until Oden gets there! They seem to have all the pieces, and I mean ALL of them...Two good point guards (Steve Blake and Jarret Jack), a big-time wing scorer in Roy, a good defensive-minded backup center in Joel Pryzbilla, a nice sub in Bo Outlaw, a second big-time front court 7-foot scorer in Channing Frye. Are you kidding me? As for the Wizards, all praise to them! How easy is it to root for the Wizards right now, playing this resourcefully without Gilbert Arenas and now without Antonio Daniels. I fear they're going to have some trouble now, but they built up just enough cushion, perhaps, to survive until Daniels gets back...I'd like to see the Wizards with Daniels in three weeks and with Gil back in the lineup by the end of February and see what they can do...Eddie Jordan has done a great job...just a great job with this group, given the injuries the team has had...

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Bears Fan in Arlington: Maybe it's the holiday season, or I'm just getting more sentimental as I approach my mid-40s, but this chick had tears in her eyes as the Dolphins finally won a game, in OT no less. The team's reaction was fantastic -- complete joy (and relief, too). Best moment of the day. Your thoughts about the Fins win, Mike?

Michael Wilbon: I watched a lot of that game and rooted for the Dolphins as if they're were wearing the midnight blue and orange...I wouldn't wish what they were going through on many people...Good for them to get their first victory of the season...

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Who's dumber?: Mike: Which supposedly quality head coach was dumber yesterday? Tom Coughlin, for throwing the ball 50 times on a night when the wind was howling and his team was averaging five yards a run? Or Brian Billick, for not going for the win from inside the one with 12 seconds to go? You mean the Ravens can't run a QB sneak, reset and spike the ball in 10 seconds? Please.

Michael Wilbon: Very, very good question...Coughlin...Because that was bad coaching sustained. Billick was one decision I thought was bad...But it wasn't one bad decision after another, as Coughlin demonstrated...What in the world was he thinking? And after seeing the running game work nicely?

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Washington, D.C.: Do you see any reason to believe any of the MLB players' excuses for being named in the Mitchell Report? For whatever reason, Pettitte's "golly, I was just trying to help the team" excuse bothers me more than Clemens' silence.

Michael Wilbon: They're both annoying...I would just have to admit it: I took the stuff to enhance my talents...That's it. I did it to hit it longer and run faster and throw harder and stay healthier...Anything else is just bogus.

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NC: Please tell me Tony didn't take a bus all the way to Minnesota? In a snow storm?

Michael Wilbon: No, he actually flew on Saturday...But I don't see many signs of a big snow storm here...Probably because they get them so often they're no big deal...

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Baltimore: What will it take to fire Brian Billick? Losing to a win-less team....?

Michael Wilbon: This is what Tony and I pondered Thursday, whether losing to the Dolphins would put Billick in the soup...I just don't know...

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Minneapolis: Okay, so let's say the 'Skins win their next two, and manage to secure a wild card berth. Who do you think would start at QB if Campbell is cleared by playoff time?

Michael Wilbon: I'd start Collins...If Collins gets them to the playoffs he deserves to play, in my opinion...I have zero idea what Joe Gibbs would do...

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Reston, VA: Hi Mike -

Thanks for taking the time to do these sessions.

After withdrawing this weekend, am I the only one now almost salivating to see Tiger vs. Rory Sabbatini in a match play event?

Michael Wilbon: Oh no...Anybody who loves straight-up competition and golf would love to see that. I know I would. I bet you the snake would simply pull out of the competition. He's such a low-life.

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Bethesda, MD: The AFC playoffs look like they could be nothing short of amazing this year. The top three teams are clearly New England, Indy, and an under the radar Jacksonville. Add to that an up and down San Diego team, Pittsburgh and possibly the surging Browns in the playoff picture there will be some fantastic matchups.

Everyone is looking to an Indy-New England Championship game. What do you think the chances are that one of the other four teams is able to sneak into the championship game.

Jacksonville and Pittsburgh both look built for cold weather games.

Michael Wilbon: I don't know that Indy could beat Jacksonville a third time. I thought the Jags outplayed the Colts in the last game and got the benefit of some shaky calls...I'd love to see Romeo Crenell take the Browns into Foxboro and play his old boss, Belichick...That would be pretty cool. But we're getting to the point where Pats-Jags might be the matchup most worth watching...

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. Mike: Since a baseball player's making it to Cooperstown depends pretty much on statistics, what does MLB do for the steroid and HGH era? Just asterisk every statistic and everyone voted in to Cooperstown for the whole era and note -- "all records listed are suspect"? Right now I can't see Bonds and Clemens, to name just two, who won't get to the Hall of Fame until well after they're eligible, if then.

Michael Wilbon: I'm not a Hall of Fame voter, but we saw what happened to McGwire...He didn't even get 30 percent of the vote, did he? And you need 75 percent...I think this standoff could take quite a few years, though I don't know how younger voters, men and women who perhaps see steroids in a different light, might feel in the next, 10-15 years...But it will become, if it isn't already, one of the biggest stories in modern baseball history...

Okay, gotta run and do battle with Tony over at The Metrodome...It's crystal clear here with the temperature around 25...a nice day for a Minnesota walk. The Dome is just about a mile, there's no wind...I'm going to try and get in touch with my Midwestern roots...though I know exactly where to get a taxi if I wimp out...Take care everybody, enjoy the Holidays...We won't chat next week because it'll be Christmas Eve and most people will be out-of-pocket, hopefully enjoying the day, shopping, visiting family members, whatever...I'll be in NYC working on Christmas Eve with Tony in San Diego for the MNF finale...I'll then spend Christmas Day in Bristol doing the ABC pre-game and halftime NBA shows...We'll resume the first Monday in January...Happy Holidays 'til then everybody...MW

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