The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Tuesday, January 22, 2008; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Tuesday, Jan. 22 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

____________________ Michael will begin answering questions at 1:30 and will go until 2:30.


Perryville, Md.: What is your opinion on Jim Fassel vs. Gregg Williams as a head coach? And, does it really make a difference as long as Vinny Cerrato is selecting the players?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...Thanks for chatting on a Tuesday. We're doing this today because of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which kept a lot of people out of their offices...And we're starting late today because I'm turning into an old man...rotator cuff issues and back issues. I'm a mess and had PT this morning...Much better now, thank you...So, we'll start with the Redskins, though we're not going to spend a ton of time on the Redskins, not with the Wizards and Hoyas going so well these days.

Anyway, let's not resort to the all-too-easy and inaccurate answer of blaming Vinny Cerrato, who scouts players but is in NO WAY in charge of making the selections. As I've written more than once, if the Redskins top brass had listened to Cerrato more frequently on player selection they wouldn't have made some of the massive mistakes they've made...Now, in terms of a coach, I don't know that I can see some enormous difference in hiring Jim Fassel or Gregg Williams. Both are accomplished coaches, but obviously Fassel has taken a team to the Super Bowl as a head coach, which I'm sure appeals to Dan Snyder. It would appeal to anybody, I guess. So, if you stay with Gregg Williams you're deciding to continue along the path you started with Joe Gibbs and this group. Fassel, naturally, would want his own assistants so that would cause more upheaval...It seems to me if he wanted Gregg Williams as his next coach he'd already have hired him...They know his work, his personality, his work habits...


Washington, D.C.: Junior Seau is a 39-year-old, 18-year vet, who is a starting linebacker on an 18-0 team, who is still making goal-line, touchdown saving tackles.

How about throwing some of that Brett Favre, old-timer, man-love his way?

Michael Wilbon: I'm totally with you on this. Seau's tackle the other day in the AFC title game on Michael Turner was a huge play. It might have been the difference between a 14-12 lead and trailing 16-14...Big play. And Seau has been doing this all season. He's not the dominant player he used to be, but who is at 39? Look, I'm of the belief that Favre's OT interception was a terrible pass, terrible decision and lost the game for the Packers. BUT, nobody can deny that Favre is one of the great players in NFL history. The guy is amazing, even now at his age.


D.C.: Is two whole weeks of Boston vs. New York more insufferable for you than two weeks of Brady/Favre man-love?

Michael Wilbon: I could do without both...But I also will tell you I don't read any bye-week Super Bowl stories and don't watch any on TV. I check out of pro football the day after the conference championship games and check back on Tuesday, Media Day, of Super Bowl week...Most of what we hear between those days is filler, and I'm much more interested in the NBA and college hoops and golf than NFL filler.


Bethesda, Md.: Mike,

Tell me you weren't loving that 'Cuse/Georgetown game I saw you at last night. Johnny Flynn and Donte Greene were on fire in the second half, only to be overmatched by a more seasoned Hoyas squad. I know you're an NBA guy, but passionate rivalries like these two are hard to come by in the pros. Didn't that game bring you back to the old school, arena-rocking 1980s Big East?

Michael Wilbon: No, passionate rivalries aren't hard to come by in the pros. You're wrong. College basketball fans need to stop feeling the need to boost their game by trashing the NBA. What you almost certainly did not watch yesterday was the Knicks-Celtics game, played on Martin Luther King's birthday celebration, in which the two teams nearly came to blows a dozen times. There are plenty of rivalries in professional sports. Now, having said that, I love the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry...I covered it for five years, sat front and center at games here in D.C., in the Carrier Dome, at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament. It's fabulous to watch, especially when both have great teams. Georgetown is a great team now, Syracuse is not. But the Orange are getting better and they nearly stole one from the Hoyas last night. Another great ending to a Georgetown game. I'm looking forward to the end of the NFL season so I can concentrate more on college hoops.


Roanoke, Va.: How many forwards in the NBA would you put ahead of Caron Butler right now? He is playing out of his mind. And also, why are fans the main determining factor in the All-Star Game. It's a joke when some of these players get selected, a la Vince Carter, when he didn't play a single game that one year.

I'm mainly referring to the fact that Butler probably won't get voted in by the way.

Michael Wilbon: Good question. Kevin Garnett, LeBron if you want to classify him as a forward...Carmelo Anthony probably, maybe Carlos Boozer. But Butler's way up there this year. I think he's had a better first-half than Dirk, better probably than any forward in the Eastern Conference other than KG...I know I'm forgetting somebody. Oh, how about Antawn Jamison? One of only five players in the league averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds. How good is that? I don't count Tim Duncan as a forward. He's a center to me. The Wizards' personality is now Butler's, not Gilbert Arenas' personality. And it's going to be interesting to see, once Gilbert comes back in March, how the team functions in crunch-time situations. Will guys look to Arenas, or Butler? Will the team revert to having Gil's personality, or remain a more serious team that practices more seriously and plays better defense. Caron and Jamison have done that. They've been the best pair of forwards, no doubt.


San Diego:


Many have essentially said L.T. is a wimp of a running back and let his team down by not playing the whole game on Sunday. L.T. said he would have hurt his team more if he did play. What do you think? Rivers played hurt and after the game some felt he was a "hero" while other commentators said Volek should have been given a chance because Volek was healthy.

Michael Wilbon: What I think is very simple: The team trainer and team physician told Norv Turner LT should not go back on the field. So, other people know more than the doctors? Sorry. All injuries aren't the same. I've been in enough locker rooms and known enough athletes to believe when players say they're hurt, 99 percent of the time they're hurt. I know there are a few guys, very few, who take themselves out for every little boo-boo...But that's so, so, so, so rare.


Fairfax, Va.: Hey Mike,

Great job at The Post.

Can we get some chat love for Willie O'Ree? The 50th Anniversary of Willie breaking the color barrier in hockey was just over a week ago. It's courageous what he did. It couldn't have been easy.

Plus, did you know he had lost sight in one eye two years before he even made it to the NHL? That has to make his accomplishment even more amazing.

What Willie did can't be forgotten to history, and it's important that every NHL player know what this guy did for their sport, regardless of their background.


Michael Wilbon: Thanks for that...


McLean, Va.: Philip Rivers is surely a loud-mouthed idiot, but having knee surgery on Monday and playing on Sunday is pretty much off the charts on having guts. Almost Ronnie Lott levels.

Michael Wilbon: Yep, I agree with you on both scores...Well, I wouldn't say he's an idiot...He's a knucklehead.


Washington, D.C.: In the aftermath of the NBA officiating crisis over the summer, one would think NBA officiating would not just be by the book, but to the letter. I would be happy if they just called traveling and palming better. However, I have seen a few moments this year where the guys have swallowed the whistle, and made decision more in tune with momentum than the right call. It still appears call are star driven. Where do you think NBA officiating stands thus far this year and in the future? I know the guy are phenomenal athletes, but should I give up hope?

Michael Wilbon: Stop obsessing over the refs; that's what you should do. Officiating is subjective in every sport. Baseball is the easiest to call, though balls and strikes are often controversial. Every NFL game there's some officiating controversy. I don't think the holding call that negated a Giants touchdown run was a good call. And I know players were split on the call...So, do you get upset because the NFL calls are often wrong? The NBA calls are simply more in the open, and I agree with you there's a stay system. The NBA is built on a star system, so that seems in keeping. I wish the officiating was better in every sport. But to simply focus on it all the time is counter-productive. Watch the games, enjoy the athletes.


Falls Church, Va.: Is Brady's sudden, mysterious, highly public foot cast a deliberate deception from Belichick?

Michael Wilbon: Who would it deceive? What, you think the Giants are going to start preparing for his backup?


Fear the Turtle: How bout some love for the Terps for knocking off acc foe and AP No. 1 UNC over the weekend.

I love me some conference hoops.

Michael Wilbon: Very, very, very impressive victory by Gary Williams and the Terrapins. What I want to see now is if Maryland can follow up and win enough games to get the team to the NCAA Tournament. Nobody gets a team up for a challenge as well as Gary does. Five times in 10 years Maryland has beaten the No. 1 team, and seven times in his tenure at Maryland. That's amazing.


Alexandria, Va.: Is it the media's fault that the whole "lynch" Tiger Woods comment got so much attention? Tiger didn't care, and a lot of black Americans didn't think is was a very big issue either.

Michael Wilbon: A lot of African Americans think it IS a big deal, too. But yes, I think this would have floated away by now if not for Golfweek Magazine. Yes, I think it was more media driven than not.


Arlington, Va.: In the LT vs. Rivers mini-controversy that seems to be brewing, put me down on the LT side. Have we not seen enough stories in the past few years about newly retired players who can't touch their toes -- or remember how many toes they have? Spare me this "I'd risk my life to make it to the Super Bowl" attitude. Good for you, LT.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for your comment.


Rucker Park, NYC: Mr. Wilbon -- Please tell me your take on the Wizards and what to expect when Gilbert comes back. If they play like they are currently, only adding in the scoring and killer instinct of Gil, can they challenge for the Eastern Conference championship? They seem to match up real well with the only powers in the East, Detroit and Boston. They should at least be able to get to the 2nd or 3rd round, right??

Michael Wilbon: You've made very good points, but here's my question: Will Gilbert be satisfied and productive with a reduced role? Will he want and expect to take the last shot in a big game? Will the team chemistry change? Will the defense be weakened? There's a lot to wonder about...Clearly, the defense is better without him in the lineup. Coincidence? Perhaps. Gil is certainly a good enough athlete and studies the game enough to be a better defender. And the offense has much better flow without him. The shot distribution is better. There's no question about that. Now, if Gilbert, as he told The Post's Mike Wise the other day, understands he needs to fit into what the team is doing NOW, then the Wizards will really be dangerous in the playoffs.


Hamilton, N.Y.: Gotta put Pierce ahead of Butler, at least right now.

Michael Wilbon: No way. Butler is a much more efficient player than Pierce is at the moment.


Washington, D.C.: Let's not forget some dap for the Capitals. They've been on a tear since Boudreau took the helm. Ovechkin is dominant and the team is chock full of young talent. It's not there yet, but it's going there.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Michael Wilbon: Thank you very much...Sorry to see Sidney Crosby get hurt...he'll miss several weeks, probably six to eight. Ouch. That's bad not just for the Pens, but for the NHL.


Washington D.C.: NBA Season is about halfway over. Who's your MVP, and surprise team? I know you'll probably say the Trailblazers, but be different.

Michael Wilbon: Why would I want to "be different?" Portland is the biggest surprise team, period. Kevin Garnett is the MVP, period. My next five would be, let's see...Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, maybe Brandon Roy after that...or Marcus Camby...


Baltimore: What do you think Tiki Barber is thinking about this week? Still hating Eli?

Michael Wilbon: What's Tiki thinking about this week? His career. His life, which has turned out pretty darned good. Guys, once they retire, don't think about their former teams nearly as much as fans and media people think. They're onto something else, to a new life. Tiki might have some crow to eat, no doubt, because of the way he popped Eli. But guess what? That's his job now, to talk, and analyze and be critical. And I think Tiki is very, very good at what he does.


That's why we play the game: Given all the "upsets" in basketball this weekend, and here I'm thinking especially of the college game, do you think there is any other sport in which matchups play such a big role in how a game plays out? I mean that even in team sports sometimes a team just happens to match up well against a supposedly better team. I can't think at the moment of any other sport where this matters so much. By the way, I read that article in SI about your coverage of the Chaminade-Virginia upset back in the '80s. Great call on your part and how amazing was it to have been there?

Michael Wilbon: It was great to be at Virginia-Chaminade. I don't know that it was some "great call." It was a basketball game featuring the No. 1-ranked team in the country and the No. 1 player in the country (Ralph Sampson) and I was 23 years old with nothing to do but watch basketball in person 75, 80 nights a season...It's all I knew to do at the time. But it's one of the greatest nights of my professional life...I loved being there...think about it every time there's another "upset" in the making. Probably nothing in my life will ever match it...Ever.


Washington D.C.: Are the Miami Heat the worst team in the NBA right now?

Michael Wilbon: Well, it's either Miami or Minnesota. One of the two. But we KNEW Minnesota was going to be awful after the T-Wolves traded Kevin Garnett. But Miami is a little bit of a surprise, except to my man David DuPree, who wrote in USA Today on the eve of the season that Miami was going to be one of the worst teams in the East.


Knuckleheaded: "Philip Rivers is surely a loud-mouthed idiot, but having knee surgery on Monday and playing on Sunday is pretty much off the charts on having guts."

Guts or stupidity? He may not need a 100-percent knee the way LT at running back does, but if he really had surgery a week ago, that was a bone-headed move to play. He could do so much damage after being cut open, which leads me to believe that "surgery" could equal a cortisone shot. Don't like being cynical, but he couldn't have had much of anything done and play a week later.

Michael Wilbon: Good points. But playing through pains and, yes, even injuries, are what endear football players to their teams, their fans, their owners, coaches and most of all...each other.


Washington, D.C.: I don't see how KG is MVP. I can't see how Boston is worse without KG than Cleveland is without LeBron. But the real MVP might be Chris Paul. Look at what he's done with that team.

Michael Wilbon: I should have mentioned LeBron in my "five." But I still put KG ahead of him...I'm not buying your point about the Celtics without KG vs. Cleveland without LeBron. We know Cleveland is awful without LeBron. But do you think the Celtics could be 32-6 if Pierce and Ray Allen were playing without KG every night? Sorry. no chance.


Re; the lynch comments: Michael -- just a comment here. I am a white man in my 30s and hope that I haven't a racist bone in my body. I have come to the realization that a lot of white people like myself just need to stay out of the discussion when words like lynching and the other unmentionable word enter the conversation. It is simply impossible for us to understand the way the connotations of these words affect black people. We will never understand them. I wonder actually if Tiger Woods and his generation, who are even younger than I am, understand why the older generation (of black men and women) is so put off by certain words. Not sure if I have a point here, but thanks for posting.

Michael Wilbon: No, you do have a point. But I don't want to say that all white men can't understand. In fact, I've gotten feedback from people who thought I was too soft on Kelly Tilghman, and they were all white men who said this was a much bigger issue than I suggested...


New York: Mike, Did you see that the NFC championship had an overnight rating of 31.7 and it looks like the final number of viewers will be well above 50 million people? Since 1999 a series of relatively unglamorous teams have won championships, and the NFL has only grown increasingly dominant in this country.

So now that it seems to be heading back towards big-name and big-market teams being successful, how big can this league get? This looks to be the year that the Super Bowl could finally break the 100 million viewers mark, doesn't it?

Michael Wilbon: The Super Bowl always breaks the 100 million viewer mark. And the NFL isn't tied to big market success in order to be a huge success. The very success of the NFL is its revenue sharing and its ability to have great small-market teams, like Green Bay and Buffalo and Jacksonville and the Carolina Panthers. The NFL is the sporting/cultural monster in America and it's been that way for 20 years. Only the baseball apologists seem to think otherwise, and they're too out of touch to take seriously anymore.


Avon Park, Fla.: Now that Tony Dungy is staying with the Colts, I think we should take time to realize how great a coach he is. People never seem to give him credit for his coaching ability. When analysts talk about Dungy, they only praise him as a man and not as a coach. Why is that?

Michael Wilbon: I think Tony Dungy has gotten praise as a coach. He helped build, remember, two Super Bowl teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (taken over the top by Jon Gruden) and the Colts. He's a great coach and a great man and the Colts are fortunate to have him for however much longer he wants to be there.


Arlington, Va.: On your Sept. 17 chat you said the following:

"The Giants look terrible...TERRIBLE. I mean, WOW! terrible." AND "The Giants and Saints look so positively dreadful, I doubt either will bounce back, though it's early. The Giants are just bad; that's not a big surprise."

Just goes to show that you can't either be too high (Redskins fans) or too low (Giants fans) so early in the season. Things have a tendency to change over the 16 games.

Michael Wilbon: Very, very good point. Thanks for making it.


Washington, D.C.: If Daniel Snyder intended to hire Gregg Williams to coach the Redskins, wouldn't he have done so by now?

Michael Wilbon: I believe that question was asked about an hour ago...not answered, but asked rhetorically...


Arlington, Va.: Phillip Rivers seems like a punk, but I do respect him playing with a torn ACL.

Michael Wilbon: That seems to be a prevailing sentiment.


D.C.: Mike, When you hear the words "Green Bay", you immediately think of the Packers. Name your Top Five teams in terms of how closely identified they are with their home city.

Michael Wilbon: Hmmm. Packers, Bills, Broncos, Raiders (despite the move), Browns, oh...definitely the Steelers...That's the group right there.


Manassas, Va.: So the Wizards sweep the Mavs with an 18-point win at home. Earlier in the year, it felt like the Wizards could feast on the bad teams, but couldn't compete with the big boys (Boston, Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, etc). Now, they've taken their play to the next level. Does this make you rethink what they're capable of assuming they keep their current health when the playoffs come around? I'm starting to reassess...

Michael Wilbon: I just wonder how they're going to incorporate Gilbert Arenas. If Eddie Jordan, with the help of Arenas, can do that, the Wizards can play with the Pistons, though I don't know about the Celtics. But the Wizards are no worse than the fourth or fifth best team in the East, behind Boston, Detroit and Orlando and somebody will catch fire in the East. But it will be really, really exciting to see how this develops.

Okay, gotta run and start preparing for today's PTI...Thanks for making the switch to Tuesday this week. We're back to Monday next week, and I'll be in Arizona indulging in the Super Bowl excess...MW


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