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The Chat House
Sports News

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, June 16, 2008 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, June 16 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

A transcript follows.

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Northeast D.C.: Why Mike? Why 18 holes on a Monday when everyone is working? Keep playing on Sunday until somebody wins. That's way more exciting. Is this the last 18 hole play-off we will ever suffer through?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...I'm in Los Angeles...having quite the treat. Woke up to 18 playoff holes of the United States Open with Tiger Woods v. Rocco Mediate...Unreal. It's going to be a slightly insane day for me...Golf, Chathouse, PTI, flight to Boston (if I'm lucky) which will get me into a hotel around 1 a.m...But what a weekend. I'm with you on the golf...I prefer sudden death right away. Decide it on Sunday, though for my selfish purposes I'm glad THIS time it was 18 on Monday so that I could watch every shot, which I'm doing now. For those of you who are unable (which is very few, I'm sure) Tiger is one stroke up after six holes...

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. Mike: On the good Mr. Kurtz's chat, someone was taking the Post to task for you "posing for pictures with a porn star" while covering the NBA finals. Did this actually happen? If so, who? Kurtz's only comment "I'm jealous."

Michael Wilbon: Ha...Anybody who would say that without knowing details is an idiot...And I thank my colleague Mr. Kurtz. So, here's the story. I'm at a club on the off-night of the series, in Hollywood...A young woman comes up, says she's a huge fan of PTI and watches the show every day because her boyfriend got her started watching it years ago. She says her name and asks, "I'd love a picture with you if it's okay." Of course, I say yes, just like I do 99 percent of the time (I don't recall ever saying no, unless I'm in an airport running for a flight or at a restaurant)...A guy comes over, introduces himself and says, "I don't think you know who she is, do you?" I say I have no clue, should I? And he tells me she and her friends are all adult film stars. I laugh out loud. He's an adult film director, he says, and has his own blog. I knew right then, with Jon Barry laughing in my ear, that the photos would be on a blog...And so what? What would the idiot who asked the question in the chat have me do, run up and threaten to smack her if she didn't give me the camera? People really are overly dramatic self-important idiots. Should I carry around a form for people to sign before I take a photo in a stadium or on the street after they tell me the appreciate what I do and would like a photo...I'm sure I've taken pictures, unknowingly, with people a lot seedier...People need to get a life.

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Mt. Rainier, Md.: I know you have mentioned Sam Lacey as an influence before, but I ask of you; even though his main sport of discussion was baseball, how were you influenced by Wendell Smith and his legacy? Did your father have any input about Mr. Smith's courage and outspokenness in Chicago when you were thinking of forging a career as a journalist?

Michael Wilbon: I saw Mr. Smith growing up and read him when I was a kid in Chicago. He was on, I'm 99 percent sure, WGN doing sports...Talk about early media crossover! I can see his face now, his glasses, his hair combed back a lot like my dad's...I knew. My father didn't have to explain to me about Wendell Smith and Doc Young of the Chicago Defender. I knew. And probably, I took a lot more in than I was aware of.

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Washington, D.C.: Is Tiger doing permanent damage o his knee? Is the price for the US Open going to be to steep?

Michael Wilbon: Great question...We don't know. He probably doesn't know. And I'm sure he thinks a United States Open Championship--he's two strokes up now--is worth the price he's paying. Remember, basketball and football players do stuff more extreme than this to their bodies all the time...literally, all the time.

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Washington, D.C.: There is no way the Lakers can come back and win two in Boston right? What do they have to do to even have a shot?

Michael Wilbon: I don't think so...Although Kendrick Perkins appears to be out for Game 6 and that's a huge loss for Boston...And very late last night, after newspapers were put to bed and the talking heads had left their microphones for the night, we were told Ray Allen had to bolt the arena because one of his children had a health issue. It was just scary to read the release from the NBA and I surely hope that everyone in the Allen family is just fine...But when you give the opponent an extra at-bat as the Celtics did last night by not winning a very winnable game, you put yourself at risk. I don't think the Lakers can win tomorrow night in Boston...But I thought the series was going to end last night here in L.A.

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DC: Hi Mike,

I know Washington isn't much of a basketball town, but there are a few big fans, and we appreciate that you still spare a little time every now and then for a Wizards column. Given the last few playoff exits, are you surprised we haven't made a little bigger push for a stronger (physically) defender? Would it be worth giving up some prospects for a lunatic like Ron Artest?

Michael Wilbon: Not Ron Artest, but there are others, guys in the draft, European, Asian and African players who might be off the radar initially. The Pistons, remember, drafted Jaxon Maxiel after winning the NBA Championship. Are you kidding? There are people available every year, and Ernie Grunfeld has been good at finding guys outside the lottery...not good, great actually. But yes, the Wizards need to get bigger and stronger or they have no real chance to contend seriously.

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Washington, D.C.: I think the media should calm down while talking about Tiger's knee. He had a simple procedure a couple months ago and has been rehabbing since.

Don't make it out like he's Ben Hogan.

Michael Wilbon: You're refering to Mr. Hogan coming back from a serious, serious auto accident...but I wouldn't minimize the impact of a knee injury on a sport that calls for total use of one's legs...We don't need to be extreme either way.

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Reston, Va.: How does PTI handle situations like this where news is happening while you're taping the show? Will you wait until the playoff is over to do the show?

Michael Wilbon: Of course...You think we would do a show today and not lead it with the U.S. Open? We handle it like this: when the U.S. Open is over, we'll tape PTI...If it's not over until 5, we'll do it live. I'll miss the flight this afternoon to Boston, check back into my hotel here in Los Angeles, and fly to Boston at 6 a.m. tomorrow, probably meaning I'll miss Tuesday's PTI...In the old days, meaning pre-heart attack, I'd take a red eye to Boston, cram in some sleep and do PTI and the NBA pre-game, halftime and post-game shows. But no red eye flights for awhile...disrupts rest to the extreme, so I'm waiting to travel tomorrow if the U.S. Open goes the entire 18 holes...Is that too much "Inside Baseball" for you or what?

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DC: Who are you rooting for: Rocco or Tiger?

Michael Wilbon: Tiger...I'm not rooting against Rocco...It would be a great story. But I don't know Rocco. When I do root, it tends to be for people I know and like...like in the case of the NBA Finals means Doc Rivers, who I first watched play in high school when we were growing up in Chicago and got to know many, many years ago...How many times do you get to see a guy from where you grew up, your peer, coach a team to a major sports championship? And Doc's the absolute best man in the world. Doesn't mean I'm rooting against the Lakers...I would just love to see Doc coach a team to a championship.

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SW DC: Hey Mike,

I am sure the sports world will sorely miss Tim Russert, who loved all sports (even if all were in Buffalo). What a guy!

Michael Wilbon: Glad you brought this up...I got to know Tim over the years mostly because of his love for sports and the fact that he attended EVERYTHING. As you've already undoubtedly read and heard, people who knew Tim loved him. He was just a wonderful man. And his son, Luke, was PTI's summer intern a couple of years ago...My thoughts, personal wishes and prayers go out to Maureen and Luc and Tim's entire family.

Also, Tim was, I believe, the first person to tell Tony and me we should do a Siskel-and-Ebert sort of show on ESPN. He had the show in his head before anybody at ESPN, and was quick to call us when it first aired and said, "Didn't I suggest this idea five years ago?" He could have been executive producer of the thing.

I cannot believe he's gone, can't believe I can watch election night coverage without him. And of course, the fact that I had a mild heart attack four months ago took me to a really sad place when I heard the news out here Friday...Tim called me the first day of February or so, and we talked about the hours we keep, me in basketball season and him during election season, the bad meals, the missed appointments with the treadmill, the stress we're unaware of because we love what we do...He was just a tremendous person...I didn't know him as well as so many in Washington did, but well enough to appreciate his work and his humanity and, through his son Luke, his family...I'm deeply saddened and will be for awhile.

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Mechanicsville, Va.: Why didn't the USGA have the playoff start at 4 p.m. EDT? Last night's action didn't end until after 8 p.m., so why not have the playoff end similarly (and allow those in the Eastern and Central time zones be able to see the end from home).

Michael Wilbon: Good question, to which I have no answer...probably has to do with television committments. I'm almost willing to bet.

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Arlington, Va.: Tiger certainly deserves all the accolades he receives. He is one of the greatest athletes and clutch performers of our time, or any time. I realize the tremendous pressure he was under at 18 yesterday, but his little club throwing tantrum was inexcusable. Like it or not, he is a role model for millions of kids in the world. This is not an isolated incident for Tiger either and I was watching with my young son who said "why is he throwing everything daddy?" Why doesn't anyone ever call him out for this in the media? If my little boy ever threw a bat at a Little League game I'd pull him off the field!

Michael Wilbon: Yep, my father told me that, too. I still throw the occassional club...and I'm sure I'll feel the same way when I try and tell my kid not to do it...But it ain't the end of the world. And you and your kid aren't playing for the same stakes as Tiger Woods. While I don't condone it, as Chris Rock says, "I understand."

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Washington, D.C.: After blowing that 21-point lead in Game 4, can we officially stop the Kobe-MJ comparisons? Jordan would never let that happen in a Finals game.

Michael Wilbon: It was a 24-point lead and you're absolutely right...hey, the Lakers blew a 19-point lead last night before building anothere 12-point lead, then blowing that. I agree with you completely.

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Richmond, Va.: I don't understand the complaints about an 18-hole playoff. Single-hole playoffs can be very fluky in nature and don't identify who the best player is. You might as well go to the putting green and have a contest to decide the tournament. But for a major, you need something that tests your physical and mental endurance. The 18-hole playoff makes the U.S. Open unique and I for one think it is the best way to decide a major and would be happy to see all the majors decided this way.

Michael Wilbon: Very, very good point....

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Orlando, Fla.: So, Mike, clean steal or foul? I imagine the answer largely depends on whether you like or dislike Kobe. What's your take? Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: I like Kobe. It was a foul, plain and simple. He never touched the ball, only body...

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Richmond, Va.: If Tiger wins today, how would you compare his five-day performance versus Jordan's legendary flu game in the Finals? Obviously, both are amazing, but which would you say is more miraculous? Are there any other similar performances you can remember? Kirk Gibson and Willis Reed spring to mind, but Reed was almost purely inspiration and Gibson was just one swing (though an incredible one).

Michael Wilbon: It's up there. In some ways, it's more impressive simple because he had to walk 5 days...five. It's amazing.

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Washington, D.C.: Mike,

I hope this question makes sense. What did Jackie Robinson have that Tiger Woods, or to a lesser degree Arthur Ashe, doesn't?

Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, and years later, the sport had a recognizable African American presence among its players. Ashe and Woods made (and in Woods' case, is continuing to make) their marks in other sports that were often more associated with white men, yet I haven't seen the same penetration by African Americans. Off the top of my head, I can only think of James Blake and MaliVai Washington for tennis, and I can't think of a single African American golfer besides Woods.

What is different? Is it that there is more equality in society today, that what Ashe/Woods accomplished isn't quite as much an achievement because its percieved they didn't have to fight quite as hard? Or is there another reason? I'd love to know your thoughts on the subject as I'd like to see more African American representation in these sports.

Michael Wilbon: Sir, we need a town-hall meeting to answer this, not a chat...There are dozens of reasons, sociological, economic, athletic...reasons related to culture and race. I would need to think this out and write a column about it. It's fascinating subject matter for a multi-layered discussion. Perhaps I shouldn't have posted the question because I can't give you some simple answer...Maybe I really will write a column about it...

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Washington, D.C. : Last week, the following comment was made and you wanted to get back to it this week: "Not directly to the Finals which is the big story now. But I wonder if you have a comment about Barack Obama being the nominee of his party. In Ray Wilbon's time a black man from Chicago would never have achieved this. Now, a contemporay of yours has done it. I am no pollyanna about race relations in this country and you often write about it. But this is an amazing sign of progress. I wonder what Bill Russell may be thinking." Also with regard to the Finals, is it amazing how differently the Lakers and Celtics look from the Magic-Bird days?

Michael Wilbon: I wrote about the Celtics and the phenomenon of race to start the Finals, so you can read that online if you wish...But as for Barack Obama and my dad, it's caused me to think so much...My father was obsessed with politics, read everything and watched everything he could find, and he died before he ever had cable (1986) so he had no diet of CNN and MSNBC and talk radio...I don't know that he would sleep more than three hours a night if he was alive today.

I became fascinated with election coverage because of my dad, sitting up in 1964 and especially 1968, beginning with the controversial, historic and even violent Demoncratic National Convention in Chicago.

My father would have loved Obama's intelligence, his eloquence. He would have wanted him to be a bit more combative because my father had to be that and respected that, particularly in black men. He would have loved the way Obama dressed and presented himself publicly. He would have loved that Obama is a Harvard man because my father never had the chance to finish high school, much less attend college. He would have loved that Obama could go into Iowa and sit in town hall meetings of groups 99 percent white and fare so well.

He would be over-the-moon right now, and I say that suspecting he would have liked very much Hillary Clinton and to a great degree John McCain. My dad was a veteran...U.S. Army after WWII and before the Korean War, so in peacetime...He would have liked McCain and Clinton in certain elections (though my dad probably never voted for a Republican in his life) but Obama would be beyond his wildest imagination.

I'm talking about a man who left Georgia under some pressure after refusing to move (again) not just to the back of the bus but behind the last white person on the bus. He grew up at a time when not diverting one's eyes from a white woman could have gotten him (as it did others) lynched. My father hated the Jim Crow south, hated the oppression he lived in. And Obama would have represented something he never saw in his life. I hope, somehow, he's getting the news.

I gotta run gang...gotta finish packing and get over to the studio to watch the rest of the golf and be ready to literally run out of the door to catch the flight to Boston...This was fun...We'll do it again next week, presumably from home in D.C. Imagine that! The NBA Finals will be over and I'll be about to start a summer of golf and daddydom...Let's do two more Chats for the summer before we go on hiatus...Thanks everybody...Have a good week. MW

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College Park: I consider you to be quite the fashion plate. So the question begs to be asked here...Jalen Rose's bowties: yea or nay?

Michael Wilbon: Yes sir to Jalen...I was going to do a bow-tie during the Finals...Maybe I will tomorrow night...

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Jean Van de Velde: It's going 18 holes, since someone could always blow up on the last hole and give away a 3=shot lead.

Michael Wilbon: That's right...It's not match play, technically.

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