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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, August 25, 2008; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Aug. 25 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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A transcript follows.

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Phoenix: Do you think the redeemers will return to the NBA with more well-rounded games from the Olympic experience?

Michael Wilbon: Hello everybody...Welcome to the post-Olympic, pre-football world. I watched the entire first week of the Olympic Games from Beijing but little of the second week, beyond Usain Bolt...I traveled to Chicago for a family trip Thursday through yesterday and watched virtually nothing, and that includes not watching U.S.-Spain, which could have been a disaster for me (and them) if they'd lost because I'd have missed it live...But they held on and yes, this will have some carryover that should help the NBA, whether it's individually or collectively. I think each of the competing players will be more appreciative. I wonder how healthy they'll be for having competed all summer, whether their bodies will have recovered from the grind...But it'll be interesting to see.

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Annapolis, Md.: Hi there Mike,

As a Wizards fan, it's nearly impossible for me to praise LeBron James. But I have to say he was the most exciting player on the US team. A question: Do you think the NBA should consider changing its goal tending rule to be more like the international game? I loved watching all of those incredible blocks, and I think it makes the game more exciting to watch.

Michael Wilbon: Good question...I don't think the NBA should change the goaltending rule, but I would like to see the league change to the trapezoid lane the international game uses...I think that would be a less dramatic but significant enough change.

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Washington, D.C.: As a DC homer, I wanted Gilbert Arenas on the Olympic team. After watching the games and how the team played, I think it is clear that the international game is not for him. I hope he is not part of the next team, or better, he changes his game to be more team-oriented which would make him a better Wizard as well. Maybe Caron can be next!

Michael Wilbon: I hadn't made that connection at all, but that's a very smart point...I'm leaning toward your point of view, that it's simply not his style of play, which is interesting for the Wizards...Quite possibly, Gilbert can play wonderfully again for the Wizards, but certainly not international play. Wonder if Gil watched any of these games and becomes introspective at all.

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Bremerton, Wash.: I've gotten so much sap from NBC that I'm now worried about my fingers turning color in the fall. What do you think was the most overlooked sports story of these Olympics thanks to NBC's bad coverage?

Michael Wilbon: Well, I didn't think NBC's coverage was bad at all. But I do agree that there was WAAAAAAAY to much beach volleball, which is great if you're sitting there but does not translate to the screen. The indoor volleyball was just fabulous. But for my tastes there's just too much gymnastics and swimming the first week. It's all there is.

For me, there are hardly any stories about international athletes. And I'm not including kids who play at U.S. colleges who are easy to find, like half the track&field stars from around the world. I'm talking Eastern European and African and Middle Eastern athletes we never got to know because of the obsession with every American team...That's not why I watch when I'm there, and I lose interest because it's like a U.S. Olympic festival.

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Miami: How excited do the Heat have to be to have Dwyane Wade back?

Michael Wilbon: Very, very very excited. Are you kidding? Wade, Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley? Miami could and should be a playoff team again. Who do you think will finish higher in the Southeast Division, Wizards or Heat?

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Women's Gold: I enjoyed the women's run as much (or more) than the men's, but it was kind of sad to see Lisa Leslie dropping passes and swinging elbows like a female Shawn Bradley.

How long will it take for the world's women to catch up the way the men have?

Michael Wilbon: Boy, it seems like it's going to take a lot longer. They're not that close to the U.S. women, are they? Lisa Leslie, by the way, has to be, what, 35, 36 years old...She's a whole lot closer to the end than the beginning and she was a wonderful player for a very long time.

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Bowie, Md.: I'm not going to try to argue that USA Basketball '08 is as good or better than the Dream Team. Its a pointless argument that serves no one. But is it fair to say that this win is more meaningful, more gratifying? Seeing the Dream Team take the court together was no doubt great as pure spectacle, but cheering for them was kind of the equivalent of cheering for the Yankees vs. the Little League Champs. Even if he's wearing your colors, rooting for Goliath over David is a little weird. In this instance though, USA basketball was issues a legitimate challenge. The potential for failure was very real, and those guys battled and earned that gold. So while the '92 squad was the better team, the '08 victory was the bigger accomplishment. Agree or disagree?

Michael Wilbon: Good question. Gratifying? Maybe. Significant? No chance. The Dream Team introduced the world to great basketball first-hand...not through grainy black-and-white bootleg tapes, but to the actual game and the excitement it generates and how stars in basketball are among the biggest stars on the planet. This certainly rejuvinates American basketball, but it's no where near as important as the 1992 run by the Dream Team.

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Glover Park: I heard this bar-room question proposed on the radio the other day and was interested in your thoughts: In their prime, how long would it take for Jordan and Pippen to train in beach volleyball in order for them to beat May-Treanor and Walsh?

Over-under 3 weeks.

Michael Wilbon: Three months? Two months. I have some friends who say, "over the weekend." Actually, the more I think about technique and form and learning how to dig, I'm thinking 6 to 8 months, maybe a year. But let me remind you of this, the great basketball players in California and Arizona become great volleball players right away. Wilt was. Bill Walton was. Chase Budinger from Arizona was one of the best volleyball players in the NCAA and so were the Lopez twins from Stanford. The skills are very transferrable. Jordan is 6-foot-6, Pippen 6-7. May-Treanor and Walsh could use their guile and positioning...but let's face it, size, quickness, power...these are the traits great volleyball players have to have and the great basketball players have them.

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Florida: The thing that struck me was how the top U.S. players were unaccustomed to having fouls called on them. Especially late in the medal round games, there were calls made that would never happen to Kobe or Lebron in the playoffs. Deron Williams and Chris Paul seemed a little more used to calls going the other way, if you know what I mean...

Michael Wilbon: I know what you mean...I liked seeing that, too.

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Virginia Beach: My big question regarding the Olympics is NOT about Phelps, Bolt, the Dream Team or NBC...

Does the low number of positive drug tests at the Olympics reflect more on the IOC's (along with WADA) tougher testing policies, i.e. newer tests, more tests OR are the athletes just smarter about how and when they use it (i.e. out of competition season, when relatively few tests are conducted)?

Michael Wilbon: I must admit I wondered about the very issue you raise, and then dismissed it probably because I didn't want to think about it. I didn't want to know. Didn't want it to ruin what I felt about the games. As a journalist, I'd have been a lot more curious had I been in Beijing covering the Olympics. As a couch potato, I wondered, then let it drop. I wonder if I'm typical. I don't have an answer at all.

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NYC: Is this the beginning of the end of Federer's reign? Or can he pick it up and challenge Nadal for number one again - he's only 27.

More importantly, does the Swiss man have the fire to want it back?

Will you be coming to the US Open?

Michael Wilbon: I will be at The Open for a day or two...And I don't think Federer will win. I think he's done winning majors. Read Marc Craig's piece today on Federer, where McEnroe talks about the difficulty of getting back to being No. 1 after you lose it. I think Federer could possibly win one more major, but I don't see it. He's been SOOOO great for so long...27 ain't young in tennis either.

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washingtonpost.com: For Federer, U.S. Open Could Portend the End -- or Not (Post, Aug. 25)

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Washington, D.C.: I would imagine that covering the Olympics has to be one of the most grueling jobs for a sportswriter. What's it like and does it compare to anything else you do? Is is an assignment that people try to avoid?

Michael Wilbon: It's the hardest thing I've every done, and I've done it nine times (six summer, three winter)...Afterward, I'm dead for two weeks and this is when I was in my 20s and 30s...After Sydney and Seoul I jumped right back into pro football and was exhausted...For years and years it's been a coveted assignment and I was honored The Post wanted me there. Now? Things have changed. Some newspapers don't send anybody, relying instead on wire services and newspaper group coverage. It costs a ton and The Post is one of the few newspapers that can afford to send a dozen people, which we have ever since 1984. I can honestly say my Olympic trips are among the highlights of not just my career, but my life.

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Odenton, Md.: Mr. Wilbon: In the very large shadow of Barack Obama's historic candidacy, should we take any special significance out of the fact that this all-black men's Olympic basketball team -- a first, by the way -- was just about universally admired, respected, and even revered? And if so, what exactly do we make of it?

Michael Wilbon: I noticed for the first time Friday when I saw a team photo somewhere. But basketball has long been ahead of every other industry in America in that way. Do I connect it in any way with Sen. Obama's historic candidacy? No. Not even a little bit.

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Charlottesville, Va.: Wow, were those Olympic boxing judges ever the worst or what??! They made the judges who do Olympic Ice skating look legit..

Michael Wilbon: I'll match the 1988 Olymipic boxing judges with anybody in terms of incompetence. But your point is very well taken. It's almost always bad.

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Vienna, Va.: Michael,

Who seems to have gotten the better deal right now -- the Jets for getting Farve, the Packers for settling on Rodgers, or Miami for picking up Pennington?

Michael Wilbon: It's preseason. Stay calm. The only QB judging I'll do based on preseason (actually, it's based on the last three years) is that the Bears don't really have one.

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Annapolis, Md.: Will Roger Federer bounce back from that loss to James Blake in the Olympics to win his 5th consecutive US Open?

Michael Wilbon: No. Read previous, dude.

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New Orleans: Osi Umenyiora out for the season. I know the players and coaches want a little real game experience, but wouldn't you rather have your star players be a little rusty in the first game than compared to risk losing them for the entire season?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, absolutely. Preseason football is the greatest waste of time and money in America today...Well, it's in the top 25 anyway.

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Burke, Va.: Mike, sorry to disappoint you, but the rule change is going the opposite direction -- FIBA's already announced that they're converting to a rectangular lane in 2010 (along with moving the 3 point line out).

Michael Wilbon: I know...and I don't like it either.

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DC: In my day, way back when, most of the football and basketball players ran track. Running backs ran, and lineman thew the shotput or discus. And basketball players were high jumpers, hurdlers, and long jumpers.

Do you think the year round leagues like AAU and the year-round conditioning schedules, have drained the pool of athletes for track and field? Do you know any pro players who remain track afficianados?

I think, for example, that Ladell Betts was a big time sprinter...

Michael Wilbon: Year-round football has drained its own game of a lot of athleticism, and yes, kids used to be better athletes and more well-rounded because they played multiple sports. Nowadays? Football coaches call that a "distraction." And it's sad...

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Reston, Va.: When does Redskins Report start?

Michael Wilbon: The day after the Redskins-Giants game.

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Baltimore: Hey Mike. Did you notice that, as great a story as they were, the Redeem Team had not one game broadcast in prime time, not even on delay? For something that was supposed to be one of THE big stories of Beijing, I find this incredulous.

Michael Wilbon: Interesting. In China basketball is the most important thing going, even bigger than soccer. They wanted to see basketball in prime time there, which means it couldn't be in prime time here. And while you can have swimmers performing at 9 a.m. you're not going to have basketball games that early...I think that's part of it...AND NBC simply wants to have a swimming and gymnastics meet.

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McLean, Va.: First, thank you for your terrific article on Gene Upshaw. Second, as a labor lawyer, I just wanted to add that Upshaw was more than just a brilliant leader of a sports union. He was a brilliant labor leader. He understood the difference between short term gain and long term health. This understanding is vital to pursuing the best interest of a union. This is something that all engaged in labor negotiations should understand and he mastered it. Mr. Upshaw was also an out and out outstanding man whose presence on L Street will be sorely missed.

washingtonpost.com: Players Were Lucky to Have Upshaw as Union Chief

Michael Wilbon: Thank you very much for raising the topic of Gene Upshaw, who I respected very much and got to know reasonably well over the last 10 years...I was stunned and saddened to hear of his death...

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Wisconsin Ave: Hey Michael, in today's WaPo, Jason Reid mentions that Jim Zorn is considering playing his starters an extended amount of time for the last preseason game. I was wondering what you thought considering the drubbing they got over the weekend to the Panthers.

washingtonpost.com: Redskins' Starters May Not Rest Up

Michael Wilbon: I refuse to pay attention to preseason football games but I must admit...49-3 or whatever it was got my attention. I can understand Zorn feeling that way and maybe he should...but he'd better hold his breath that none of the best players get hurt. Then again, if they get beat like that maybe the best players aren't any good and he should just play them anyway...

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New Orleans: So did the USA basketball team redeem itself?

Michael Wilbon: I'd say so, wouldn't you?

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Tucson, Ariz.: Who was more impressive in their Olympic dominance? Michael Phelps, or Usain Bolt?

Michael Wilbon: The most impressive performance, single performance, was turned in by Usain Bolt. Phelps was the star of the games, no doubt, but Bolt's performances in the 100 and 200 were the most stunning foot races I've ever seen...

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Brunswick, MD: Hello Mike,

Love the chat. I've ready in many places what a waste of time the NFL preseason is, but I'm wondering, don't the teams need those games to evaluate their draft picks and undrafted free agents?

Put another way, if you don't have an NFL preseason, how would you decide spots 40-53 on the roster?

Michael Wilbon: So play those guys. Don't even have the veterans report. When you don't play them in the 4th game anyway, how important could it be?

...Okay, gotta run...gotta go and prepare for PTI today with J.A. Adande who is here in the studio with me in place of T.K.

...By the way, all the best to TK in his recovery after hernia surgery last week. He's recuperating at home. I've talked to him and he's fine. I told him I expect him to start hitting wedges in a week. He says he'll be back to work by Thursday...Hmmmm, let's see about that. See you guys next week, but I believe Tuesday since Monday is Labor Day...Thanks everybody. MW

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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