The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Tuesday, September 2, 2008; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon will be online Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 1:30 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.


Elkridge: Which Baltimore-Washington area NFL team will post the worst record this year? These two teams are scheduled to play in the BWI Subpar Bowl this year, so who will get the victory?

Michael Wilbon: Good afternoon everyone...Thanks for doing this on Labor Day Tuesday, the day we all apparently return to work for the long haul. I'm coming back from both Flushing Meadows, where I went to the U.S. Open yesterday, one of my favorite events of the year, and from a solemn event, Gene Upshaw's memorial service at Kennedy Center here in Washington. We'll deal with both...And as for football locally, it could be a very, very long year. I don't think the Ravens have a prayer of being any good this season. I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't see it. Anytime you don't have an established quarterback in these pass-happy times you're in big trouble. And the Redskins? I was ready to pick them to go 9-7 maybe even 10-6 until these last two preseason disasters...It's not losing that's a big deal because the final score doesn't much matter in preseason. But seeing your starters tossed around like little dolls is a big deal...If the Redskins don't get off to a decent start it could snowball. Maybe they go up to Giants Stadium and win and Zorn gets some benefit of doubt from his players for starters. That's important, players having confidence that the coach knows what the hell he's doing and has a command. Guys don't talk about that candidly on-the-record...but off-the-record they'll tell you how critical that is.


New Rochelle, NY: With the Frost cut and the fact that we're only keeping 5 receivers, 2 of them underperforming and injured rookies, in whats supposed to be a QB friendly offense, is it safe to say Vinny is calling all the shots? I've had a lot of patience with Snyder but I really dont think anything changes until we have a real GM and Vinny is out of the picture.

Michael Wilbon: Let's see how it plays out the first two weeks. I'm not into Vinny bashing, like so many people here. Vinny WASN'T calling the shots in years when the team would have been better off if he had...If this crashes and burns there will be plenty of time to go after Vinny. I don't like the draft selections at all. Didn't like them the day of, don't like the picks now. But let's see. Don't go to the bank on preseason. Give it a chance.


New York: Don't know if you've followed the play-by-play, but the Jay Mariotti story in Chicago has been a riot!

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I've followed every day of it until yesterday. I grew up delivering the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune and my dream was to be a columnist for one of the above when I grew up...I can say this is the most emotional firestorm of its kind I've ever seen in Chicago...Nothing Mike Royko did--and he left the Sun-Times for the Tribune late in his life--even created the resentment Mariotti has created by leaving the Sun-Times in such a huff...


Bethesda, MD: Are any professional athletes showing their support or campaigning for either of the presidential candidates? Do you think that any professional athletes will get involved somehow in this historical election?

Michael Wilbon: I doubt campaigning...but I know many who've made contributions...many are vocal in locker rooms but I don't know that mainstream media, certainly not the political pundits, care.


bawwwwston: Hey,Wilbon. Are you going to be bashing the Pats again this year, as they cut another swathe of death and destruction through the NFL? Why don't you try writing something nice about them for a change?

Michael Wilbon: What, I don't go with the party line and call for an undefeated season and that's "bashing" them. If you want Patriots gushing I'm sure there are other conversations you can find. Don't look for it here, pal. I've got the Patriots finishing 10-6 and winning their division but not winning the Super Bowl. I'm sorry, remind me again, did they go undefeated and win the Super Bowl last year??? I've written a million times that they're the team of the decade so far in the NFL, that their organization is the model others should look to. If that's "bashing" to you, look elsewhere.


DC: How about Obama calling out Chicago Cub fans for being soft and that he was proud to be a White Sox fan instead?

Michael Wilbon: Hey, it's a crosstown rivalry and stuff gets said. I like the Cubs chances right now a lot better than the White Sox...That said, the White Sox aren't working on 0-for-100, so Sen. Obama can laugh his head off until the Cubs do something about it.


Charlottesville, Va.: what are your impressions of baseball in DC. It seems that the market is not going to sustain a team because its such a melting pot of other teams fans. Do you think it can make it? I guess it would help if they won couple of games, it was easy to park, etc

Michael Wilbon: This is a melting pot of other team's fans. Well put. It's that way in basketball, too, which is why the Wizards had trouble getting people to come out and root for the home team instead of the Celtics or Lakers or Michael Jordan or whomever...The Nationals, until this latest win streak, have been so awful it's hard to question why people won't come out or watch or listen...Every indicator is people haven't tuned into the team yet. In part, it simply takes some time after baseball abandoned the D.C. market (and no, I don't count Baltimore and never have). The team has to have some identity and that takes time...In the meantime, I don't think it's so bad that folks buy tickets to see the Dodgers or Phillies or Cubs...Better get them in the building that now, right?


Seattle, WA: Which NFL Team do you think will do suprizingly well this year? Can Atlanta hope to recover this year?

Michael Wilbon: Miami maybe...The Jets. Those two leap to mind for me. No, I don't see a rookie QB leading the Falcons out of the wilderness right away. In time, okay...But not this season.


Tennis Seedings: Hi Michael,

I enjoyed your column today on the Williams sisters. Question. Is the U.S. Open and other Grand Slam events bound to set up their brackets using the USTA rankings? If they have the freedom, seems they would never put Serena and Venus in the same side of the draw. There's No Denying A Man on a Mission

Michael Wilbon: Well, I only wrote a paragraph on the Williams sisters; 90 percent of it was on Rafael Nadal who is THE story as we build toward the climax of the U.S. Open...I don't bother to watch usually when Venus and Serena play each other. I love to watch them play others; they're the top draw in women's tennis by a mile and sometimes they're as big a draw if not bigger than the men. But their matches against one another are mostly awful. I understand why. They don't go after each other like they do other opponents. Women aren't socialized that way. My brother Don and I talk about this all the time. We played tennis against each other for 30 years and we wanted to harm one another, humiliate (for the moment) one another on the court. He was best man in my wedding and I was in his. We're best friends. But in competition, I wanted to kill him and I know he felt the same. I asked John McEnroe about that once when he played his brother Patrick in a final and John felt the same way I did...I don't know that girls feel that way or are raised in a way that's conducive to that level of compartmentalized aggression. Their matches against each other are boring, usually not well played, certainly not their best or most inspired tennis. I have no curiosity about it, really. I'm not criticizing them...I understand...But I don't find it great tennis or even close. Now, when the victor emerges and plays in the semis, I'm locked in.


Tennis!: What do you think of Djokovic's chances at the Open? I was watching his match against Cilic and the Djoker has a great game for hardcourts - reminded me a bit of Agassi with the muscular yanking of opponents coast to coast.

I can see him beating Federer and making life difficult for Nadal.

Michael Wilbon: I picked Djokovic to win the Open but he's down one set already this afternoon. Oh oh...


Washington, DC: Tampa Bay is 5 games out in front of the Sox, and 12 game ahead on the Yanks, and yet no one is going to their games?

Why couldn't they have they moved to Oklahoma instead of the Sonics?

Michael Wilbon: Ha! By the way, if Gustav had hit New Orleans harder, and thank God it did not, where would the Hornets have played? Seattle? I'm of the opinion that the demongraphics for Florida hurt sports attendance. It's an older population, many people on fixed income. Buying expensive tickets, to the worst stadium in baseball no less, isn't a priority. The whole state of Florida is bad when it comes to every sport. Nobody sells out. Okay, the Heat did when Shaq and Wade led them to a title. But it's back to empty seats now. The Dolphis, great as Don Shula's teams were, were challenged to sell out. Same for the University of Miami even when they had some great teams playing in the Orange Bowl...The Marlins don't draw and they've won two World Series...


New York: There is a simple solution for tennis: reseeding prior to the semifinals. Why has this not been done?

Michael Wilbon: I've always liked that suggestion. Always.


Richmond, Va.: Re: The Melting Pot - Mike I think it's true of all "other" sports, even hockey. But the question remains then how do the Redskins manage to transcend this phenomenon?

Michael Wilbon: They don't. Sorry. You ever go to a Cowboys-Redskins game? You ever notice how many Eagles and Cowboys and Giants fans are in FedEx Field? Tons. The Redskins have a much larger and more solid fan base than the Wizards and Capitals and Nationals...but it's not like going to a Broncos game, where you never see opposing jerseys, or a Steelers or Packers or Bears game...Those cities don't have Washington's melting pot population.


WDC: Mike - You said that your "dream was to be a columnist for one of the above when I grew up." Have you ever wondered how your professional career would have been different if this dream have come true? Of course, you might not have become friends with Tony, but perhaps writing in a market where you don't root for the teams has helped develop a more balanced, less fanatical writer; in short, a better writer. No? Maybe sportswriters shouldn't cover the teams of their youth.

Michael Wilbon: The second part of your question/comment is 100 percent true. Part of the reason I didn't go to Chicago to work for the Tribune in 1997 (okay, a small part) was that I didn't want to cover the teams of my youth because I couldn't root for them then...and I like rooting for them (as anybody can tell). I needed to get away from my fanaticism...Yeah, I wonder all the time, especially when I'm in Chicago, how my life would have turned out had I left to go back there. Very likely--and this was in the works even back in 1997 when I thought seriously about going home to write a column for the Trib--it was suggested that Marriotti and I do a TV show in Chicaqo, likely WGN...Anyway, I always conclude that I love what I do now, what I've done for The Washington Post my entire adult life. I love living here, working here, the people I've worked for and with, and I wouldn't trade it for the world, not for anything...That the men and women who run this newspaper have allowed me to do all that I've wanted to do is amazing and I have to be the most fortunate kid in the world.


Washington, DC: Hey Mike, I was at the US Open this weekend too. It was my first tennis match in person, and it was a great time. Crowds were huge, atmosphere was fun, etc., but I've got nothing to compare it to. Do you think the state of tennis in the US is on an upswing? Or has it just leveled out as a niche sport? And does it really need another American star for serious improvement?

Michael Wilbon: My friend and colleague Harvey Araton has a column in The New York Times today about the state of American tennis...I don't know if it's on the up-tick or not...It's not what it was when McEnroe and Connors and Ashe were in their primes...not to mention Evert and Navratilova or Austin...It was so amazing then, not just because of Americans but because tennis was such a huge deal in the 70s and 80s...I love going to the U.S. Open...and one day there energizes me for a couple of weeks. Everybody should be able to go to the Open for a day and walk around to the outside courts and watch doubles, watch juniors, watch people you never have heard it up close and personal at the best tournament America has to offer.


Djokovic: He's back up 5-2 in the 2nd. Robredo is making me feel a little better about Safin's exit - he must be playing well.

Michael Wilbon: Good to hear...I shouldn't be rooting, but I am...


Florida: Hi, Mike -- There's another reason the Florida teams don't draw all that well: nobody who can afford to go is from here, just like DC. The true natives don't have the money to buy big-time tickets, and the people who can afford to go only want to see the Yanks and Sawx, or the Cubs and Mets.

Michael Wilbon: Ummm, I don't know how many natives you know, but I'm married to one whose father has bought every ticket in town to every team for 40 years. Watch those kinds of generalizations.


Tennis money: Michael,

Good afternoon. What are your thoughts on women making as much money as the men in tennis?

Personally, I still think men should make more as they are playing 3 out of 5 sets in the majors verus 2 out of 3 for the women's side.


Michael Wilbon: In the tournaments where both men and women are playing best-of-three sets the pay should be equal. In the tournaments where it's best-of-five, I understand why men make more. It's a pretty simple formula for me...


Arlington, Va.: Why should political pundits care who athletes support in the election? It's not like athletes are as knowledgeable as movie stars and musicians! (sarcasm intended)

Michael Wilbon: I didn't say they should, did I?

_______________________ Getting a Clear View of Americans' Future (New York Times, Sept. 1)


Washington D.C.: Hi Mike

In regards to your U.S. Open article in this morning's paper.....I agree with you that Nadal is having a great year, and that Federer is down blah blah blah. But in your efforts to praise Nadal, I think you are taking away from how truly amazing Roger Federer is. He set a standard that is so ridiculous for the past 4 years that since he didn't extend that to 5 years, you are sounding the death bell for his career. You have been one of the most vocal reporters who insists that he is done. You've said it in your chats. I think you're being a bit disrespectful. He won 3 grand slams out of 4 for 3 STRAIGHT YEARS! Not even Tiger Woods has done that in his sport. I'm wondering what your thought process is in all of this?

Michael Wilbon: Stop with the "disrespectful." This isn't sports talk radio. The fact is if Nadal wins the U.S. Open he'll have won three consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. Federer never won three straight. How difficult is that to comprehend? I've also said, which you purposely ignore for your agenda, that Federer is a god. In fact, in this morning's column I wrote, "Federer lived on a different planet for years. He played combinations of shots and worked angles no tenis player before him had even imagined. He went to a place for a while that only men like Ruth, Ali, Jordan, Gretaky and Tiger visit athletically."

Do you think I'm too stupid to not know what I wrote? Do the handful of you, for whom no amount of praise for Federer is enough, think I'm going to ball myself up in the fetal position and say, "You win. Federer's the greatest athlete in the history of the world?" Please stop. If you need more praise from me on Federer go to another conversation. What I've said, and I'll say until Sunday when events could overtake opinions, is that I think Federer is done as far as winning Grand Slam events. Not that he's a bum incapable of beating a high school junior. Don't ever, ever misrepresent what I've said about somebody and then throw it out there expecting it to go unchallenged.

Whew? I'm tired from that response.


DC: Can you explain what happened to Mariotti in chicago?

Michael Wilbon: No, it's too involved. Just google his name and look back at it. It's amazing and complex and ridiculously overly dramatic...It's fun.


Bethesda, Md.: I just read on Washington Post Caps beat writer Tarik El-Bashir's blog that the Caps are going to raise Mike Gartner's No. 11 to the roof at a ceremony in December.

Admit much as you don't follow hockey anymore...those nights back in the '80s at the Capital Centre watching the Caps bring back some fonds memories!

Michael Wilbon: The fondest memories are from 1997 when they played in Verizon Center or MCI or whatever it was...That's when they reached the Cup finals, remember? Gartner is more than deserving.


Baltimore: Another NFL player, Richard Collier of the Jaguars, has been shot and is in critical condition. The shooting happened at 2:45 a.m. Is anyone ever going to convince today's young athletes of the truth of the saying (can't remember who gets the credit), "Nothing good ever happens after midnight."

Michael Wilbon: You want everybody in the world to be in bed before midnight?


Washington, DC: What's with your boy Mickelson not making the final cut this weekend in a tournament he won last year.

Can the media stop putting Phil in the same sentence as Tiger?

Michael Wilbon: Nobody puts Phil in the same class as Tiger. Nobody. Not even Phil. Stop with "the media." No two people in the media agree on much of anything. So which one would be "the media?" the one who puts Phil in the same sentence or the one who doesn't?


Bethesda, MD: That sounds like an interesting article to sports fans, what politics the players are talking in the locker room, seriously. I am sure that a lot of players keep their political views private so as not to turn off some of their fans, which I respect. I also respect if players are outspoken, as long as they speak out for my candidate, just kidding.

Michael Wilbon: Most are NOT outspoken but they do talk about this stuff qutie a bit privately...or semi privately. If you're covering a team you know who is going to vote for whom, who in the room is conservative or liberal to a great extent...Most guys don't want to talk about it publicly, but how many people in any workplace do? yes, people talk about the events but how many get to their intimate and honest opinions at work? Not many that I know.


Alexandria, Va.: I'm not trying to be too critical here but I wouldn't mind if you never responded to the likes of bawwwstan. I come here for interesting thoughts on sports and not for "we're great, you suck" stuff. Or the "why do you hate the Skins, Pats, 49er's, cowboys, etc."

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, you're probably right...should have simply ignored it and taken a different question...Good advice I'll begin to follow next Monday.


Redskins 0-4 start?: On the road vs. defending champs, then have to try and outscore the Saints, followed by Philly & Dallas on the road.

This town will be manic if they start 0-4. I feel sorry for Zorn, that is one brutal way to begin your head coaching career.

Michael Wilbon: Good point. Very good point.


Tampa, Fla.: Do you think this season the Dallas Cowboys can shut up and focus long enough to win their first playoff game in over a decade?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know, but I love this question. I'm constantly pointing out to people who pick the Cowboys that they haven't won a playoff game since 1996. I think...It's been forever. Talk about an underachieving franchise the last 10 years...


Woodbridge, Va.: Mr. Wilbon, I've admired your willingness to address issues of race and sports in a fair and honest way. So with the new NFL season approaching this week, what's your take on the black QB issue? Has it ceased to be an issue? Has the fact of black athletes playing QB, esp. at the pro level, reached the level of non-news? Are they getting judged by the same standards as whites? Thoughts? My personal view is that the pioneers like D. Williams, Moon, McNair, Cunningham, McNabb, etc., have pretty much made the issue moot, and fans just care about the color of the uniform, not the color of the QB anymore. I'm hoping J. Campbell does great things, myself.

P.S. -- Congrats on your son!

Michael Wilbon: We'll talk about this at length next week...I think it's virtually a non-issue, too. And I love that I now feel that way. And yeah, I think the people you mentioned largely made it that way...We'll go into a little more Monday. Back to the old day, same time...Matthew is fine, thank you...99th percentile height, 99th percentile weight...Unbelievable...The kid's a run stuffer already...Okay, 'til next week...Everybody enjoy the opening week of the NFL, the end of the U.S. Open and baseball entering the bell lap. MW


Thank you, thank you: It may have been exhausting to respond to the Federer question, but it is needed. You can say the guy has ascended his peak and is on the way back down without taking anything away from what he's accomplished. Fans get so angry when you talk about how well Nadal is doing. It's not a reflection on Roger; it's a reflection on Nadal, his natural talent and his willingness to work hard to conquer his weaknesses.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for that...


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