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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

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

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Sept. 15 at 2 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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Washington, D.C.: Hello Mike.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but who is mostly likely the Redskins opponent in the Super Bowl? Is 15-1 possible?

On the other hand, if we lose next week, should we fire Jim Zorn?

Thanks,

A sports radio listener

Michael Wilbon: Very funny...I like this...Hi everybody. I'm in Dallas for tonight's Eagles-Cowboys clash, which I'm extremely excited to be covering...We'll chat about the NFL, most notably the Redskins and Chargers/Broncos, the Ryder Cup which will be played this weekend, and of course Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter for my Cubbies last night in some strange circumstances...

The wild swing of emotions surrounding the Redskins and their fans is probably the most extreme in football, and I'm still trying to figure out why...It's not like other cities aren't equally or even more passionately involved with their teams...Green Bay, Buffalo, Denver...Dallas and Washington are a lot alike, actually...I think it has to do with a whole lot of people being casual fans and really not knowing anything about football but just making a lot of noise as if they do...Not that your question puts you into that category; I'm not even suggesting that. In fact, I can tell from your tongue-in-cheek tone that you have an appreciation for the wild mood swing in and around D.C.

The NFL trends toward that anyway because there are so few games and we (start with sports editors and producers; they're the primary culprits) make a too damn big a deal about everything, like every game is the end of the world. It's part of what makes the NFL America's pastime drama, or should I say melodrama.

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Westminster, Md.: Can we have a little fun Wilbon? How would you compare your Bears to our Skins? Where do you see each headed?

Michael Wilbon: They're about the same...8-8ish. Either could make the playoffs with some breaks. The Bears schedule is a killer because they get the AFC South and NFC South...It's so much easier to get the AFC West and NFC West this season because those divisions simply don't have any good teams, though the Cardinals and 49ers have been a surprise. I suppose the Chargers are still going to be good...Schedule can determine so much. But the Bears are fatally flawed on offense, and not very well coached on that side of the ball. The Redskins are still figuring out how to fit philosophy with personnel...I think they're both okay, nothing to write home about (as they used to say...doesn't sound the same to say, "Nothing to e-mail home about") and nothing to scream in agony over either...

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Baltimore: Mike,

What is the deal with Reggie Bush and pointing at/taunting the opposition well before a game has been decided? You would have thought he learned his lesson after doing it to the Bears in the NFC championship game in Jan. 2007.

Michael Wilbon: You really would, wouldn't you? I can't figure out a lot of things about Reggie Bush...lot of contradictions going on there.

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Falls Church, Va.: I was panicking about the Skins last week, and thinking that the season was wasted and Jason Campbell needed to be replaced. I've now learned my lesson about rushing to judgment, though, because after yesterday, I'm convinced that they're SUPER BOWL BOUND, BABY!!!!

Or am I jumping to conclusions?

Michael Wilbon: You, like the first questioner, are the mood of the town. It's rather comical, really. You know how they say they truth is somewhere in the middle? How about the exact middle, 8-8? Could be 7-9, could be 9-7 but that's about the way I see the Redskins and did before last week's game. Yesterday, we saw Jason Campbell's strength: the deep passing game. But...that's not what Jim Zorn is running. So, there's going to have to be some compromise. Zorn's going to have to look more into the downfield passing game if Campbell's going to be his quarterback...and Campbell's going to have to get better at the short and intermediate passing game. The defense, for the second straight week, was pretty darn good. If the Redskins defense continues to play like that, I'd be leaning more toward 9-7 than 8-8...But special teams blunders can undermine the whole thing anyway.

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Ashburn, Va.: Will yesterday's performance by Jason Campbell in the clutch finally shut up all the idiots and Monday morning quarterbacks around here that said he couldn't succeed in this offense?

Michael Wilbon: Hey, it's one game. Get a grip. Last week it was stupid to throw the kid to the wolves because it was one game. This week it's equally stupid to praise him to the Heavens because this, too, was one game. Don't you people ever learn anything?

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Washington, D.C.: Devin Hester goes down with a rib injury while Zambrano throws a no-hitter. Is this karma balancing itself out?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know what one has to do with the other...Yes, I do...NOTHING. This is a complicated story, too, because the Astros got the real short end here.

Not that many of you in this chat will realize this, but the Cubs stink in Houston. Always. Every year. When the Astros are bad they kill the Cubs in Houston. When the Cubs are great, they get killed the Astros in Houston. This has been going on for nearly 50 years. So what happens here...The Astros are the hottest team in baseball and it takes an Act of God to get them out of Houston and where???

MILWAUKEE!

Are you kidding me. Look, I'm a Cub fan, lifelong. I ain't looking a gift horse in the mouth. Thank you Bud Selig, Milwaukee resident and Cub fan growing up. But the Astros...how angry should they be? They've got their minds on a disaster ripping up Houston, their families' safety. They're getting no sleep, traveling the day of the game.

The Cubs get into their cars and drive 90 mins. north to Miller Park and Zambrano, who's been sputtering for a month with a bum shoulder, throws a no-no! If I'm looking for signs (and I am) this seems to qualify. Fair to Houston? No chance. Good for the Cubs. Oh yes...

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Washington, D.C.: Watching Pete Carroll stroll through that sea of Trojan fans before Saturday's game with the shades on, on a perfect day in LA, did the thought occur to you that he would absolutely crazy to ever consider a return to the NFL?

Michael Wilbon: It didn't just occur to me. I've been saying for five years he's be nuts to return to the NFL, which still stands for Not For Long.

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Germantown, Md.: "Don't you people ever learn anything?"

Of course not...that's what makes us fans.

Michael Wilbon: No, that's not what makes you fans. I'm a fan. I'm fairly irrational when it comes to my teams, but not totally oblivious and ability to find the center.

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Dulles Airport: The missed call by veteran official Ed Hockulee was unacceptable point blank. My question is, where does the NFL go from here? He has been a great official up until yesterday.

Michael Wilbon: It is unacceptable. Totally. Norv Turner was right. If I was coaching that game I might have pulled my team off the field. The NFL should be embarrassed, I mean to a greater degree than issuing some bogus apology to Norv and the Chargers today, which you know will happen. That's why you have replay and to not use it to its full extent is ridiculous. That play should have been called a fumble with the Chargers recovering, which essentially means "game over." I understand human error. But technology is employed there to get it right. And the league failed in that regard.

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Milwaukee: The Pack are 2-0 and Aaron Rodger's has played great, 5 TD's and 0 picks. How come the Bears don't have a decent QB?

Michael Wilbon: Did you just start following pro football last week? The Bears don't ever have a decent quarterback. The Bears' objective is to try and win without a decent QB. This goes back, oh, 65 years or so to Sid Luckman. We had about five good seasons with Jim McMahon, but other than that, we like to look around at other people's quarterbacks.

Aaron Rodgers, by the way, has been great. Makes you wonder why his coach and management put him through all that preseason drama with Brett Favre, instead of just trading Favre right away and letting this kid go about his business. Rodgers and Kurt Warner have been probably the two best passers in the league through two weeks, though Trent Edwards in Buffalo has been great, too. And Donovan McNabb has a chance to stay atop the league tonight here.

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Washington, D.C.: All due respect to the run-favoring style of Joe Gibbs, but wasn't it great to see the Redskins throwing the ball regularly?

Michael Wilbon: What's great for any team is to see them win regularly. Why are so many people here caught up in the style of play? If short passes and no running gets you 12-4 and deep in the playoffs, who cares?

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Washington, DC : What is the next step for NFL after the disastrous call late in the Broncos-Chargers game? I thought that the referees were less likely to blow the whistle early for this very reason. If they blow a whistle late to stop a play and it was the wrong thing to do, it can be corrected, but the opposite isn't true. Your thoughts.

Michael Wilbon: Make the whistle irrelevent, like with runners. This rule includes the exception of the QB only to keep him from having to dive into a pile or scramble after a loose ball. I'm sorry...isn't the QB a football player? The most handsomely paid football player? Then get the exception clause out. If it's a fumble it's a fumble no matter who commits it.

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Bethesda, Md.: It was hard to watch Charlie Weis get crumpled on the sideline and blow out his knee, it is pretty amazing that him and Brady suffered pretty much the same injury less then a week apart. And Weis returned for the second half.

Michael Wilbon: Big ups to Coach Weis for staying out there...and enduring the Gatorade bath afterward. Boy Notre Dame and Michigan are bad...Awful...both of them.

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Tampa: Are you looking forward to watching the Ryder Cup? Seems a little flat to me compared to previous years. Even if Tiger was playing.

Michael Wilbon: I am looking forward to the Ryder Cup and to see whether being the legit underdog helps the U.S. players band together as a team.

Golf is an individual sport and our players clearly don't take to their status of being favored as a "team." Maybe not having Tiger will change the equation for the better for the U.S. Maybe not...I'm fascinated over the whole thing and can't wait for Friday.

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Toast To Federer: Hi Mike,

So did you break open the bubbly and toast Roger after his straight sets win in the U.S. Open? I still think he breaks Samapras's GS record.

Michael Wilbon: Yep, toasted him in print and on-air. He was great...and maybe still will break Sampras's record of 14...he needs two more to break.

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Arlington, Va.: If you have any pull at ESPN, can you please get them to stop trying to place a nickname on every single college football match-up? Collision in the Coliseum was an absurd and forced tagline that was constantly stuffed down our throats. Ohio State - USC works just fine.

Michael Wilbon: I don't have any pull at ESPN, only on my show. And you never hear us using that silly nickname junk...That's all I can do for you, Holmes.

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Detroit: Is it time to change the Ryder Cup teams so that Europe takes on the rest of the world, instead of the United States alone?

Michael Wilbon: Naaaah...Europe vs. the U.S. is great. The President's Cup involves the rest of the world. Why would you change it?

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Los Angeles: While everyone is correct in pointing out that Hochuli's error was unacceptable, which it obviously was, I find it interesting that no one is mentioning the fact that even if the play had been properly called, it would have been a gift-wrapped turnover for the Chargers, and one that they did very little, if anything to earn.

You could argue that a fumble like that by Cutler, in that situation and with that field position, is almost as flukish as the call itself. Don't get me wrong, the Chargers got robbed, but I'm not sure how much sympathy people should be giving them, considering that it wasn't a turnover that they caused. Am I just looking at this in the completely wrong way here?

Michael Wilbon: Yes. It's a turnover. Stop philosophizing...The Chargers got hosed. That's it...End of that discussion. The NFL should change the rule TODAY. It's a stupid exception to a rule that otherwise works...

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Stephanie (LA): How tired of you talking about T.O. and McNabb? When will we be able to have a meeting between these teams without having to talk about that debacle?

Michael Wilbon: I'm 100 percent tired...I won't write about it in tomorrow's column for The Post...unless there are actual events that affect the game.

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Washington, D.C.: I disagree with you on the blown call. The whistle was blown. It appeared that the Chargers would have recovered the ball, but it's impossible to tell if any Broncos stopped pursuing the ball when they heard the whistle. When the whistle blows, the play is dead.

But I hate instant replay regardless. Even with instant replay, we have mistakes. It slows games down too much. And now coaches are using challenges in order to slow momentum, as much as to overturn an obvious wrong.

The greatest champions in history had to overcome human error occasionally. I wish we could go back to those good old days when the human error was just a missed call and not some random "tuck rule" thought up under a hood in front of a replay machine.

Michael Wilbon: You want to go back to life before e-mail, before voice-mail, before TiVo, before cell phones...How far do you want to go back, Mr. Flintstone, before radio and before TV? Before cars? Before the wheel? I have no patience for the "human error" excuse-making. I think it's just lazy. We have the means by which to get these things right, so do it. I don't watch any sport to see referees human error.

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Section 416, aka The Alps: Michael -- I've been unable to watch my Cubs on TV because I just get so nervous. I've also noticed that they do much better when I'm not watching, so I will do my part and continue to NOT watch. You're welcome. Honestly, how can Bud Selig say with a straight face that Milwaukee is a neutral site? What was the rationale?

Michael Wilbon: They had to play the games somewhere this weekend and Milwaukee was available...I don't know. It makes no sense and its unbelievably unfair to the Astros. I guess the Rangers were in town here? What about one of the NL West locations? Were the D-Backs in town, too? It's pretty bad, really.

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West Falls Church: No matter how dumb Reggie Bush is, he's dating Kim Kardashian.

Michael Wilbon: Your definition of "dating" is probably not the same as others...but I think we know where you're going. I wouldn't call Reggie Bush "dumb." In fact, I know he's not that...But he acted stupidly, yes, we can agree.

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Falls Church, Va.: I noticed that Mike Wise participated in (and finished) the Nation's Triathlon yesterday in DC (along with Mayor Adrian Fenty). Any chance we'll see other WaPo sportswriters out there next year?!?

Michael Wilbon: I doubt it. Hats off to Mike. He's in great shape and that was a very cool thing he did. Me, you can find me at the first tee, never in a triathlon.

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Columbia, Md.: I've done a fair share of traveling for work and always enjoyed picking up the local sports page or catching the local sports news to gauge the feel for being a sports fan in that city.

I am in total agreement about Washington, a "jump to conclusions" town while Baltimore is a "Love the team no matter what because we are still happy to have football back" town. Other cities I've noticed:

New York - Loves to rip their teams when they are down, but embraces them even more when they are winning.

Philadelphia - The ultimate, "what have you done for me lately town."

Miami - "We'll pay attention if something good is going on."

St. Louis - "Hometown city feel gives every game a big game feel."

San Diego - "We got sports if you like 'em."

I'm curious to hear some of your perspective on how some other (or same)cities embrace their sports teams?

Michael Wilbon: You did a fine job characterizing those cities...Very well done. I think you captured the feeling quite well. Travel does provide perspective, does it not? In Washington nobody remembers what happened last week, only what happened today.

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D.C.: Hiya Mike To what do you ascribe the NFL's inability to make instant replay work? The NHL does such a great job of using video review. They are fast, decisive, and get the call right 99-plus percent of the time. Whether the on-ice refs are right or not, the proper calls get made. Why does it seem so hard for the NFL?

Michael Wilbon: Great question...The NFL has too many people still suggesting the league shouldn't use it, instead of simply embracing it whole-hog. There's a reluctance to be common-sense about it. And that hurts the bottom-line effort of getting it right. If you let "GET IT RIGHT" drive the policy-making you wouldn't have what happened yesterday.

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Anonymous: Hi Mike -- from last week.

Richmond, VA: Before you retire, what sports figure who you have never met or interviewed would you like to interview and why?

Michael Wilbon: Wow. I gotta think about that. I don't know. Wow, I might have to answer this next week...That's a lot of people to review. Okay, next week on this one...

Michael Wilbon: I still don't know...I guess that means anybody who's alive, I've talked to or have had the chance to or am not curious enough about.

Coaches or players? None. I've been doing this nearly 30 years. There's no athlete, from Muhammad Ali to Jim Brown to Cal Ripken to Michael Jordan to Tiger Woods I haven't talked to. Same with coaches.

Now, if we go back to people who died before I started doing this the list would be endless. But people I could talk to now? I mean, it's been my job (and I'm damn fortunate) to talk to owners, commissioners, executives, players, agents, coaches...Working for a newspaper with a national perspective, I've been able to do that, to use a press pass to peek behind the curtain, tap somebody on the shoulder and start a conversation.

I don't use the word "interview." What we do as sportswriters ain't "60 Minutes." Nobody's sitting in a chair facing us. It's naked people in locker rooms, scouts and owners in press boxes or stadium suites, players sitting in an empty gym at the end of practice, golfers on the practice range or in the clubhouse...It's talking. It's conversing...for the most part.

These look-ins at press conferences give viewers a bad impression, as if all of our interaction is a manager sitting at a table answering questions. Very little of use comes out of those sessions. The conversations that take place any time other than immediately after the game are the ones that matter.

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Arlington, Va.: Did you catch any of the Maryland-Cal game? Nice job by the Terps to come back after the Middle Tennessee State debacle.

Michael Wilbon: I didn't...Just saw an early score at 21-6 and was happy Ralph Friedgen could have a relatively calm week.

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Roseland, N.J.: Wondering if you saw William Rhoden's column today in the NYT about Vince Young's travails, and the theory that black quarterbacks are held to a different standard than their caucasian counterparts. It made me wonder, if Duante Culpepper had been white, would he be somebody's second string QB right now? Would the Bears have at least given him a tryout?

washingtonpost.com: Vince Young's Episode Reveals Stress of Black Passers (New York Times)

Michael Wilbon: People should read the piece that my friend Bill wrote...Very good piece...Far too complex to get into briefly at the end of this chat time.

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DC: These Chargers-Broncos games are going to be fun over the next couple of years, aren't they? Two pretty loaded teams, with potentially great young quarterbacks, who obviously can't stand each other. That Cutler/Rivers dynamic will be very interesting to watch develop.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, it will. I don't understand why Rivers behaves like such a jerk toward Cutler...But it's a nice rivalry...has been for many years.

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Washington, D.C.: Now that every single pro sport is televised with a dozen cameras from every conceivable angle, have we reached a point where referees are just getting in the way? Other than moving the chains and spotting the ball, what does the NFL need referees for?

Michael Wilbon: Well, somebody has to implement what is seen on the field. But they shouldn't be there by themselves, without technological help...no way.

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Washington, D.C.: Best thing to come out of the weekend -- Ohio State won't yet again squeak into the BCS game at the end of the season only to get pasted by their opponent. Not as good as a playoff, but still.

Michael Wilbon: Hey, Ohio State could be right back there, though I certainly hope not. Can you promise me a second Ohio State defeat? Suppose they've got one loss and every other top team has two? All the SEC teams could have two losses. Don't count out the possibility.

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Burke, Va.: Mike,

What do you make of the Vince Young 'thang'? Much ado about not much, or something more serious?

Michael Wilbon: His mother and his coach reach out for help...plead for help. No, that's serious. I don't know what, specifically, it means. But that woman was sincere and concerned and asking for help for her baby. She's not some lunatic with a record of calling the sports talk radio shows. Who wouldn't understand that?

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New York, NY: I guess the Patriots aren't dead yet?

Michael Wilbon: Matt Cassell (don't know whether it's one "L" or two...) did a fine job. That's two straight weeks now. The Patriots are in very good shape. What struck me yesterday was why anybody considers the Jets coach a genius. For what? For handing off the ball three straight times inside the five while Brett Favre is just standing there. For me, this qualifies as stupid, self-indulgent play-calling...but not genius.

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Reston, Va.: Everything seems wide open in the AFC right now. Who do you see as the Top 4 teams with the highest likelihood to make the Super Bowl?

I don't even want to address the NFC since I know everyone's answer is Dallas and I'm a Dallas-hater.

Michael Wilbon: If we did this like the college football polls, my top ten ranking (this is dangerous off the top of one's head) would be 1. Dallas/Philly winner, 2. Steelers, 3. Giants, 4. Bills, 5. Carolina, 6. Patriots, 7. Titans, 8. Packers, 9. Broncos, 9. Cardinals.

Of course, it would be fluid. The changes every week would be interesting to chart. Hell, maybe we should make this a weekly feature during football and basketball seasons. I'll let the feedback determine it.

Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI...Beautiful sunshine here in Dallas today, about 75 degrees, low humidity...We'll see what Kornheiser can manufacture today in the way of complaints. Beautiful day, big game, last Monday Night Football game ever at Texas Stadium. I have no idea who'll win this. But there's pressure on the Cowboys because the Eagles have come in here and thumped them the last two years...

Okay everybody...gotta run...Chat next week from San Diego, where the Brett Favres will try and get themselves right against the angry Chargers...See you then. MW

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DC: The difference between Peyton Manning and Phelps as SNL hosts is about the same as the difference in the golf games of Tiger Woods and you. Fair statement?

Michael Wilbon: Didn't see Phelps...He wasn't any good?

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San Francisco: I would have hoped that Doug Williams's incredible Super Bowl performance would've ended any of this "black quarterback" nonsense, but my hopes were in vain.

Michael Wilbon: The question was about the pressures...Fair question. Good question. Takes a lot of time to examine. But hey, 20 years ago we wouldn't have had a big enough example to question...Progress nonetheless.

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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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