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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, September 29, 2008; 1:25 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Sept. 29 at 1:30 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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Mechanicsville, Va.: Is it too early for TK to break out the bandwagon -- at least take the cover off, detail it, check the tire pressure ?

Michael Wilbon: Ha Ha! I'll have to ask him when we do PTI today...HI everybody. I'm in Arizona, having taken the weekend off to go and play Pebble Beach...two rounds, Spyglass Friday and Pebble Saturday...What a wonderful experience...So, no MNF for me this week...here in Scottsdale on another cloudless day where people are freaking out over the Cardinals loss and the dangerously violent hit on Anquan Boldin...But there's only one place to start today's chat...with the Redskins. That was impressive, wasn't it? Campbell still hasn't thrown a pick...Portis running like mad. The Cowboys imploding before our eyes (no shock here)...Very impressive for the Redskins...Very.

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Arlington, VA: Maybe it's just me, but I'll take the QB who wins the game (Campbell) over the one who puts up the big numbers and loses (McNabb) any day of the week. Story of Donovan's career.

Michael Wilbon: Why do people, when their team wins a big game or two, have to denigrate other people? Does it make you feel like a big 'ol man to do that? Donovan McNabb, last I checked, has gone to four NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl, while Jason Campbell has yet to do any of the above. Be happy for Jason Campbell, and lay off a guy who to this point has done so much more...and may yet do more this season.

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D.C.: Just to recap the mood in the city for this team:

Week 1 - Redskins are the worst team in football.

Week 2 - Okay, maybe we're not that bad.

Week 3 - Hey, we're actually pretty good. Playoffs baby!

Week 4 - SUPER BOWL!!!

Do I have that right?

Michael Wilbon: Yep, you sure do...Brett Favre was great in his post-game comments after beating the Cardinals yesterday...He said, essentially, "I don't think winning one game is any reason to run out and buy playoff or Super Bowl tickets." That, boys and girls, is called perspective...There's little of it when it comes to the NFL these days, and less than average when it comes to Washington, which is so measured when it comes to almost ANYTHING else...It's really sort of fascinating to observe as a quasi-outsider...

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Bethesda, MD: Michael, I haven't heard much of this mentioned on the air, but why did Jason Garrett decide to abandon the run against the Redskins? It almost seemed like he was totally reliant on past history (see last year's game against us) in determining how to attack us despite their success this year in running Jones and Barber.

Michael Wilbon: Ah, yes...that's the way I kind of read it, too. I want to hear his day-after analysis, which we won't get until about 4 p.m. But whatever the reason it was silly...The Cowboys, to me, don't appear to be especially well coached. And I certainly don't think Wade Phillips is what you call "in control" of the team. T.O. is about one frustration from meltdown, Bad Teammate T.O. His team loses and all he's concerned about are his touches? What a sorry excuse for a teammate. Great player, dreadful teammate. I think you can check the record of my position on T.O. I wouldn't have him on my team for love nor money. And I'm on the record for three years as saying the Cowboys are overrated. They've got some Mets in 'em...Great front-runners...not so tough nor smart since Aikman/Smith/Irvin and the boys...

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Portland, Or: Great win for the Hokies Saturday!

Who are your top five college football teams right now?

Michael Wilbon: Oklahoma, Alabama, Mizzou, BYU, LSU in that order...Texas could change all that in the next couple of weeks. And I don't believe in Penn State...By the way, you don't expect me to address college football and not mention that my Northwestern Wildcats are 5-0 with Michigan State on deck...The Big Ten is dreadful this year so I'm hopeful my boys can do some damage...maybe go 9-3 or 10-2.

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"The Story of Donovan's Career..":..could be reflected quite well in a Sunday Night Football graphic from last night, which stated that McNabb and Andy Reid are tied with Walsh/Montana for the most wins in NFL history for a coach/QB duo. Them's some hard numbers to counter selective memory like that demonstrated by "Arlington"

Michael Wilbon: Thank you for that. People need to check their personal prejudices and their wild-eyed fandom when they come to this chat. We're wearing reason here, not #1 Foam Fingers.

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Sterling, Va.: Mike, Why hasn't Randle-El been a more prominent feature of the Redskins offense? When they signed him, I thought he would be an impact player, good for at least 50 catches/750 yards per season. Is there a reliability issue?

Michael Wilbon: I'm totally with you on this. I think maybe he has quite a bit of mileage on him, and I think the Steelers staff drafted him and knew exactly how they wanted to use him, and I don't think the Redskins coaches have used him in a way that plays best to his talents. We see this all the time with players in certain systems, both offensively and defensively.

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Burke, Va.: Who can I write to to suggest reducing the length of this year's Super Bowl and expanding the half time show? Bruuuuce!

Michael Wilbon: I'm sure nobody...I know this is a big deal to a ton of people, especially The Post's Liz Clarke, my dear friend who is the biggest Bruce fan I know...Doesn't do anything for me personally, though I can appreciate the enormous talent the man has...I'm usually writing during halftime...except if I feel a wardrobe malfunction coming on...then I'm using that press pass to get very close down to the stage!!! That wouldn't happen with Bruce, however...of course.

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Montclair, Va.: Hey Mike, what's more likely this year: 'Skins win the NFC East or Obama wins on Nov. 4?

Feel free to make me happy and argue for both.

Michael Wilbon: And what would these two have to do with one another? I truly care about the outcome of one race and not a bit about the other...Care to venture a guess as to which one I'm invested in?

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Cleveland Park: Hey Mike, regarding the McNabb comment, the sad part isn't quite so much the cocky Skins fans taking shots at Donovan as they get pumped for next week's game; the sad part is that a lot of people in Philly are probably saying the same thing today. I find it shameful how poorly that city values such a phenomenal QB. Is a Super Bowl ring the only thing that will ever get the Philly fans off his back?

Michael Wilbon: Yes...And then for only one season. If Westbrook is back on the field Philly will be favored. If not, the Redskins will have the upper hand. The Eagles without Westbrook aren't particularly formidable. With him, they're pretty darn good.

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Ashburn, VA: Hi Michael, speaking of Jason Campbell...there was plenty of talk before the year got started and after the Giants game that Jason was not a good fit for the "West Coast" offense. Seems to me that talented QBs should be a good fit for any "style" of offense. Can you please comment on what you've heard from football people about Jason's potential for success in the NFL? Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: Well, scouts I talked to the first couple of weeks didn't know if he was a good fit either...I don't think you'd want to ask, say, Jeff Garcia to be a bombs-away QB in the old Raiders offense. And we've got a long way to go before drawing conclusions on Campbell and this offense, though he looks very efficient in it now.

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A Baseball Question:...about the local product. Team with a glorified AAA roster loses 102 games, and embattled GM..fires all the coaches, save one. I'd love your view on this. From here, it looks beyond lame.

Michael Wilbon: I didn't see the Nationals at all this year...Well, once in person...at Wrigley Field. They came from 5-0 down or something like that to beat the Cubs. Anyway, I'm reluctant to just jump out there because I don't know JACK about the Nationals...But I wouldn't make the case you had to keep anybody from an outfit that was that sorry.

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Chicago: Is there a cooler sight in sports than the 109,000 person white-out in Happy Valley?

How cool was it to watch your cousin play in that type of environment?

Michael Wilbon: Well, it's not like I was there. I wasn't. Personally, I like Jordan-Hare stadium, Auburn's joint. And Sanford Stadium, Georgia's joint...I'm not as big a fan of the Big House and Penn State...Too big, actually. My favorite of all is Notre Dame...tied with Lambeau as the best place to watch a football game.

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McLean, VA: Mike,

I think all the fanatics that you deal with on a daily basis may have ruined your perspective. Most of us Redskins fans know what we have: An exciting team with an exciting coach, with very few expectations this year, and now apparently the potential to do some great things. It's fun to watch!

Michael Wilbon: No, YOU have some perspective. Don't think most folks are like you because they're not. And this isn't just about the Redskins. People are like this in virtually every NFL city.

There's a lack of sophistication about the local NFL team everywhere because there are so many people who just watch the games to drink and be social and get into the Foam Finger waving and jersey wearing.They don't know anything about the game but think that wearing the jersey and watching the game means they do...How cool that must feel for the NFL, to put a product out there that people just want to be associated with.

I just think it's funny in D.C. to see because we're such a practical place otherwise. If you asked me to asses the percentages of people with perspective and people without any who are just there to WOOOOO WOOOO WOOOOO, I'd put it at 35-65.

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Philadelphia, Pa: Baseball playoffs start Wednesday, so how 'bout some hardball talk? Big love for the Phillies (and your Cubs), and pardon my schadenfreude about the Mets, but couldn't happen to a nice bunch of fans.

Michael Wilbon: My Cubdom long led me to hate the Mets (talk about lack of perspective)...But I can separate myself enough from that to appreciate Johan Santana, who was just marvelous...Just great. A step behind C.C. Sabathia this season.

But the Mets, to me, lacked character. I said when those guys got Willie Randolph fired I thought they lacked the character to win close games and prevail in a close race. I think Delgado and Beltran are great players who jaked it on Randolph and they ultimately get what they deserve, which is to go home. I couldn't be happier that the Mets are out...unless they'd gotten in and the Cubs could have beaten their brains out. I have no such ill-feelings about the Phillies, Brewers or Dodgers...I can barely wait until Wednesday when this stuff starts....

Although, don't forget about the White Sox v. Tigers in a few minutes on ESPN2...As I've explained many times, I'm not one of those Cubs fans who hates the White Sox. I, in fact, root for the White Sox to win...And their end-of-season collapse was just awful. The White Sox don't deserve to get in, being unable to hold the lead in three different games against the Twins and Indians...But I'm not sure the Twins deserve to be in the playoffs either, dropping back-to-back home games to the Royals the way they did...Still, the drama that could be produced if the White Sox win today (forcing a one-game play-in tomorrow) might make it all worth it.

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Dulles Airport: Great article on Friday. Do you think the racial incident involving Dunbar High School will be resolved?

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...And I just don't know. I really don't. I hope so, but don't have any real feeling that it will be.

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New York, NY: While Boswell is the Post's baseball columnist, I ask you this b/c I feel his view regarding the Nats isn't as objective as your will be -- is it possible that Washington simply isn't a baseball town?? I understand the product on the field was pretty poor, but this was the first season in a brand new ballpark, and their attendance was the lowest of any new ballpark in 15 or 20 years. I don't think this marriage ends well.

Michael Wilbon: Washington isn't a baseball town. It's not a football town either...D.C. is an event town. Inauguration Weekend, Cherry Blossom Festival, conventions, big parties, big games. It's a collection of people whose allegiances are often someplace else. Still, our metropolitan area likes a big bash. We didn't like the Orioles because they were close; we liked 'em because they had Cal Ripken doing something that made going a big event every night for years. We liked it when Michael Jordan, even though he was 40, played here. We like Tiger's event at Congressional because it's a huge event to have Tiger...That's who we are. I KNOW this is true...Bos, who has only been my favorite baseball writer for 25 years, is from here and is invested emotionally in a way I'll never be. Bos wants this to work. I want it to work because I love baseball and I want to see the Nationals matter....But they'd better become a big event or it'll be just something to do...

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Silver Spring: The problem with the 'Skins is that the owner is one of those foam finger waving fanatics. He makes bad decisions because of it.

Did you see him in the locker room after the game?

He looked and sounded like one of my friends in college after a game.

I thought it was embarrassing, but then again, I am not a fanatic about team sports any more.

Michael Wilbon: You make, undeniably, a great point. I didn't see the video of this but I've heard about it. I don't care who denies it, you're right on the money.

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Carver Terrace, DC: Have you gotten any feedback from the coaches/players from Dunbar or Fort Hill on your article last week?

Michael Wilbon: I've been at Pebble Beach and in Scottsdale, Ariz., the last five days so, no, I haven't gotten any except from friends and associates who call me directly...But being this far from it...no.

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Washington, DC: Since I believe you've stated that John Elway, in your opinion, is the best QB ever, who would you choose to build a team around if you were starting a franchise: Elway or Lawrence Taylor?

Michael Wilbon: Elway. Not even close. LT might not be my first defensive player. I'm from Chicago, remember. But even with that prejudice stated, I can make quite a case (and have it backed up) that Butkus or Singletary would be my first defensive player. Maybe Reggie White. But who would turn down LT (the real LT) on his team? Not me. I covered the NFL when LT was in his prime. He was a sight to behold. There's no defensive player in the game today on his planet.

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D.C.: Have you considered voicing your perspective on the election or do you believe that the perspective of a sport columnist is irrelevant?

Michael Wilbon: Not irrelevant, but I just don't feel like doing it...not yet anyway. Maybe that's the way to go on the day before the election, or maybe the week before. It would be loud, and definitive and I'd want it to be profane, which it couldn't be since we don't do that. And remember, I know and like personally both candidates. I've gotten to know Barack Obama a bit personally/socially and I've enjoyed John McCain's company several times for years...Been his seat mate on 4 1/2 hour flights to Arizona a couple of times...My feelings on the election are less about the candidates than they are about our country and the people around the candidates and how we, as Americans, view them. Trust me, if I'm as candid as I would want to be, it would be the last Chat House.

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Rockville, Md..: As a parent, I could not imagine going through what Matt Bryant is going through with losing his son. I could never go to work a day after burying my son. It puts sports into perspective doesn't it?

Michael Wilbon: I'm glad you brought this up. I have a 6-month old son, and I cannot imagine going through what Matt Bryant is going through these days. I ache for the man and I wish him and his family somehow find the strength and peace to cope with this. I don't think I could do it. I do know, having talked to enough athletes, that going out and playing after great personal loss enables many of them to get away from the pain and suffering just a tiny bit for a few hours...or for some it's a small way they can pay tribute...Even so, I don't know how Matt Bryant did what he did. And I KNOW that locker room is probably the best place for him, with those guys surrounding him and patting him on the back and crying with him and just holding him up. It's not about the sports or even the competition, it's about coping and finding that space where you can try, even if for only a few minutes a day, to do that.

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DC: Michael, I was going to argue against your "DC not a football town" comment until I re-read your 35-65 fan breakdown. Do you think the 35-65 fan breakdown has anything to do with the current marketing of the NFL?

Michael Wilbon: Maybe...It's so smartly marketed. The NFL people are geniuses. I mean that. They're the absolute best. But I would never suggest D.C. is a football town. The people of D.C. are actually more likely to be basketball people because such a great number of D.C. natives and longtime D.C. people are northeastern folks who went to small colleges in the northeastern corridor, where college football wasn't as big as college hoops, if the schools (think Georgetown, the Ivys, the traditional Big East schools like St. John's and Providence and Seton Hall) had big-time football at all...There are a lot more people from schools like that in D.C. than from Penn State, Pitt, BC and Maryland. There's a difference between being a Redskins town and being a football town.

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Derwood, MD: So with Zorn's recent success and apparent knack for play calling, do we have to give kudos to Danny and Vinny for their insight into Zorn as a HC, or did they just get damn lucky?

I fully admit I never saw this quick success and player buy-in to his system.

Michael Wilbon: If it works, Danny and Vinny deserve the credit whether they lucked into it or swear they knew all along.

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Re Snyder: I'd rather have a foam-finger wearing owner than someone like the Fords or Bill Bidwill.

Michael Wilbon: What about someone like Robert Kraft or Dan Rooney? Wouldn't any smart fan love to have one of them own his team? You really don't want to argue against either of them, do you?

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Fed Ex Cup: Is there a more bogus way in sports to earn $10 million than PGA's Fed Ex cup (unless you are Stephon Marbury)? Does anyone really care about a championship earned by not even playing the "premier" event of this series?

Michael Wilbon: I guarantee you Vijay cares! Congrats to him.

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Tampa, FL: Mike, Tony once tried explaining D.C. being more of a front-runner town than others because, and I am fairly certain this is his quote, "no one gets to DC by finishing in second place." Add to this the fact that, by percentage, there are fewer native Washingtonians than in other cities, and you are left with people who love other teams and only notice local teams when they win. Plus, we have so much to do in DC that performs at a high level of excellence each time (Shakespeare Theater, Washington Opera, Alex Ovechkin -- just kidding). Basically, the attitude seems to go, "we only support 'The Best.' Why should we spend all that money on something that is half-decent when we can spend the same amount of money on something world class? Wake me up when the team is world class." (I'm not agreeing with the attitude, just trying to explain it.)

Michael Wilbon: It's not that we only support the best. The Redskins haven't been anywhere close to the best for more than 15 years and they're well supported. We support what appears to be a big deal. And plenty of people got to D.C. finishing second, and further back in the pack for that matter. Nobody winds up here without thinking they're a big deal? How about that? What we support is what appears to be huge.

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Arlington, Va.: Mike, your top 5 teams in the NFL as of today?

Michael Wilbon: Giants, Redskins, Cowboys, Titans, Bills.

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Columbia, Md.: If the White Sox win today it will go down to a one-game playoff. I know it has happened before but I still find it amazing after a 162 game season. Do the Tigers hate the Sox enough to play hard today?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I think so, especially since Freddie Garcia, today's starter for the Tigers, was dealt by the White Sox after going 3-0 in the 2005 post-season and helping the White Sox to their first World Series in 80-some years. Yeah, I think the Tigers sufficiently dislike the White Sox.

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Rockville, Md.: You've been catching a lot of heat about your Ft. Hill/Dunbar column on the Post Web site. Many people think you only looked at the incident from Dunbar's point of view and never really sought out Fort Hill's side. Are you comfortable with the column after the recent MPSSAA ruling and some of the conduct of Coach Jeffries and his players being called into question?

washingtonpost.com: Racial Prejudice Pops Up in an Arena Normally Free of It

Michael Wilbon: I could care less about the heat. You write about race, and I learned this 20 years ago, you're going to catch heat 100 percent of the time because it's the most polarizing subject in America. I don't believe nothing happened. If people don't like that they can express their opinion. I'll keep mine unless there's direct evidence to the contrary...and yep, I feel totally comfortable with what I wrote. And I went out of my way to compliment the Ft. Hill coach about the way he handled himself, which I'm sure the most vocal critics want to ignore. I called his cell several times (called the Dunbar coach once and got him) and he never answered. So if they think I wasn't going to write anyway, they're wrong.

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Washington, D.C.: How did you play at Pebble?

Michael Wilbon: Shot 90 at Spyglass, even going double-double-double on 16, 17 and 18...I walked and was exhausted. It's the most uphill course I've ever played and I was told that in advance...But I had nothing left...Started the round birdie/3-put bogey/birdie/par/par and just got tired late. But it was spectacular. I was hoping to break 100 a should have broken 90...Pebble? We won't be reviewing that round...I had total sunshine for six holes, played six more in total fog where you couldn't see 100 yards in front of you...but I tapped in for par on 18...Driver, hybrid, 6-iron to 10 feet...missed the putt by two inches and tapped in...I'm dying to play Pebble again...but might pass for awhile considering it's $450 around. But worth every bit...I had a wonderful caddie, Sean Roberts, who plays on the mini-tours...Wonderful kid and obviously a tremendous talent because he's a professional.

Okay, gotta run. I'm going to a studio here in nearby Tempe to do PTI with Tony, who'll be at a studio in Pittsburgh...Jaws will be on the field in Pittsburgh. A three-way. Who knew? Everybody have a great week and we'll chat next Monday, me from New Orleans where the Saints and Vikings will go at it...Be well...Thanks. MW

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Baltimore: How 'bout some dap for the Middies knocking off No. 16 Wake? That may have been more impressive than Maryland defeating Clemson.

Michael Wilbon: Way to go Middies and Terps. Both were impressive.

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Westminster: You're a level-headed fan, but did I read that correct? Redskins, 2nd? I, as a Skins fan, don't even know if that's true...am I being too pessimistic?

Michael Wilbon: That's not a projection. It's where we are today. The Redskins deserve it. Didn't they just knock off the No. 1 team in the league, according to most people? Why wouldn't they be No. 2 behind the G-Men?

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Fairfax, Va.: Mike I can't let your agreement with "baseball town" pass. Just what is a "baseball town?" People from other places like to dismiss DC as "not a baseball town" but I don't even know what that means. Someplace where the stadium is packed every day even when the team is mediocre for years? If that's the criterion, then only the North Side of Chicago, and maybe St. Louis, qualify. Let's see the Nats put together some winning seasons, spend some time in first place, and you'll see the crowds come.

And if undying support for a mediocre team is the metric, then DC is clearly a "football town." How long since the last 'Skins Super Bowl?

Michael Wilbon: Yo Holmes, don't try and make this complicated. Boston is a baseball town. St. Louis is a baseball town. New York is a baseball town. Chicago. Cincinnati. Miami is not. Atlanta is not. It's a college football town, period. Southern California supports three baseball teams. They love baseball there. Don't try and get fancy. You know what the baseball towns are. Or if you don't...I do.

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