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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, October 6, 2008; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Oct. 6 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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Washington, DC: Michael,

Are you okay? Do we need to talk you in from a ledge? Did your son learn some choice new words this weekend?

Michael Wilbon: Hi Everybody...Welcome to New Orleans...Well, you're not here but I am. Here for PTI from the site of Monday Night Football...I love Mondays in the fall...Anyway, we'll go heavy on Redskins, NFL in general, and yes some baseball...Given my summer of happiness over the Cubs I have to start with this question, dealing with the absolute cave-in by the Cubs against the Dodgers. Wow. Actually, I wasn't emotional at all about it. When Ryan Dempster walked seven batters in Game 1 on Wednesday night I knew the Cubs, again, weren't up to the pressure.

The four errors by the infielders in Game 2 confirmed it...I barely watched Game 3 on Saturday night from Los Angeles. Long before then it was evident that this group of Cubs, who like all the other players think that because they weren't around for all the failures makes them immune to the pressure of playing for that franchise, underestimated the pressure. How else do you account for the best team in the NL being unable to throw a strike or catch a grounder? I can account for it.

The pressure cooked them, fried 'em like an egg. Jim Hendry and Lou Pinella did all they could to put together a great team, and the players had no idea what was about to hit them...until it hit them. And that's that. That's what it's like to be a Cubs fan, boys and girls. Maybe I won't allow Matthew to do this to himself...Then again, he's born into Nats-hood, so how much better could that be? Actually, chances are 70-30 they'll win before the Cubs do...

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Washington, D.C.: Who would you like to see win the World Series Michael?

Michael Wilbon: The White Sox...I'm not one of those Chicagoans who finds it necessary to not just root for my team but hate the other...I don't get that. So, I certainly hope to see the White Sox tie their series with Tampa tonight, and advance from there. If the White Sox go out, then I'm rooting for Tampa.

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South Riding, Va.: What do you think about the gutsy calls Jim Zorn has been making? Especially going for it on 4th and 1 in the last 3 minutes of the game, which essentially won the game for the Skins?

Michael Wilbon: Okay, let's get to it. Jim Zorn. Wow. You can go back to the time he was hired and see what I said about this...But I believe I said I thought it was a good hire because, primarily, Jason Campbell needed a hands-on mentor who played QB...and since Campbell is the franchise's No. 1 asset, I thought this could turn out okay even though Zorn certainly wasn't Dan Snyder's top choice. So far, and it's still early, Zorn has gone from zero to 65 in about 10 seconds...And these calls at the end of games to keep the ball away from a chasing opponent are just a KILLER. How smart.

I should point out that the Seahawks, when Zorn was QB, were undermanned but very imaginative, bold, even risk-taking. And Zorn's personality must have been born of that. Jack Patera was coach of that team back when they played in the AFC West and had to go against the Raiders and Broncos and Chargers when they were all loaded. Seattle played pedal-to-the-medal...and some of that must be in Zorn to this day. But the Redskins also play with power and precision...Very, very impressive so far.

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Boston: The 'Skins have virtually all of the same players from last year. Their big signing was Jason Taylor who hasn't played the last two weeks. If they had gone down 14 points in the first few minutes last year, it would have been game over. This year they show grit, guts, and more importantly the ability to finish the game... What's the difference? Does all the credit really go to Zorn's attitude and play-calling?

Michael Wilbon: Not play-calling...It's all the stuff you and I don't see during the week...the interaction with the players and staff during the week, his manner, his ability to communicate ideas and plans...Play-calling can be significant, yes. But if you're not already holding the lead there it's not the play-calling, is it? Zorn has done so many things right, and so have his players...I agree totally with your assessment about the feeling last year when the team was trailing by two scores vs. this season...HUGE difference, but not for any one reason. Don't oversimplify. So much goes on during an NFL week that we are not privvy to...It's why coaches work 90 hrs a week and sleep on sofas their entire careers.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm a huge baseball fan (and Red Sox fan) but I'm getting fed up with the late start times for postseason games. They know that the between innings breaks are longer than in the regular season (more ads). They know that the intensity results in more pitches being taken and more strategy sessions. They know the games are going to be LONGER than most regular season games. But they still start many of them at 8 or 8:30 or even later! When will baseball realize that starting at 7 eastern will give EVERYONE the best chance of seeing the most important part of the games, the end?

I was up until about 2 am last night. I just can't do this over and over and then make it in to work the next day.

And I know they are losing a whole generation of kids who won't see the great excitement that is postseason baseball.

Will Mr. Selig ever listen?

Michael Wilbon: I know where you're from...and not just from the "Arlington, Virginia" dateline. You've got that trademark eastern selfishness--makes you related to Kornheiser...So, 20 million people in Southern California (which makes if four times the size of metropolitan Boston) should have a game at 4 in the afternoon because it would be better for you?

I agree with you in the case of games involving only easters/midwestern teams...But that makes you think your eyeballs are more important than four times as many three time zones away? What, being a Sawx fan entitles you to something that Angels fans shouldn't have? Sorry, you've brought that complaint to the wrong window...I sat up and watched it, too. Ended at 12:46 a.m. eastern time to be exact...But that's only 9:46 where the Angels live...I'm not sure guys like you and Tony know that. I already know you don't care. Is there a solution? No. America's a big place.

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Lexington, Ky.: Mr. Wilbon - I realize this is a little late, but I wanted to ask a question concerning the Dunbar/Ft. Hill situation. Admittedly, being in Kentucky, I have not followed the events following the game as closely as I would have if I still lived in DC, but it strikes me that we, as a society, have learned very little from the Duke lacrosse tragedy of a few years ago.

I thought your column on the Dunbar situation was very well reasoned and even-handed, and I tend to agree with you that on the totality of the circumtances, something was said on the field. That being said, why do you we as a society feel the need to immediately jump and come down on one side or another? Is there something in the very nature of race and race relations that makes us make up our minds in a hury before we have all the facts and have heard from all sides?

Sadly, this just strikes me as another case of the need to rush to judgment, and I wondering if this will always be the case when it comes to situations which involve race and sports.

Michael Wilbon: I guess it always bears repeating that matters of race are complex and passionate...The issue provokes more anger, more frustration than anything in American life. I don't know there's a need to rush to judgement. Even if kids at Ft. Hill used any offensive language I don't think it means they are bigots or even knew what they were saying. I don't think anybody needs to be judged harshly. I think these things always need to be discussed, instead of just hoping it will go away as some readers ignorantly suggest. I'm a whole lot less worried about high school kids than I am grown adults who stake out positions based on ignorance and bigotry...I see it every day involving this Presidential election. That worries me. the Ft. Hill situation needs honest examination and discussion. And yes, we all come to these situations with our own baggage. All of us. No exceptions. To not declare it honestly is the problem.

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Arlington, Va.: So I didn't see your name mentioned in the article or in the upcoming chat about the South Side of Chicago? How can they not talk about the great Michael Wilbon? You really need to go have a chat with Wil Haygood. Send Stat Boy over to snap, crack and pop him. I am sure he will understand!

Michael Wilbon: I'm not sure what you're talking about, but if it involved recognition, I think I've gotten enough it in recent years. The boys on my old playgrounds know who I am, and ain't that enough???

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Rolla, Mo.: Can we get some Juice Williams for Heismann love? He went into the big house and put up over 400 yards passing and rushing. Wow.

Michael Wilbon: Big, big, big day...Yep. Problem is, the QBs out in the Big 12 put up crazy numbers every single week. Those kids aren't running the ball like Juice did the other day, but they're putting up video game numbers out there. He'll have a lot of competition from QBs at Mizzou, Kansas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State...And that's just one conference we're talking about.

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Silver Spring: Seriously, when you look at how this team is doing now, what is your current prediction of how far the Redskins can go? I understand playoffs look good, but can they possibly go beyond that?

Michael Wilbon: Can't you just enjoy the path your team is on now? The regular season often has nothing to do with the playoffs. Just look ahead to next week. Why are you worried about January five weeks into the season. Take it from a Cub fan: a great regular season has nothing to do with the playoffs. Or just look at the Cowboys, who get in and lose in the first round year after year...Enjoy the ride. Wave to the people.

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Charlottesville, Va.: The University of Virginia just lifted its ban on signs at sporting events this weekend, yet I only spotted one such sign at the football game against Maryland. What say you of the decision to ban homemade signs in the first place, and why don't you think more fans celebrated the ban's lifting with a sign of their own, particularly since the Cavaliers had just handed Duke its first ACC win in four years in a 31-3 beatdown?

Michael Wilbon: I wish they'd kept the ban. Signs get in everybody else's way, which is mostly self-indulgent. Why do people feel the need to do everything except watch the game? Drink to excess, hold up signs...for what? I don't get it...I don't want to have to ask some inconsiderate person in front of me to put down his stupid sign so I can see the game I paid to see. Sorry.

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Santana Moss: LOVED his non-TO answer to not getting any catches yesterday. Something along the lines of doing what was asked of him to help the team win.

Michael Wilbon: Moss is a good teammate. T.O., as teammates go, is poison.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike, I know Donovan McNabb is your guy and that the Philly fans and media are impossible to deal with, but did you find his postgame dismissals of the Bears and the Redskins a little surprising? Putting aside the fact that the Redskins dominated the last 53 minutes of that game, that didn't sound like self-confidence or leadership to me. Sounded like a guy deeply insecure in his current position.

Michael Wilbon: I'd love to answer this but I didn't hear any of Donovan's post-game remarks about either team...

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Somerville, Mass.: Is it safe to say the Skins need to work out a new long-term deal with Campbell in the next few weeks instead of letting him get into a contract year next year? Can we say he's finally our franchise quaterback or do we need to suffer through the anxiety of a contract year?

Michael Wilbon: Can you just let him play half a season? Does everything with "you people" have to declarative? If he has three straight sinkers, which is entirely possible for any QB who hasn't reached "great" status yet, what will you want then?

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New York, NY: In a bitter debate with another Yankees fan about the role Joe Torre played with the Dodgers this year. Would any decent coach have taken LA to the NLCS?

Michael Wilbon: No. Joe Torre is fabulous and Hank Steinbrenner looks like what he is--a buffoon--for wanting him out. I love that the Dodgers got in and the Yankees didn't and I'm no Yankee hater. I think the post-season is ALWAYS better when the Yankees are playing in October. But this is delicious.

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Washington: How about some props for Joe Torre. I hate the Yankees, but have always respected Torre.

Look who's in the playoffs and look who's watching from home. And he does not have anywhere near the talent he had at the Yankees, and that's including having Manny.

Michael Wilbon: Great minds think alike.

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Arlington, VA (again): I wasn't trying to be totally selfish, my point about the start times is that they should try to make it so the most people can see the end of the games, instead of the beginning. It is a large country and no one part should totally dominate, but having the games end so late on the East coast seems unfair.

There is nothing they can do about last night's game, which took over 5 hours to play. But the 8:37 start times for World Series games seems short sighted to me. Obviously you would disagree.

Sorry if I came off as East Coast Bias. I didn't mean it that way. I think I'm too tired to type clearly.

Michael Wilbon: I was exaggerating (and taking a shot at Kornheiser) to make a point. Isn't 4:30 a little early for people on the west coast to watch their team? I think it is. If we want to benefit the greatest number of people, what about the fact that metropolitan L.A. is twice as big as metro D.C. and metro Boston combined? How would starting at a time that works well for us but not for them serve the greatest number of people? I'm just asking? I understand your problem. You live here, not there...But there's going to have to be some give here. I trust you're not like Tony and would understand there's a dilemma.

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Hillcrest Heights MD: I love high school football on ESPN but I wonder if it sends the wrong message to students about what's important. What are your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: That it sends the wrong message.

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Donovan said:"I was embarrassed these last two weeks. I mean (to lose) to two teams we shouldn't have lost to. There is no way that you can look at this game and say that, and not taking anything away from them, but there is no way that this team is better than us."

Michael Wilbon: Those would be, in my estimation, ungracious comments. Donovan and I are friends. But I'd have to disagree with my homey on that one.

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DC: Should the Cubs take into account the 100 year "curse" when assembling their team? Aside from great pitching they need guys who won't take things too seriously, much like the self-proclaimed "idiot" Red Sox did back in '04.

Michael Wilbon: Great, great, great question/point. Matt Kelliher, a Red Sox fan and a producer without whom PTI can't get on the air, asked me that the other day...I think the Cubs are going to have to take this into account, though I don't know how you scout for that, or if you can tell how many players you need like that on one squad. Goodness, Jim Hendry did such a great job putting this team together. Can you imagine asking a GM to take one more thing into account...

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Potomac, MD: Just wanted to debunk the idea that the Dodgers don't have much talent. Although they have a few stinkers on their free agent blotter like the Yanks, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin, Blake Dewitt and Andre Ethier will become household baseball names in a couple of years. And don't sleep on Chad Billingsley and Kuroda. Not saying Torre didn't help, but he's by no means the only reason LA's playing on.

Michael Wilbon: I get your point about their talent and agree. But without Torre, they're at home.

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Washington: RE: UVA Sign ban.

As an alumn I can tell you the reason for the ban is because UVA football is treated like going to a cocktail party by the students. They wear blazers and ties, the women wore Laura Ashley dresses. Handmade signs do not fit in with this image. I never understood the dressing up to games, but at least the no-sign thing was consistent.

Michael Wilbon: thanks for that...More important is that UVA spanked Maryland Saturday. Wow.

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Actually, chances are 70-30 they'll win before the Cubs do...: The Nats certainly might do that. Also, Washington has a won the World Series (1924) between the last Cubs Series win!

Michael Wilbon: That's right...Thanks (you #$*%#$%^%)

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Green Bay WI: So how many more millions will CC Sabathia get after his performance this summer? (By the way, it's Brewers 1, Cubs 0 in postseason wins)

Michael Wilbon: It's also Bears in first place in the NFC North, Packers on a three-game losing streak. AND, your Brewers won't keep CC either. I'm guessing Los Angeles...or the North Side.

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Ballston, VA: Mike, I know everyone around here is giddy about the Redskins win yesterday but what do you think the teams greatest weaknesses are? I'm all "hip hip hooray!" for now, but I know every game, every week is a battle that we can't take it for granted. What is your assessment?

Michael Wilbon: I'm not around the Redskins multiple times a week anymore so I'm not the person to assess those kinds of minute details. They don't seem to have any great weaknesses at the moment. Every team is one injured cornerback from disaster, same when it comes to tackles...or QB (ask New England)...They can run, throw, defend the run, defend the pass. They can come from behind or milk a lead...What?

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Loudoun County, Va.: Dave Bing is running for Detroit Mayor. The guy is a class act. mAgree?

Michael Wilbon: Bing is fabulous. Is this true?

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Cubs should get Manny: Seriously who could care less about a curse than Manny? I just hope he could get along with Lou.

Michael Wilbon: No they shouldn't...Well, maybe they should.

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Maclean, Va.: Is Joe Gibbs kicking himself right now?

Michael Wilbon: No, I'm guessing Joe Gibbs loves his life. He should.

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Baltimore: Michael: I wonder if you saw the obits last week for Milt Davis, the DB on the Colts championship teams of '58 and '59? He had an amazing life story--born of mixed Black and Indian blood on an Oklahoma reservation, raised in a Jewish orphanage in L.A. and worked his way through UCLA shoveling coal, then served in the Army before becoming a pro player at 28 and leading the league with 10 interceptions. After retiring in 1960 he earned a PhD and spent decades teaching at L.A. City College. Did you ever have a chance to meet Davis? Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Former Colts cornerback Milt Davis dies at 79

Michael Wilbon: I did not...but thanks for the link and for making everybody in the Chat House aware. We all tend to pay far too much attention to today's noise-makers and not enough to the men who built the game.

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San Diego, Ca: Hi Mike,

So the Giants have mainly played cream puffs, but they're killing them like they should. Looks like they won't have another real challenge until week 8 against the Cowboys. Overall looking good, don't you think?

Michael Wilbon: Didn't the Giants decisively beat the Redskins in Week 1? Oh, right.

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Mechanicsville, Va.: Tell TK that ts time to start checking around for prices to tune up, change the oil and put new tires on the bandwagon...

Michael Wilbon: TK has said for three weeks the Redskins are a 12-4 team. Could be right, huh?

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Bethesda, Md.: Credit where credit is due. The Redskins front office has done a number of things in the past few years through the draft and free agent signings which have helped the Skins have a much better team on the field. Particularly, looking at the '05 draft where the skins picked up Jason Campbell and Carlos Rodgers, both are now key contributors to a strong team.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...Some love for Vinny C...That doesn't happen every day but those of you who visit this room know I've never been a Vinny hater; in fact, I think if he'd been left alone years ago the Redskins would have been better off.

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100 years and counting...: It took a change in ownership, hiring a manager who could handle the media, and a bunch of "curse proof", self-proclaimed idiots for the Red Sox to win the World Series after an 86 year drought.

We know a change in Cubs' ownership is coming, but for right now, what steps are necessary to improve this team for next season?

Michael Wilbon: Good question. I don't know. I'm too spent and disappointed in this season to be rational. I'd like to see Mark Cuban own the Cubs. In terms of personnel, I think the Cubs are going to have to acquire some ornery people. I mean this, some nasty guys who aren't as likely to be crushed by the pressure as this group, which seems to be chock full of wonderful people, guys like D. Lee and Mark DeRosa...terrific people. I don't want to think "nice guys finish last" because they didn't. But first in September and first in October are different animals. I wonder. I want to see the team win with the guys who are on the roster now. I think they've earned another shot. But I worry that this same team will not get over the disappointment (like the 2004 team after the 2003 collapse) and win, oh, 78 games next year. Then again, I'm not rational when it comes to the Cubbies. I'm a fan.

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Manassas, VA: The Redskins have done just about everything right over the past four weeks, and beating a Philly team with its back against the wall in their place is to me just as impressive as beating a Dallas team that is a contender for the Super Bowl.

Is it fair to say that RIGHT NOW the Redskins are playing better than anyone, save maybe the Giants? I look around the league, and I see no team executing as well.

Thanks for your time.

Michael Wilbon: Okay, we'll wrap it up today with my top five, my pro football poll if you will. Maybe later in the season we'll expand it to top ten...Anyway, it's 1) Giants, 2) Redskins 3) Titans (I know they're undefeated by the NFC East is the toughest division in the NFL... 4)Cowboys/Steelers tied 6) Panthers...

Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI and Battle in the Bayou with Tony K. in an hour or so...Hope you all have a great week. Next Monday I'll be in Cleveland where we'll get an up-close in-person look at the undefeated G-Men...Can't wait for that. Less excited about tonight's Saints-Vikings game but Drew Brees is always worth watching. Have a great week everybody. Redskins get a bye-week with the Rams next Sunday...had better be 5-1...Thanks...MW

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