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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: Pittsburgh Fans Invade Landover
Sports News

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Tuesday, November 4, 2008 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the Redskins-Steelers, the invasion of Pittsburgh fans at FedEx and to offer some thoughts about the election.

A transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: Michael will begin answering questions around 1:30 ET.

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Dodgeville, Wisc.: Michael,

You have always demonstrated reasoned opinions on matters of sports and race and even just race. Could we get you to comment on the following: African-American youth, when seeking same-race role models in media images, have had mostly athletes and artists to choose from. How powerful will the change be when that choice is widened to include the nation's chief executive? Thanks

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...good to be with you on this Election Day, sitting here in Washington, D.C. no less. We'll discuss the Redskins, the NFL, college football and to some degree the election...And since this is an issue close to my heart we'll start here...First, I don't know if my opinions are reasoned or not -- I'm glad they seem that way to you -- but they are mine, and I don't pretend to speak for anybody else...I wonder about what kids of all races, particularly black children, will see in that context in a black president of the U.S., should that happen tonight.

I think it will be just as great a shock to the system of black kids also. I HOPE this will divert their attention from sports and entertainment. I hope. But I don't know. Just as some conservatives have looked at Obama and in their own bigoted way called him "uppity," many black folks with no idea of what a Harvard education can afford see Obama as being very different from them, of living a life of privilege many of them have no capability or interest in pursuing.

Yes, there will be some immediate identification based on skin color. Of course there is. Every race of people on the face of the earth has that, and our extreme set of experiences as African-Americans often takes us in that direction to the greatest degree imaginable. Still, we're a diverse people. After the immediate identification based on race, then what? Will Obama represent and symbolize the dreams and goals of all black teenagers? No. Of most? Perhaps...Will they see themselves in him? I think so. But I also think it's going to take time. This is such a dramatic step in American history and I'm more interested in seeing the journey unfold than I am predicting what will happen.

But I do feel, with 100 percent certainty, that the image we have or ourselves will change if Obama is elected President tonight. And the greater range of images any people has of itself the better...If women have had, as Hilary Clinton says famously, a "glass ceiling" I don't know what it is black folks have had...a cast-iron ceiling?

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Maryland: Texas vs. Texas Tech -- best college game this year, yes or no?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, the best this year. I thought Tech would win but what a great game...I loved every second of it. I don't think Tech can go undefeated though, not with Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma and then the Big 12 championship game. If Tech DOES go undefeated, they should be No. 1 ahead of Penn State and Alabama, neither of whom has played as tough a schedule as Texas Tech...Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree are two of the 10 best players in the country...

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Washington, D.C.: Michael, A while ago, you said you have interacted with both candidates at some point or another. From your conversations, what can you tell us about their sports fanaticism? Obama: pro-hoops or college? Cubs/White Sox? McCain: hoops, football? Bush clearly loves sports. Are we going to get four more years of a sports fan in the White House or are we going to get something else?

Michael Wilbon: I do know both men, and I've talked to both about sports. McCain is an absolute expert on boxing. Loves college football, pro football, has been seen at a few Suns games in his time...Obama (and I forgive him for this) hates the Cubs and is a South Sider all the way...Loves the White Sox...Bears, Bulls...HUGE March Madness fan...When my son was born in late March he called to congratulate me and we talked about our brackets...They are both fairly fanatical about sports, pro and college. McCain has been a guest on PTI and during a couple of flights with him to Arizona we talked about sports and his depth of knowledge was way impressive. When PTI first came on the air more than seven years ago, I have it on good authority that McCain, on more than one occasion, took the clicker and turned off C-SPAN and found PTI at 5:30 eastern...Pretty high compliment, don't you think?

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New York: It bothers me that you felt the need to take a shot at Redskins fans in your article this morning, calling us "Average at best". I'm one of the FANATIC Redskins fans who gather every Sunday at a packed Redskins bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The bar is filled every Sunday with screaming Redskins fans and their babies in Portis jerseys.

This is hardly average. I don't see any Jaguars, Cardinals or Rams fans gathering every Sunday in an out of town location, packing a bar. The Steelers happen to be one of the most popular franchises in sports and if thousands of fans living in the DC area or making the trip want to buy up a bunch of tickets - that's their right. The stadium holds 90,000, there are always going to be tickets available one way or another. Redskins fans are more than Average, your comment was insulting and inaccurate.

Michael Wilbon: You don't have ANY idea of what you're talking about. Fans of all those teams pack bars in different cities all the time. How would you know? Would you ever go to those bars? No, you go to a Redskins bar, which is fine. So for starters, your premise is incredibly flawed. Second, just because you are a fanatic doesn't mean Redskins fans are any better than average. Steelers fans are, I think, the best in the NFL...After that, Cowboys fans, Bears fans, Giants fans. All those fans travel...Redskins fans bailed on their team last night and sold their tickets to Stub Hub or whatever service. You think Steelers fans would have done that? No. Broncos fans? Bills fans? No. I KNOW that doesn't happen to the same degree in those cities. You think Philly fans would have stood for that? No chance. Bears fans? No way. The Browns? Nope...Sorry, you're not going to get me to kiss up to Redskins fans after that sorry performance of support last night...At least 20,000 fans were in Steelers garb waving terrible towels...Tony says it was closer to 30,000...There was no home field advantage. It was a neutral field last night...Sorry.

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Arlington, Va.: I am embarrassed to be a Redskins fan today. Any season ticket holder who gave their tickets to Steelers fans should have them revoked immediately. There is no excuse for that, we don't deserve to be cheering for guys like Portis and Fletcher if that is how we show up to a Monday Night game.

Michael Wilbon: I'll publish a few of these so our Redskins friend of the last question can see them...

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Washington, D.C.: Michael,

As a Pistons fan, I tend to give Joe Dumars the benefit of the doubt. But why can't I shake this feeling that we just stepped over the edge of a cliff? Is the Billups-Iverson trade just freeing contract room for next year, or can they beat the likes of Boston and Cleveland with this lineup? Seems like we just sent a lot of toughness to Denver.

Michael Wilbon: It's like Kornheiser wrote this question. This is EXACTLY Ton's position. Are you giving up toughness when you get Allen Iverson? I don't think so, and I'm a BIG Chauncey Billups fan...Joe clearly didn't believe this lineup, as it has been constructed, could get past the conference final...He thinks Iverson is going to give the team a bump with his energy, with his scoring and recklessness and total disregard for his body...Tony, sitting across from me just said, "I love Allen Iverson. He has thrown himself around the court like nobody has...for forever...But that's just it. I don't think the end is very far off for him because of the way he's played..." This is going to be a fascinating trade to follow...Clearly, Joe Dumars took on risk here, but he's also going to have more than $25 million in cap space next summer to pursue either LeBron (the summer after that) or Joe Johnson, or D.Wade...Lots of free agents coming up in '09 and '10...

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New York: Would an Obama win help the NBA, in that we'd have our first basketball-first President? Can't you just see the President of the United States in courtside seats, with players falling into his lap and stuffy Secret Service guys not knowing what to do?

Michael Wilbon: That's a great question...I wonder when the last time that happened...Well, Clinton is from a state (Arkansas) with great tradition in both sports and is a HUGE NBA fan...Clinton often went to see Michael Jordan play and showed up at NBA games when you surely didn't expect it...But Obama is definitely a hoopster...first and foremost. I would think that the NBA should exploit this if possible.

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College Playoffs: So I figure Obama got your vote since he proclaimed the need to have playoffs vs the bowls....right!?!?

Michael Wilbon: He took MY position on the college playoff system! Stolen! But I can forgive that...

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Washington, D.C.: You hit the nail on the head. Would Cowboys, Giants, Bills or Bears fans stand for 20k of the other teams fans showing up? No. You know why? They play in reasonably sized stadiums. You take 15-20K seats out of Fed Ex and make it the same size as the Meadowlands, Soldier Field, etc., then you don't have this problem. Be interesting to see what happens in Dallas next year.

Michael Wilbon: I do agree with you on that. No stadium should be 90,000 plus...No stadium. That's 30,000 too many people. That's 30,000 (at least) who just roll out there to wear a jersey and get drunk. It's sad...I gave my tickets in the club level last night to two good friends, a man who played college football, and his wife...Wonderful people. They left before the game was over because of the drunkenness surrounding them, the language...thought the guy sitting behind them was going to vomit on them. Are you kidding me? If it wasn't for my wife, who grew up here and loves to go to Redskins games but never the night games, I would never have these tickets...I guess I'll have to take Matthew there when he gets to that age but it will be with great, great reluctance.

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New York City: Michael,

Great article on Byron today! Byron deserves another shot as a starter in this league. GO HERD!

washingtonpost.com: Quite a Homecoming (Post, Nov. 4)

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...I love Byron Leftwich...love him to death...And I couldn't be happier for him than I am today (and last night) after he won that game here at home.

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Waldorf, Md.: Am I wrong to be appalled that Tennessee booted Phil Fulmer out the door? I know it has been a bad season, but really, who are they going to get that will take the program up a notch?

Michael Wilbon: I think it's crazy...Nebraska did this when Frank Solich "slipped" to 9-3. How's it worked out for Nebraska since? It hasn't. Fulmer was 10-4 last year...Okay, he hasn't won a championship lately? How many coaches have? Who is Tennessee going to hire that will win more national championships than Fulmer?

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Not a Sports Question:..but then, this is hardly a typical day. I'm curious -- what is being in The Post newsroom like on a day such as this? My polling place this morning was electric. I would think the newsroom is even more so!

Michael Wilbon: I'm not in The Post newsroom; I'm in the little PTI studio where there's no difference from any other day. I have spent quite a few Presidential Election Days in The Post newsroom and there's nothing like it. Twice I drove down to the newsroom at night just to sit around the TV and watch the hustle and bustle (and take some slicers of the pizza delivered when I was young and stupid)...It is electric. My polling place was quiet, which was good...I was in line 10 minutes and done.

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Philadelphia: Mike, First off, how about some dap for the Phillies? Written off by most sports people and prognosticators (you included), they swept through 3 rounds of the playoffs with great pitching, an 11-3 playoff record, and the World Series crown.

Secondly, what do you make of some noted sportswriters (Peter Gammons and Buster Olney, among others) who suggest that this bad weather playoffs should mean a neutral location for the Series? That's a lot of hooey to me, and I wonder if they'd be singing that tune if there were rainouts in Boston, New York, or Chicago? Probably not.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, dap for the Phillies...And no, neutral site for the World Series is NOT a good idea. I hate it. But when the series is scheduled to end (Game 7, if necessary) next year Nov. 7, we can expect more of what we just got, unless it's Dodgers vs. Angels or some such...

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Washington, D.C.: In today's Internet age, with Stub Hub and the like, is it just plain impossible to fill the stands with the home team's crowd? Last night it was embarrassing to see so many Steelers fans at the 'Skins home game, especially with the 'Skins doing so well this year.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for that...

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WIlliamsburg, Va.: Against an aggressive Steelers defense, did the Redskins playcalling leave you wondering...where are the slant passes and misdirection plays? As they were under Gibbs II, are the Redskins predictable on offense?

Michael Wilbon: No, I didn't wonder anything. I watched the Steelers climb inside the Redskins jerseys no matter what plays were called...Slant routes are tough to run when you have Steelers with hammers running through the middle on defense. The Redskins, if you want to point out one thing, have lost decisively to the two teams they played that have tons of physical toughness: Giants and Steelers. Both beat the Redskins and beat them up...That might be a concern. Still, 6-3 is pretty darn good. Only four teams in the NFL have fewer than three losses...The Redskins are in the next wave.

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Arlington, Va.: There were 30,000 Steelers fans in the stadium last night because of the Redskins' policies over the last decade. In the RFK days, the same, loyal fans came to every game for decades. Those RFK fans never would have given up their tickets, let alone sell them to Steelers fans.

That changed with the move to Fedex Field, and the change to Snyder management. He jacked up prices too high, he leapfrogs higher-payers ahead in the season ticket line, and he encourages fans to show up early to mitigate traffic woes.

The result: it's too expensive for fans to go to every game, so fans keep the division or warm-weather games and sell the others. At such high prices, it is often hard to find a buyer; the easiest buyers to find are other teams' fans who never get to see their teams.

Also, with so many young men tailgating for hours, the result is extremely obnoxious, hostile, drunken testosterone-filled behavior. I once took my 8-year old nephew to a game, but never again. It was awful. It's an awful stadium, and the Redskins manage it to soak as much money as possible out of it. And last night was the result.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you for that...

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Reston, Va.: Who do you like in the Cowboys/Redskins matchup? My money is on the Redskins only because the Cowboys seem to be self-destructing.

Michael Wilbon: Redskins...The Cowboys were overrated, now injured and overrated. The Redskins need to win that game at home...And their fans need to attend the game and not sell their tickets to Stub Hub...Wonder if they can manage that?

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Washington, D.C.: Michael,

What's your take on AI to Detroit? Can he run the point effectively enough? Will we see them turn Prince into a point forward? Let Stuckey run the show and bring Iverson in off of the bench?

Michael Wilbon: Iverson, more Stuckey, more Jason Maxiell...This is the way the Pistons are going now. I like it personally...But I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm certain...

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Fort Washington, Md.: The last line of your column hurt my Cowboys sensibilities. After watching Leftwich last night I went to bed saying "Damn, if he was in Dallas we would at least be competitive offensively in Romo's absence" and then I read it in the paper this morning.

Michael Wilbon: The Cowboys didn't do a good enough job getting a backup QB...Leftwich was available to everybody. He might have to start this next game for the Steelers...

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Washington, D.C.:"It really gets a little tiresome hearing how great Redskins fans are...Really, they're a very average lot, at best." Get your flack vest on Michael. Me and many other expats living here will agree with you, but boy oh boy, are you going to catch grief from the locals for that one.

washingtonpost.com: Leftwich's Homecoming Goes All Right (Post, Nov. 4)

Michael Wilbon: You think I'm going to take cover and stay in the house? Sorry...

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San Francisco: Congrats to the Phillies; however, now I'm a little confused. My math skills aren't what they used to be, but does this mean it's now been 72 years since Philadelphia won a championship?

Michael Wilbon: I love that. thank you.

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Chicago: Come on Michael,

At least one person has written in about that great finish Northwestern had against Minnesota! 7 wins, you must be pretty happy, right?

Michael Wilbon: Ha ha! What a way to end the chat, which I have to do since Kornheiser is fretting over our production time...YEAH, Baby! I'm hoping we can beat Michigan or Illinois or both. AND I want to be in the Insight.com Bowl...I wonder if I can stump for that. New Year's Eve in Tempe, Arizona? That's my kind of year-ender...That new QB rushing for 217 yards is going to have me gushing soon...Okay, gotta run...must prepare for PTI and get ready for a long evening that I hope is historic. See you guys next week, live from Arizona where the Cardinals and 49ers will play Monday Night. Back to Monday, back to 1:15...See ya'.

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Washington, D.C.: I love your columns. Thanks for doing these chats.

On the Skins stadium situation, my dad has been a season ticket holder for more than 40 years. I grew up going to the games on his lap until I was big enough for my own seat. Sadly, when the Redskins cut off the Metro shuttles to the stadium, forcing fans to walk about a mile from train station to the stadium, it made it almost impossible for him to attend. It broke my heart to see how upset this made him.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for that.

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Tampa: Who would you rather have as a backup quarterback: Johnson, Bollinger or Grossman?

Michael Wilbon: Leftwich. Write-in candidate.

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Alexandria, Va.: On the flip side, I never could get a seat at RFK. At FedEx a Skins fan can buy a ticket.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for that.

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Columbia, S.C.: The real issue with the Fulmer or Bowden firing is the buyout. These are public employees (yes, they are) and they receive million dollar buyouts at a time where universities are getting cut - 15 percent of state dollars in my state. So, where is the outrage people? Sure, this may be donor or AD money -- but the team wouldn't exist without the university. Sickens me.

Michael Wilbon: Remember, the buy outs are often taken care of by boosters...In fact, buy-outs of coaches are being affected by boosters who lost money recently in the market crash...The fat cats aren't as quick this season to write a check for $500,000 or $1 million to get rid of a coach since a $20 million account might now be down to $8 million.

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Bowie, Md.: I can deal with the loss. It happens, teams play bad games and get beat. Campbell was due for an INT (or two). Whatever.

What I do have a problem with was how bad we got beat in the stands. As Skins fans, we like to think we're up there with Packers, Chiefs, Broncos, Pittsburgh, and those types of places as far as loyalty and passion. But the game last night was closer to a neutral site game than a Redskins home game. Every seat filled by a Pittsburgh fan was given to them by a Redskins fan. It's not like they just raided the box office.

I understand that the Steelers travel well, like the Red Sox, and that they have fans everywhere. I also understand that late games are tough for a variety of reasons. But seriously, if you could not make the game, you couldn't find a way to get a Redskins fan in your seat?

You know the majority of people were just looking to make a quick buck. I know you can get top dollar for your seat, but what's the point of having season tickets if you're not going to go to one of the biggest home games in years?

There are tons of excuses for why people would sell their seats to Steelers fans, but come on, would this have happened in Pittsburgh? In Kansas City? In Philly? In Green Bay? Give me a break. They would never let other fans OVERRUN their stadium. It's just a testament to what a terrible sports town this is when we can't even support the one team we do actually obsess over.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Michael,

I know people are unhappy today about last night, but if you had said to me that the Redskins would be 6-3 at the bye week, I would have taken that in a heartbeat.

Michael Wilbon: Of course you would...And so should they. They should take a cue from you...

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