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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, February 2, 2009; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Feb. 2 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions about the world of sports and his recent columns.

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The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive * Column Archive * Talking Points Videos

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washingtonpost.com: Michael has just logged in and will begin answering questions.

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Washington, D.C.: Provided Tom Brady's knee is healthy, would you still take Ben Roethlisberger over him? Brady's been to five AFC Championship games, won four of them, and has gone on to win three Super Bowls.

Michael Wilbon: Ben. I'm taking Ben. Are you kidding me? Did you watch the game? Did you pay attention to the entire season? He's 26 years old and has won two Super Bowls. What else is he supposed to do. I said in October I'm taking Ben. I said in November I'm taking Big Ben. And I'll say again now, at the beginning of February, give me Ben...Belated hello. I just got back in, from Bristol/NYC, not Tampa...I left Tampa Saturday to get north and prepare for the NBA on ABC...But what a Super Bowl. I think it's the greatest ever...And I think Ben, with 2 Super Bowls, will go on to be one of the greatest QBs of all time...

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Alexandria, Va.: I had become completely disillusioned by the NFL's use of replay in the past year, but now I don't even understand the point of having it. Really, if you're not going to use it to look at a "fumble" in the waning seconds of a competitive Super Bowl, then really what's the point? I'm not arguing that it wasn't a fumble, or that the Cardinals got jobbed, but it was surely worth a look. Do you have any insight into the reasons for not reviewing the fumble that locked down the game?

Michael Wilbon: You HAVE to look at the replay of that last play. You have to...I don't understand it either...Unless they're just scared of what they might find. I don't get it.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Mike-

True or false: your guy Larry Fitzgerald showed his talent the most on his second TD, but showed his character the most chasing down and then trying to tackle Harrison.

Michael Wilbon: Agree. Absolutely agree. Larry Fitzgerald is the best receiver since Jerry Rice. I don't know how to put it more simply than that. The best. I wouldn't argue against Randy Moss if somebody wanted to argue Moss...And Cris Carter, to me, is still underrated in the modern history of receivers, as is Marvin Harrison in his prime. But if you're giving me a choice of receivers over the last 20 years, after Rice I might just take Fitzgerald because he does it all, does it all every down (unlike Moss for a couple of years) and does the dirty work that speaks to his character...Yes, I totally agree with you...

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How Far We've Come: I love that an African-American coach can win the Super Bowl and the big deal is that he is young. It was not all that long ago that having a coach of color would have been a story and it just isn't anymore.

Also, thanks so much for your story about the Fitzgerald family. As what I like to call "pop culture" sports fan. I am more of a Tiger on Sunday then following the PGA tournament kind of fan. I love all the personal stories that humanize the game. For me this is what makes it interesting.

Michael Wilbon: First, thanks...Second, you're right about Tomlin. It's so great that a second black coach has won and everybody can go (hopefully) about the business of identifying who can coach, regardless of color or age...Very refreshing.

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Brooklyn, NY: Am I the only one who think the whole Michale Phelps thing was much ado about nothing. All the poor guy did was experiment with something that almost all people his age have experimented with. I'd almost like him to stand up and say "I smoked a joint. So what?" I don't think he has anything to apologize for. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: I agree with your sentiment that Phelps didn't do anything all that different from tens of thousands of college kids in America. That said, I won't condemn him but I won't condone it either. Phelps knows he's a role model of epic proportions because of his athleticism, his accomplishments, his discipline, and his willingness to have a high public profile...He's going to earn, by his own camp's assertion, more than $100 million trading on his image. When you make that deal, you have to live up to it. Michael, who's a very aware kid, knew this when he signed on, as they say. He knew it when he was stopped for driving while intoxicated a few years back and said he was sorry. If it was the only thing, I'd be inclined to give it a pass. But the DUI, which is far worse, makes it tough to let go, even though the offense is hardly the worst thing in the world.

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Milwaukee: Speaking of Cris Carter, he didn't get into the Hall of Fame again! Is there a reason for this?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, there's a limit on the number of nominees who can go in at one time...And all the people who were selected were guys I'd have voted for. Now, I'd be in that room agitating for Carter if I was still a selector, which I haven't been for a couple of years now. He has to go in, plain and simple. In my opinion, Carter and Shannon Sharpe are absolutely Hall of Famers...

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Harrison's Legacy: First: is that the greatest game-changing play in SB history?

and second: what was he thinking late in the game when he assaulted that Cardinal?

Michael Wilbon: Greatest game? Yes. I think it's better than last year, and better than the St. Louis-Tennessee...The way they went back-and-forth on the final two possessions was just amazing, and I have no idea what Harrison was thinking. John Madden said he should have been thrown out of the game, and I agree.

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Silver Spring, Md.: If your son played in the Super Bowl would you follow Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.'s example and not cheer your son on? I hope not. Senior Fitzgerald has taken this no cheering in the press box too far. He should lighten up and enjoy the moment. His readers won't care if he admitted to wanting his son to do well and showed it at the game.

Michael Wilbon: It's not about his readers. This is something you likely won't understand, but cheering in front of other people is trained right out of you when you're a reporter. It's only recently, going to Wrigley Field and Soldier Field for a couple of games, that I could stand and cheer. When I've gone to my nephew/Godson Jordan's games, I've had a hard time cheering. It's been 29 years of no cheering. And Larry Sr. is three years older than me. He probably can't cheer. And sitting in the stands, he have had no peace. He would have been bothered and pestered to no end. Once you're a reporter, this is the way you behave. My Goddaughter, Brittany Wilbon, plays lacrosse at Northwestern...I can't cheer when I watch her...I scream encouragement or something specific when she was playing high school games. I couldn't really cheer...So, I get how Larry's been programmed all these years. Trust me, he enjoyed it more than you'll ever know.

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Bowie, Md.: So how would folks react if Lebron James got photographed taking a bong hit? I agree that its not a big deal that a 23 year-old smoking weed isn't the end of the world. But I think the pass the Phelps is getting wouldn't be extended to everybody.

Michael Wilbon: This is what Tony K. is screaming at me right now, that the reaction to a whole lot of athletes would be much, much, much worse...and it swings largely on race and class...I argued with him at first, but he's wearing me down...When you trade on your image, you have to take a hit. But he's not taking a big one yet...Then again, it was Super Bowl Sunday...maybe it's just a delayed reaction.

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"So, if I'm forced,: I'll stay with the Steelers, 21-20, on the strength of a sack-strip-fumble recovery in the final 90 seconds of the game."Wow! (for the rest of you, this was Wilbon's prediction in his Sunday column)

washingtonpost.com: In Defense Of a Tough Super Bowl Prediction (Post, Feb. 1)

Michael Wilbon: You can't see me, but I'm taking a bow! Thank you...And I'm taking NO credit for it because I knew I didn't know who would win. I'm justified in thinking it was going to be too crazy a game to call...

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Alexandria, Va.: When do you think that the Steelers will get a reputation for cheap shots. I usually hear people say hey are "hard-nosed" or "chippy." They seem to have a Teflon rep. If the Ravens or the Raiders did some of the things that the Steelers have done over the last month or so, their names would be complete mud.

Michael Wilbon: Aaaaawwwwww...You must be a Redskins fan. Are you?

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Refs?: Why didn't Santonio get flagged for excessive celebration on his TD? Replays clearly showed he used the ball as a prop! I assume the refs were in thier huddle trying to figure out if he had two feet inbounds, but someone should have seen it. I only say this because if he had penalized and ultimately cost his team the Super Bowl (because of the ensuing field position), maybe the NFL would reconsider their celebration rules (okay, maybe not).

Michael Wilbon: He should have been flagged, and it would have cost the Steelers 15 yards. I thought the Steelers got way, way too many benefit-of-the-doubt calls yesterday...and that might have been a huge one.

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Washington, D.C.: I couldn't care less about the Cardinals, but the officiating in that game last night was a disgrace. How does the NFL pick who refs the Super Bowl?

Michael Wilbon: I agree with you totally, and the guys who work the game earn it based on performance...They got a lot of stuff wrong, in my book.

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Baltimore: For what are theoretically the "dog days" of the NBA season, the Celtics appear to be just getting their legs back under them. Peaking too soon, or can we expect to see this level of play come May/June?

Michael Wilbon: Maybe peaking too soon...because they're an old team and they don't need to win 68 games in the regular season. They need to be healthy and ready. That's all.

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Laurel, Md.: What exactly is keeping Paul Tagliabue out of the Hall? He only oversaw the NFL when it absolutely exploded in popularity and became the most lucrative sports league. Are they really holding the Los Angeles thing over his head?

Michael Wilbon: A lot of guys simply prefer to vote players in, and there becomes a glut of guys who don't get in. Paul Tagliabue deserves, absolutely, to be enshrined in the Hall...He'll get in, I'm betting. But he doesn't have to go in ahead of Bruce Smith and Bob Hayes, does he? Paul would tell you he doesn't.

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Washington, DC: Speaking of the HOF selections what is up with Russ Grimm? The man was a huge part of one of the most impressive and impactful lines in football and had a stellar career! How is he not in?

Michael Wilbon: It's a longshot for him to get in, too. And I think he was the best lineman on the best line from 1982-1991...Okay, the 49ers and Bears and Broncos and Giants also had great, great lines during that period. But the Hogs were the signature line. I know there are guys in the room who believe Grimm is a Hall of Famer, but apparently not enough. Joe Jacoby was discussed for awhile, too, but his name didn't come up for very long.

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Anonymous: Mike, What's your take on the Gary Williams/Debbie Yow drama? Why is it that more top recruits do not come to Maryland? Why is it that Gary is not a good recruiter?

Michael Wilbon: I have totally missed the drama of last week because I was in Tampa covering the Super Bowl run-up...I have zero idea what's up with that, other than there is drama, and I have to familiarize myself with it by, oh, tonight...Sorry, I can't offer any sensible comment, but I'd just be making noise and there's enough of that out there...

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Avant-Card: Have the playoffs and Super Bowl changed the Cardinals? Obviously plenty of Super Bowl teams have struggled the following season, and you never know what will happen injury-wise, but it seems to me the Cardinals are a very different team now than they were before the playoffs began. Think this will carry over to next season?

Michael Wilbon: Good observation...The Cardinals are a different team now. But the question, especially in light of reports that Kurt Warner might retire, is can the Cardinals build on this or will they be another Super Bowl loser that doesn't make the playoffs next season? Will Anquan Boldin be traded? Will Edgerrin James say enough is enough? So many questions, like a lot of teams. I hope the Cardinals remain a serious threat. They're entertaining to watch and I spend a lot of weekends in Arizona in the fall and would love to get to watch a championship contender up close and personal. But we've seen the recently history of teams that get to the Super Bowl and lose (Patriots, Bears are the last two) and fail to make the playoffs the next season.

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Let Them Celebrate: This is a football game. A game. Really let them use the ball as a prop. Lay down exhausted in the end zone after they run 100 yards. Whatever, I am here to be entertained not to watch a Presidential debate. Life is so serious all the time. This are people who get paid to entertain by playing a game in. The serious police can go watch cricket and golf and let me have my football!

Michael Wilbon: I think most of us agree with you that the rule is stupid and is part of a set of rules than drains much joy from the game. I know I agree with you. But the point is, if you've called that penalty all season long, why not call it in the Super Bowl when it's obvious and affects the other team's field position so dramatically?

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Washington, D.C.: There's an argument to be made that parity in the NFL is a bad thing and that it leads to mediocrity. I'll say one thing for it though, it has improved the Super Bowl so much. Remember when the Super Bowl used to end up being a blowout every year? In the last 10 years there have been more great games than in the previous 30 years combined, right?

Michael Wilbon: Great point.

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Washington, D.C.: What a great game. Larry Fitzgerald announced himself as a true star. And hopefully a role model to other receivers in his team first approach.

My question for you Michael is: In the last ten years it seems that the Super Bowls have consistently been better games. One factor in this I believe is that the salary cap levels the playing field and does not allow one team to get too far out in front of the pack. I believe the good GM's in the league have found a way to build good competitive teams which do not have too much separation between them.(Although certainly not all teams have mastered the salary cap era as of yet.)

Michael Wilbon: You both make the same point, and I think you're nailing it.

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Richmond, VA: I think Roethlisberger certainly improved his stock last night. However, you do realize that Brady has three rings (and I, personally, don't really like Brady). Also, Roethlisberger's first Super Bowl (the game itself, not the season) was obviously won in spite of him playing a terrible game. I think you are overrating him slightly. I'd take a healthy Brady and a health Peyton Manning over Roethlisberger for next season (maybe not for the duration of time, as Roethlisberger's younger).

Michael Wilbon: I understand why people would take Brady and Manning. I would take Ben. I don't care about passing #s or MVP awards. I care about winning the game. That's all. And I think Ben can win another Super Bowl or two, while I don't really believe the Cotls or Patriots will win again with Manning and Brady, who are among the greatest QBs ever...And ever. Still--let me say this again--I'd take Big Ben.

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Burke, Va: They did review Warner's fumble in the replay booth, and determined that it was indeed a fumble. They mentioned this during the broadcast, and it was on the ESPN crawl all night.

Michael Wilbon: But they didn't do a formal review and announce it at the time, which they should have.

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Burke, Va.: Hi Michael,

While the first half of the Super Bowl was being played, over on ESPN2 was another epic sporting event taking place - Nadal vs Federer in the Aussie Open finals. Nadal, having played a 5 hour plus match in the semis against Verdasco less than 48 hours prior, showed some grit and determination in addition to great shotmaking. Also good to see Serena win both the singles final and the doubles with her sister. Good stuff.

Michael Wilbon: Nadal is amazing. He's now beaten Federer, maybe the greatest player of all-time, on clay, grass and hardcourts...and done it consecutively. The thing to me though was that Federer had such a meltdown after losing. Okay, you can sob your eyeballs out after winning. But after you lose? Goodness, I was stunned by that. Anyway, the tournament had some very memorable matches, including Nadal's 5-setter in the semis which lasted more than 5 hours, a record for the Australian Open...But seeing Nadal beat Federer again...

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Fairfax, Va.: I know it was a busy sports weekend for you, but did you catch any part of the back to back caps games? Alex the great scored 5 goals in two games.

Are you planning on getting over to the VC to check out the Caps in person soon?

Michael Wilbon: I was in Tampa and New York...The Caps weren't on the menu, Fairfax. i know they're playing well and I know Alex the Great had a hat trick over the weekend and looks unbeatable...but this was no on the national agenda...Maybe the Cappies will keep it up long enough to get some national (international?) attention. But pro sports begin in the playoffs. February is nice stuff, don't get me wrong. But the playoffs begin the first week of April, right? The Capitals have had some great individual and team performances over the years in the regular season. The playoffs are what I want to see...

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Washington, D.C.: What was your favorite commercial? And do you think they were on par with past SB commercials?

Michael Wilbon: I covered 20 Super Bowls, so I wasn't watching commercials. And from what I've seen the last two years when not covering the game, the whole commercial thing is wildly overrated. I thought they were, well, silly. Or plain dumb. The Troy Polomalu/Coke re-make commercial was an embarassment. The people who desecrated the Mean Joe Green, "Here Kid" ad from the 1970s should be fired. I'm serious, that was so dumb and thoughless. I think it's the Simon Cowell-ing of America, where people have to say offensive stuff or throw a ball in somebody's crotch. It's just stupid and in-your-face and no smart on any level...Not to me. I loved the Taco Bell ad where the guy gets the hot blonde's phone number and calls her before she leaves the restaurant and then has dinner with her and introduces his parents all before she gets out of the door...That's the ONLY one that made me smile.

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Nadal for Grand Slam: Yes, it's early, but doesn't Nadal have to have a good chance of winning the Slam? French is up next, and that's his #1 surface. Then Wimbledon, where Federer reigned until last year...who else is going to beat Nadal?

Michael Wilbon: It's certainly something to look forward to...And Serena Williams has won the last two, right? U.S. Open and Aussie Open...

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Fairfax, Va.: I thought that the on-air interview Kurt Werner did after the game was pure class. The mugging done by Harrison was reprehensible. Can the NFL fine him for that after the fact?

Michael Wilbon: No. Harrison can play football. He's not the most polished fellow in the world. He just gets paid to help win the game, which he did.

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Washington, D.C.: You said: "When you trade on your image, you have to take a hit. But he's not taking a big one yet."

Phelps did take a big "hit," that's why he's in trouble.

Michael Wilbon: Ha ha!

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think the people who vote on the Pro Football Hall of Fame should be allowed to publicly discuss the deliberations? It would be interesting to learn why Paul Tagliabue has yet to be elected. Is it even possible to tell the history of the NFL without mentioning Tags? Isn't that practically the definition of a HOFer?

Michael Wilbon: There are a lot of Hall of Famers. Tagliabue doesn't have to go in this second. He's going in. People are amazing. If he's not going in on the very first ballot it's somehow an affront? Tags deserves to go in...and will.

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Cleveland: Do you think his performance in this game affected Kurt Warner's chances at HOF election one way or another?

Michael Wilbon: I think Kurt should be in the Hall of Fame, period...just getting the sorry, no-account Cardinals to the Super Bowl sealed it for me. And the way he performed last night? Yes, he'd get my vote...I think he's in.

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NYC: Are you saying that Federer's a wuss for crying or does it show how seriously he takes competition, or both?

Michael Wilbon: I'm not making any statements...I'm just saying I'm surprised...it took me aback, that's all...Okay, I gotta run and prepare for PTI which you guys have helped me do with these discussions...See you all next week. Be well. MW

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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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