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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: Albert Haynesworth, Sports Journalism and a Sorry Snow Day

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, March 2, 2009; 1:35 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, March 2 at 1:35 p.m. ET to take your questions about the Albert Haynesworth signing, other NFL offseason moves, the latest NBA results, the role of sports journalism and what makes a legit snow day.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

Micheal's latest column, about Albert Haynesworth signing with the Redskins: Whether Dazzlers or Duds, There's No Lack of Fireworks

Discussion Archive * Column Archive * Talking Points Videos

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Capitol Hill: On your Talking Points Web video, you and Tony made fun of Redskins fans who didn't want them to sign Haynesworth but then in your column you appeared to agree with all of their arguments. Which way are you really leaning?

Michael Wilbon: Hi there everybody...Took me FOREVER last night/this morning to get here from New York to find minimal snow (at least where I live) but that's what I ought to fully expect after 29 years of living here and knowing that the D.C. area is going to be paralyzed by any amount of snow, even if it's negligible...Anyway, that's what Tony and I do...poke fun at overly serious fans, particularly Redskins fans who wake up every day to tell you how the sky is falling (must be the same people who panic over the snow)...Signing Haynesworth might work...He alone is good enough to affect the play of everybody along that defensive line. On the other hand, with the money Dan Snyder spent there's no doubt he could have used the same amount to acquire three linemen who might wind up having the same or greater impact. Which way are we leaning? I don't know that I'm leaning either way. I want to see what happens; I'm not interested in predicting.

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Washington, D.C.: In your Chicago state-of-mind, does the storm that blanketed the northeast today merit a snow day?

Michael Wilbon: In Hartford and Boston and further north, up the 95 corridor...yes, absolutely. Some of those communities, from reports I've heard, got a foot or more. Fine. Shut it down. Washington, D.C.-area? No chance. Another joke of a snow day, and please don't e-mail me with all the excuses. If communities in the midwest and further northeast shut down at every 4 inch snowfall they'd cancel life from Thanksgiving to March Madness.

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Charlotte, N.C.: Mike, I'm curious to here your take on The Post's investigative reporting about Maryland men's basketball this year -- ie the 3-part series and Sunday's Under Armour story.

I have always thought the Terps get more serious media scrutiny than possibly any other program nationally because of the size of The Post and the quality of your reporters. As a former reporter for the paper here in Charlotte, for example, I seriously doubt N.C. papers would ever undertake recruiting exposes of Carolina or Duke basketball during the season.

washingtonpost.com: Shoe Company's Ties With Maryland, Link to Top Recruit Raise Questions

Michael Wilbon: I think you're right about the way Maryland is covered because of where it's located. I knew that back when I was part of the coverage of Len Bias' tragic death in June of 1986...I know there are some players coaches in both major sports feel they have to back off on because they'll receive greater scrutiny than they would in, say, Kansas, just to pick a more remote spot to the news world.

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Ijamsville, Md.: Could you comment on the perception that some of your sports writing colleagues and editors at The Post are being accused of bias, undermining Maryland basketball and Redskins football and hurting the writer's ability to more effectively cover the teams. Thank you.

Michael Wilbon: Most of that stuff is just junk. I don't listen to much of it so I don't know the particulars you're talking about. But the Redskins? Seriously, what we're supposed to be the Burgandy & Gold Illustrated? I'm a columnist. If, through my reporting, I feel criticizing the Redskins is what's needed, then I'm going to do it, period, no matter what the Redskins think or whether somebody at Redskins Park migth be upset with me and take it out on the beat writer...First of all, that, in my experience as a beat writer, rarely happens. It does occassionally. But when Dave Kindred or Ken Denlinger or TK wrote something tough about Maryland 20 years ago, I didn't find Lefty Driesell or Bobby Ross took it out on me. Quite the contrary...They might vent to me about the column or the columnist. Same with the Redskins. I never found that Norv Turner took out on me his annoyance with Tom Boswell. Sorry...

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Rockville, Md.: How about a little love for the Lady Terps, your 2009 ACC Basketball Champs. Any man who loves basketball should throw out his chauvinist agenda and check them out. Kristi Toliver's step-back 3 is one of the most beautiful basketball moves I have seen in college this year. Those women can ball, plan and simple. Not to mention, a woman who can whip you in one-on-one is pretty hot.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for that...The Maryland women seem like they have a real chance to win a second national championship in the Friese/Coleman/Toliver era...They bear watching as much as any team, men or women, in March...

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Kansas City: Mr. Wilbon-

I LOVE the trade for Cassel, but let's be honest, that was a gimme to Pioli. I'll take it and cover my face with mud, but that is a shady deal. If I wasn't a diehard Chiefs fan, I would call for an immediate investigation and public flogging of Belichick.

Michael Wilbon: What, you think Bill Belichick can't take a second-round pick in the NFL draft and find a QB who turns out to be as good or better than Cassel? Sorry, I disagree. This kid was a seventh-round pick, right? And now he has a big salary which makes him tougher to move. The Patriots probably would rather have the three second-round picks and their own first than two firsts...because of money reasons and because they, unlike the Redskins, never overpay...well, hardly every...They got Randy Moss for a 4th-round pick? Please, you think Belichick doesn't know what he's doing? Better use another example. The Cowboys, speaking of overpaying, gave up one first, a third, sixth and seventh to get Roy Williams. That seems like a good move for the Lions, to me. And the Cowboys then gave him $20 million guaranteed and $45 million overall in the form of an extension. You kidding me?

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San Francisco: One more. Since you work for a newspaper, are you joining the general panic about the future of newspapers?

Michael Wilbon: Future of newspapers? How about the present? I'm not in a panic because my newspaper, this newspaper, is in much better position for a number of reasons than other newspapers. But in general, as a person who loves newspapers and who grew up in this industry which has been wonderful to me personally, yes, I'm depressed about the state of the newspaper industry. The Rocky Mountain News is gone, poof! And it's just the first newspaper to go of many. It's a sad, difficult situation and it doesn't appear things are going to get better.

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Snow day?: What snow day? I'm at work here in downtown DC. Okay sports question, did you see the end of the NC State - Maryland game? If so, what do you think of Vasquez' final shot? If I was his coach I'd have a word with him and not much else. I'm glad he apologized and seemed sincere about it and his statements after the game. It was a thoughtless moment, but I don't think it was truly malicious.

Michael Wilbon: Thing is, he's Maryland's best player and a kid who'll do something to draw attention to himself whenever possible. It's a dilema, for sure. But I don't know what I'd do if I was Gary, other than be in his grill, which he already is.

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Philadelphia: What's gotten into Shaq this past week? Is this a harbinger of a late-career resurgence, or just a statistical blip reminding us of what once was?

Michael Wilbon: It's more than the past week. Shaq is averagging nearly 20 points and 9 rebounds a game since January 1. He feels physically about 300 percent better than he did the last year-plus in Miami, where he disagreed with how he was treated medically there. But Shaq feels great physically, he's told me how much he loves playing and sharing a locker room with Steve Nash and Grant Hill. AND the Suns are tossing him the ball. Look, Shaq's done as a week-in-week out dominant player, but he's the third best center in the league right now behind Dwight Howard and Yao Ming...Okay, fourth if we count Tim Duncan as a center, which is what he really is...

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Washington, D.C.: Kind of an off-topic question, but were you as stunned as many that the Broncos would try to trade Jay Cutler?

Cutler seems like an interesting guy to me. You sometimes need to be a bit of a politician to be an NFL quarterback and he seems like the least diplomatic guy in the league. He's always angry at someone, whether it's Brandon Marshall, the Broncos defense, Philip Rivers and now Josh McDaniels. I think this guy has a little Ryan Leaf in him. Am I wrong?

Michael Wilbon: No, this is a really good question. No, I'm not really surprised. Cutler isn't the most popular fellow among his peers, or his teammates. He's got talent, though probably not as much as he thinks. he's 17-20 as a starter and never made the playoffs, though to be fair his team's defense usually stinks it up pretty badly. He's taken on Josh McDaniels, the new coach of the Broncos, and the team's management, saying he won't even talk to them. Hey, you can find lots of guys to go 17-20 who don't make the playoffs. I can think of some teams who can use a QB (did anybody say the QB-vacant Chicago Bears?)...I think the Broncos will trade him. Tony thinks he'll wind up under center in Denver in Sept. Interesting case. But what we're starting to see is that Cutler, despite his physical attributes, is a pain in the rear to many.

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Arlington, Va.: Michael,

What do you think of Jim Bowden's claim that he was tried and convicted in the media court and thus felt it necessary to resign?

Michael Wilbon: Here's what I think: It was nice having you Jim. Get out. Your team is dreadful. You're in the center of an international embarassment...Goodbye.

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Washington, D.C.: "But the Redskins? Seriously, what we're supposed to be the Burgandy & Gold Illustrated?"

No. But why are you pretending you aren't biased against the Redskins? I'm not saying your writing is, but it's so clear you don't like the team - or maybe it's just us fans.

I've read your columns, seen you on PTI and come to these chats often. I like your work and respect you immensely.

It's just sports. They're just games, so I don't mind that you don't like the Skins or us fans. But why pretend otherwise? Your dislike of the Skins is palpable.

Michael Wilbon: I don't care about the Redskins, Sir/Ma'am. I don't love them, I don't dislike them. And because I don't love them, you've decided I hate them. Sorry, you're annoyance doesn't change my indifference toward the Redskins. I cover them. I don't root for them, didn't grow up with them as my favorite team as a child. Yet, there are Redskins former players I hold in the highest regard...men including Bobby Mitchell, who I think is a truly inspirational figure in Washington (and my family, since he's one of my father-in-law's best friends), Sonny and John Riggins who have put up with me on a TV set for 13 years and who have taught me so, so much about football and about competition in general, Darrell Green, Joe Theisman, Doug Williams, Dexter, Mark Murphy, Mark May, George Starkem Mark Moseley, Jake, Grimm, Bostic, Ernest Byner...These guys have become longtime, longtime friends in some cases, some of them people I very much admire. Many of them have helped me do my job. Joe Bugel? Are you kidding me. I should pay college tuition to Professor Joe Bugel and Richie Petitbon for not kicking me out of their offices over the years sitting there asking about Xs and Os and systems and philosophies...So why would I hate the team? That doesn't mean I'm going to not be critical about them...If you want to read cheerleading, look elsewhere...That's not the job.

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Fairfax, Va.: Michael,

Is the World Baseball Classic ever going to really capture the interest of baseball fans in its current format? The timing seems terrible, if you ask me.

Michael Wilbon: Good question. I don't know, but I love to watch. I love international competition in every sport, but I understand the angst teams have about injuries, especially to the pitchers. I don't know if it'll fly, but while it's being played I'm going to watch.

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Washington: Maybe Bowden was tried and convicted in the media court. But does anyone think he was wrongly convicted?

Michael Wilbon: Fair question...

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Madness coming...: Who deserves the #1 seeds? UConn, Pitt, NC... and who?

Michael Wilbon: Oklahoma...They'd be my choice.

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Owings Mills, Md.: Are NBA players following the rumors of a possible decline in the NBA's financial strength?

Michael Wilbon: The smart guys, sure...Yes, I talked to a number of guys about it two weeks ago in Arizona for the All-Star game...

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Falls Church, Va.: Do you think Manny Ramirez wishes he played football or that Dan Snyder owned a baseball team?

Michael Wilbon: Ha!

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New York, N.Y.: Will the Stephon Marbury experiment work in Boston? Will he still be on the roster in April, or are the Celtics taking a long shot at trying to get someone to play behind Rondo?

Michael Wilbon: I think it will largely because KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce police that locker room and they don't suffer fools at all. If Steph is not with the program almost immediately, they'll go to Doc Rivers and say, "Doc, this guy doesn't get it...this guy doesn't want to practice...this guy is selfish'...whatever it is, and he'll be out. Steph is also in a contract year, and he has to know this is his last shot at a real contract next year. I think he'll toe the line.

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Detroit: So Rip Hamilton goes back to the starting lineup, replacing Allen Iverson, and the Pistons go on the road and beat two of the top three teams in Boston and Orlando. I understand the long-term benefits of AI (i.e. cap room), but in the short term, how will his "demotion" and attitude affect the rest of the team? For the first time this season, the Pistons looked good.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, and they looked good because Rip Hamilton is a team player and knows how to incorporate all of his teammates when they need to be incorporated...like Tayshaun Prince. Allen Iverson is a wonder. But he is a wonderous soloist, primarily, and he plays for himself first, then for others. He did this in Denver, and in Philly. It's who he is and teams have to acknowledge that. I don't blame Iverson for the Pistons losing streak; I blame whoever decided, and I presume the rookie coach, Michael Curry, to put Iverson into the starting lineup and Hamilton on the bench. That move was insane. Pure insanity. It made no sense then and none now. And to see the ball movement and offensive flow with Iverson out and Hamilton in is to recall what the Pistons have done all these years.

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Washington, D.C.: Should the Wizards trade their lottery pick to Phoenix for the Suns medical staff?

Michael Wilbon: Ha! Very funny. But this isn't a Shaq case. The Wizards medical staff is fabulous. The problem their primary player had, Gil Arenas, was of his own doing...ignoring the prescribed rehab to conduct his own wildcat rehab...which led to additional surgery.

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Los Angeles: Mr. Wilbon,

Do you have any advice you can offer for a college journalism major who is an aspiring national sports columnist? What's the best way to get you foot in the door with a leading publication such as ESPN.com or The Washington Post? Thank you. Keep up the good work.

Michael Wilbon: Internships. You have to write, write well, write often, write for publication, write on deadline. The newspaper industry is dying, but story-telling isn't, and on-line reporting is thriving...Internships are the key. You have to do them while in college and prove to people you can do it in the big leagues. And not just opinion pieces...report. Impress people with who you can get to tell you stuff that matters.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Hello Mr Wilbon,

Because I am a Wizards fan and they are God awful this year my only reason for following has been to see if and when Gilber Arenas will return. With the recent reports that he has begun praticing again do you feel it is smart for him to come back this late in the year?

Michael Wilbon: I think he should play the last three or four weeks to see where he is, and allow the team that's paying him $111 million to assess how to approach the draft, free agency, and his continued rehab. How do you know whether to draft a point guard if you don't know any more about Arenas' status than you did in October? I hope he plays, but a NBA veteran of many years told me recently it's better for Arenas to come back after a full summer and training camp, that he needs to be back in a routine and mentally tough as well.

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Arlington, Va.: Mr. Wilbon,

What sport do you think is at most risk to sustain permanent harm from this economic crisis? NASCAR and golf seem to be the most vulnerable.

Michael Wilbon: I think NASCAR, golf and tennis are more dependent on sponsorship than the others, though they all rely on it to some degree...Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI today, where we'll talk about the Patriots-Cheifs trade, Shaq, and who knows what other stuff...See you next Monday, which will kick-start the March Madness stuff...Thanks everybody and have a great week...

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