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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, April 13, 2009; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, April 13 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

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Oddsmakers: What are the chances we'll see a LeBron vs. Kobe Final?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...Just landed about two hours ago in Phoenix and have made it up to Scottsdale where it's 70 degrees or so, no breeze, no clouds, another day in Paradise. Today's Chat, at least on this end, is being conducted poolside...lot better here than in Bristol yesterday (weather) where I watched every sporting event known to man/woman, which is good since The Masters was so compelling and the basketball was, well, okay...Watched what must have been 10 hours of TV sports yesterday, from golf to baseball (Cubs-Brewers) and even women's college bowling...Kobe-LeBron is something we'll get back to later, but I'll entertain Masters questions first...and for the record I think Kobe-LeBron in the NBA Finals in June has about an 70 percent chance of happening.

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Norfolk, Va.: Hello Mr. Wilbon,

Yesterday's final round of The Masters was one of the best I can remember. Tiger and Phil going at it. Chad, Angel, Kenny seemingly playing another tournament behind Tiger and Phil on the course. I just wanted to get your thoughts on yesterday as a whole and where it ranks for you on the all time final rounds in major golf

Michael Wilbon: It was rousing. I loved every second of it. Jon Barry, Stuart Scott and I--and we're as obsessed with golf as with basketball, perhaps more so every stroke. Seems like we planned our basketball broadcast around The Masters, which was as it should have been since yesterday was a rather meaningless final-Sunday of the NBA regular season while that was one of the most dramatic days of golf I've watched...one of the most dramatic days in any sport I've watched.

Okay, Kenny Perry choked. He did. Anybody who competes in sports over a decent period of times has choked or will choke...I don't say this to deride him. In fact, I'm so impressed with Kenny Perry, his candor and humanity. I was rooting for him like a madman when he walked to the 17th tee after his birdie at 16...Anyway, he lost it, but Angel Cabrera MADE some putts, didn't he? I mean, the guy was 3 shots back on 16...AND he makes par after hitting a tree on his second shot! Are you kidding me? And the Phil-Tiger show for about 90 minutes was as good as it gets. JB, Stuart and I were about to hyperventilate when Tiger reached 11-under..Goodness, if Phil either doesn't hit it in the water and makes one putt, OR hits in the water and makes both the eagle putt and the short birdie putt, then Phil wins. But he didn't. God, I loved watching that. All of it, 360 degrees of it. Wonderful, wonderful event.

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Burke, Va.: Is it me, or are the television reporters who do the post-round interviews with Tiger just absolutely terrified of him? With other golfers, the questions are like "what were you thinking when you blew that putt on 18?" With Tiger, the questions are more like "Super round Tiger! What could you have done to make it even more super? Could I get you a beer?".

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I hear you. But it's tough, because the guy is SO great! People threat him with unbelievable deference...I get it. Makes for boring TV, yeah. But by 18, to be honest, Tiger was done. He had to birdie 17...or at least make par and didn't. Plus that, when Tiger gets to the mic he's tougher on himself than anybody can be...He takes it right out of your hands by saying, "I couldn't make a putt." Or, as he did yesterday, "That was the worst warm-up of my life." He doesn't hide it when he makes a bad shot...You don't have to go fishing to get him to tell you.

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Re Mr. Tony: The PTI Twitter feed asked last week whether people would be interested if Tony did a podcast 3 times/week (and whether they'd pay 10 cents an episode). Do you know anything about this? If this a joke? Either way, yes and yes is my answer. Tony's absence on the radio has made 2009 a darker year.

Michael Wilbon: I don't know anything about it. And as far as I'm concerned, Tony should be on radio and writing one column a week for The Washington Post, in whatever section...I miss his column and his show...And I think listeners should pound him upside the head until he puts down the golf club, leaves the beach in Del. and starts putting out LIKE A REAL MAN!!! Seriously, start agitating him. I started last week...We should have a campaign: Put TK back to Work NOW!

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Dallas, Tex.: Does MLB understand that there are fans out there that are Fans of one league and not the other? I am a fan of the AL, but when they have a prime time (on Sun and Wed) they schedule 2 NL games or don't have a variety of 1 AL and 1 NL (this is sometimes). So they recognize that some cities are AL and some are NL cities?

Michael Wilbon: I have to be a little more careful about this answer in these economic times...But if you can shell out the dough, get the MLB package and watch whatever you want to watch, except when the national games are mandated...Watch what you want to watch if you can...Takes the frustration away completely.

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Washington, D.C.: Since you're in Scottsdale (and believe me, I'm quite envious here in gray D.C.) here's an Arizona-themed question. What happens to the Suns after this season?

Michael Wilbon: Great question. I asked Steve Kerr, the Suns GM, just that question two weeks ago...My impression is he could bring everybody back and hope they stay healthy, plus make a deal and draft in the lottery. OR he could blow it up. Some of this isn't up to Steve. It's the call of owner Robert Sarver, who has sold off a ton of draft picks the last few years that could have replenished the Suns (Rudy Fernandez, Nate Robinson, Rajon Rondo, Luol Deng)...They let Joe Johnson go, remember...It's been a sell-off for several years other than bringing in Shaq, which wouldn't have been necessary had they kept the talent they scouted and drafted...

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Cleveland Ohio: After the Tiger Phil show yesterday. How can we go back to watching every day golf. Which is what the rest of the PGA is about.

Michael Wilbon: Watching every weekend is how I come to appreciate the majors. I don't need to see Kobe-LeBron every night to watch basketball...If that's all you see how can you appreciate how special it is? How rare it is?

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New Orleans, La.: Well we got one Washington team in the playoffs. How do you like the Caps chance to win Lord Stanley's Cup?

Michael Wilbon: Can the Caps get past Boston in the Eastern Conference? I'm glad they've got the Rangers the first round, and I hope they advance...Ovechkin from now until late May would be great if possible, and yes, help fill the void left by the Wizards early departure...

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D.C.: Hey Mike.. I noticed Tiger was missing makeable putts the whole tournament. Do you think that he's still a little rusty or was Tiger feeling the pressure of a major event?

Michael Wilbon: Don't overreact. He missed putts. Do you play golf? If you do, you know that everybody from Bobby Jones to Ben Hogan to Jack Arnold Palmer Nicklaus to Tiger Woods misses putts...and will again in the future...maybe tomorrow. He also must have made some to get to 10-under, and one shot off the lead on the final day of The Masters, don't you think?

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Washington, D.C.: 0-6? Why are the Nats still so bad?

Michael Wilbon: Because they don't have very many good players. That's it. That's the bottom line in pro sports, almost always when a team stinks. That, or young players, not ready yet for prime time, which is what the Nationals are saying. They could be right...But it'll take 2-3 years to find out if they're young or simply not any good.

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Re: Tiger's interviews: Mike,

With all due respect, isn't the "kid gloves treatment" Tiger receives have less to do with "reverence" and more to do with "wanting to keep our access?" Hasn't Tiger frozen out reporters/interviewers for being "too critical" (Peter Kostis being one, I believe)?

I know you have appear to have a good relationship with him, but would your opinion be different if you didn't have "favored nation status?"

Michael Wilbon: You think Tiger is different in that regard than, oh, Tom Brady? Or Brett Favre? Or the best players/coaches in any sport? Does it somehow offend you that Tiger has that status? How does it differ from so many others? How much could there be to criticize about Tiger? What, he missed a putt so he should be ripped? Criticize him for what, carrying a sport for 10 years, for doubling the interest and quintupling (sp) the purses and raising the profile of the sport BY HIMSELF. What, we need 60 Minutes to question him for all that? Get a grip, folks. And YES, he has frozen out critical people, as has every great player and coach who has to deal with the media. Nothing new there.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike, have you seen the HBO Thrilla in Manila documentary yet? It is extremely well done and just about chilling to watch. While it is an incredible sporting event, it makes you wonder on some level how on earth boxing is legal. They just about killed each other. Incredible.

Michael Wilbon: I haven't seen it yet, but I hear it's absolutely riveting. I can't wait to see it. HBO does such incredible work, especially with boxing...You're right, when you see the damage those two did to each other, physically and psychologically...it's amazing.

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Madison, Wisc.: "I have to be a little more careful about this answer in these economic times..."

Why do you have to be more careful now? Hasn't one of the overlooked facts about these NFL, NBA and MLB packages been there effect on poor consumers? Especially since poor consumers end up being the majority of the athletes in these sports, particularly the NBA and NFL. Isn't the further segregation of these games into special broadcasts, hurting the overall interest in the games? I know I can't watch an NFL Thursday night game, unless I want to spend 3 hours in a bar. Couldn't some of these sports end up going the way of boxing if they continue to only offer their games through these over-priced sports packages?

Michael Wilbon: You display a wonderful sense of humanity.

Are you nuts? Stop thinking these sports, which are major businesses, care at all about the "poor consumers." They don't. They're in the money-making biz. They don't price their tickets for "poor consumers." Neither does Mercedes Benz, by the way, or Armani. They're in business. Okay, they have some outreach programs and do major charitable work; I don't mean to minimize the impact of those programs. BUT, these are primarily businesses, trying to make a profit...and a bit one at that.

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Washington, D.C.: Mike -- you have an agenda.

Michael Wilbon: Oooooooooh.

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Washington, D.C.: Which team, the Cavs or the Lakers is more likely to lose a playoff series before the NBA finals?

Michael Wilbon: The Cavs, I think. The question is, who in the West can beat the Lakers? The Nuggets? Too small, not good enough on D. The Trail Blazers? They have the talent, the size, the strength, the athleticism. Next year. They need the experience. But Portland could push the Lakers this year...but not beat them four times in 7 games...The Cavs could lose to Boston...So, the answer has to be The Cavs.

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Washington, D.C.: Did you catch the column by Bill Livingston in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the Wizards? Sure the Wiz stink, but wow, that guy couldn't have come across more classless if he tried.

washingtonpost.com: Alas, the woeful Wizards can't provide more playoff laughs for Cavaliers -- Bill Livingston (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Michael Wilbon: No, I haven't but thanks for the link. Bill is somebody I love to read...so I'll check it out this afternoon...Hey, the Wizards are open game for razzing. That's the way it works when you're the worst team in the conference...

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New Orleans: I know you liked Avery Johnson as the next coach for the Wizards, but what are your thoughts on Flip Saunders most likely getting the job?

Michael Wilbon: Ah ha! Good you asked...I just finished a column that will be posted on that (maybe even this afternoon) subject...So, I'll leave you with that tease.

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Vienna, Va.: Did you catch the NCAA Hockey Championship on Saturday? Now that was a National Championship game! Being a BU alumni made it that much sweeter, although I do feel for the Miami fans, that was a tough way to go out.

Michael Wilbon: Congratulations! What a comeback. Wow. Hard to get a more exciting conclusion to a championship game than that. Lots of drama all around this weekend.

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Dayton, Ohio: Hi Mike. Horrible news. Legendary Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas "passed out" around 12:30 in the press box at the Nationals game today and the Phillies are calling the situation "serious." Any Harry Kalas stories you can share with us?

Michael Wilbon: I regret to inform you of some very, very sad news. Harry Kalas, the legendary broadcaster for decades, passed away this afternoon in the Nationals' press box. My editors just informed me and I wanted to share that with those of you who are so up-to-the-second that you already knew of his passing out...So, so sad...Our condolences go out to the Phillies and all the people who for so, so long have listened to Kalas and his distinctive voice. Wow. It leads me to think about the generation of broadcasters I grew up listening to on the radio, and how so few remain with us.

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Lefty: What's the bigger story, long term -- that Phil "pholded" on 12 and the two short putts, or that he hung a front-nine 30 in Tiger's face?

Michael Wilbon: Isn't it always both with Phil? Isn't that why he's so irresistible as a subject, as fodder for the talk radio shows? He gives you brilliant stretches, then just makes these mistakes that seem so monumental and costly...and sometimes careless. That's always the way it is with Phil...And at 37, 38 years old, it's not like he's going to change.

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D.C.: Will his year's Basketball HOF class be the last truly 'old school' induction we have? All three of the inductees (Jordan, Stockton, Robinson) developed their skills in college, weren't products of the AAU, and with the exception of Jordan's brief two-year stint in DC, played their entire careers with one team.

Michael Wilbon: Hey, don't forget Jerry Sloan, who played (I think) all but one year in Chicago (he played for the expansion Bulls in 1966 and is an "original" Bull but it seems to me he came to us in an expansion draft, not the college draft)..Anyway, Vivian Stringer is also in that class...a wonderful class...It CANNOT be the last old-school class...There are some more Dream Teamers who will get in, Scottie Pippen and Chris Mullin I'm thinking about. Shaq will go in. Now, if you're talking pre-1990, then yes. I grew up covering Jordan, Stockton and Robinson...Saw David from the time he was a sophomore at the Naval Academy...He's one of the greatest role models and greatest gentlemen I've ever met, in or out of sports. It's been truly an honor to know him.

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Anonymous: "Harry Kalas, the legendary broadcaster for decades, passed away this afternoon in the Nationals' press box."

Would you rather die doing what you love, or laid up in a bed? At the very least he lived his life doing what he loved all the way to the very end.

Michael Wilbon: A point worth making, yes. I just don't think of 73 as old anymore, perhaps because I'm within a long drive and 7-iron of it myself...But one would hope Mr. Kalas had another 10 years or so, just to enjoy his life and let us enjoy him longer.

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D.C.: Bill Livingston may end up eating a lot of crow if the ping pong ball bounces the Wizards way and they end up with Michael Griffin.

Michael Wilbon: You mean Blake Griffin, that household name in basketball?

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Washington, D.C.: Mike -- Have you ever teed it up at Augusta? Even if you haven't, what are the top 5 favorite courses you have played?

Michael Wilbon: Have not been to Augusta National...My Fave Five golf courses to play? Hmmmm...okay, this gets into areas of personal obligation, you know. Golfclub Scottsdale (where I'll be in a few hours), Columbia in Chevy Chase, Four Streams in Bealsville, Md., Pelican Hill near Newport Beach, Ca., Robert Trent Jones in Gainesville, Va.

Okay, those are places I play either regularly or as a member...BUT, if we're talking places I've played even once, then I've got to go with Spyglass, Riviera, Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., Medina in Chicago, Pelican Hill...How about that, three in California and two in the great midwest!

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Ashburn, Va.: Michael -

Couple of stray thoughts on Masters. First, as dominant as people say that Tiger is (and he may again start a string), wasn't it great to see the competition down the stretch.

Also -- I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about my theory about why golf is so popular. Take any sport -- there is almost no chance the common guy can relate. For example, no way I hit a 90 mph fastball or am able to survive a hit from a 250 lb linebacker. But with golf, even a schmoe like me can hit that one great shot in a round -- that keeps you coming back for more. Maybe that's why golf is popular and why guys like a Kenny Perry -- who seem so regular and not a superstar -- that have a run, make for riveting TV.

Thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: You expressed it so well, you don't need me to mess it up. Well said, and thanks.

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Anonymous: Is Shaq old school?

Michael Wilbon: As a person, no. As a player, yes.

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Reston, Va.: Can you explain the Allen Iverson effect? Why is it that the teams he's on seem to do better without him? It doesn't seem fair because he's been such a great player and a fierce competitor. Is it his fault, or bad coincidence?

Michael Wilbon: Great question. Teams have to built around Allen, for Allen. He can't just join a team and fulfill a traditional role. This is what Larry Brown understood so well when he built a team around Iverson's special and unique talents. Iverson can't run a team like Chauncey Billups. Not to save his life. That's not what he does. But Billups couldn't do what Iverson does, either. I think Allen could have another run if he goes to Charlotte and plays for Brown again. With a defender/spot up shooter like Raja Bell, a shy facilitator like Boris Diaw, a rebounder/shot blocker like Okafor, and a slasher like Gerald Wallace...I think Charlotte could have something next year, a team that could win its division with Iverson, and Brown/M. Jordan building it around him. But we're talking a two-year window, that's all. He's different, Iverson. But what a talent, really an artist.

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D.C.: Do you prefer NBA or college hoops? I prefer the NBA, but still love NCAA. But why is it that people who prefer the NCAA are so adamant about it -- as if it's personal. You never hear NBA fans slamming the NCAA, but you will hear the other way around. It's like they hate the NBA. Why is that? Can you explain why they love watching college players, but won't watch the same men play when they become pros? it's weird.

Michael Wilbon: This is a great place to start next week, if somebody will remind me. Yeah, I love both. But there's an ignorance on the part of a great many college fans that's sorta scary...I mean literally ignorant about the pro game, about how difficult it is. It's a prejudice, a bias that's usually out of control to the point of being blind and agenda-driven...Let's talk about this more as we get into the playoffs. Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI...Great chatting with you all today...See you next week, but I think it's going to have to be Tuesday, not Monday...more details to come...Thanks, MW

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Anonymous: Did you see Ray Allen's fav five shooters? No Larry Bird? What's wrong with that guy?

Michael Wilbon: I gotta ask Ray about that one. I liked the choice of Dale Ellis, though.

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El Segundo, Calif.: Re Harry Kalas, What a great announcer! I grew up in South Jersey listening to him and it was always a treat. I had the great fortune to meet him in Montreal and he gave me two tickets to the next day's game right behind the plate.

He will be missed. Thoughts and prayers for his family and friends.

Michael Wilbon: The Clippers, playing only six men, would beat North Carolina by 40 points...in their sweats...This is the kind of naive stuff I'm talking about. More soon on this topic. You guys got me going now.

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D.C.: Did you see Gary Player make that hole-in-one shot this weekend? What a way to go out at the Masters.

Michael Wilbon: well, it was a second shot...actually he carded a 3, par on that hole...BUT STILL, I've never done that. I'd love to do it on a third shot. The Masters surely will miss Gary Player, a historically significant figure in golf and culturally.

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Tiger, the press, etc: While your point re the treatment of Tiger vis a vis other athletes is well taken (Favre, Brady, Jordan, etc., all get/have gotten some significantly kids glove treatment) I think there is an issue with how close many in the media are with players. As someone who is admittedly friends with people you cover, how do you make sure you stay objective?

Michael Wilbon: I'm not objective. That's a great subject for another time, too. I make no pretense to being "objective" which is the most overused word in journalism/media and the misunderstood word by readers/viewers/listeners...We'll have to visit that, too.

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washingtonpost.com: Harry Kalas is Dead [Update] (Nationals Journal, April 13)

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