The Chat House With Michael Wilbon

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

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Mon., Nov. 2 to discuss the Redskins, the NFL, the World Series, the impending NBA season, World Wide Wilbon (which is Not Just Another Sorry, No-Account Sports Blog) the latest sports news, his columns and anything else on your mind.

A transcript follows

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Bethesda, Md.: Michael, How long until we see expanded replay in baseball? We all know it's a purist's game, steeped in tradition, but the number of missed calls is truly appalling. With the technology that tells the viewer whether a pitch is a ball or a strike it's clear that the home plate umpire makes the wrong call a fair amount of the time. Thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: Hi there everybody. Thanks for coming to chat today. I'm in Arizona for another few hours where the metropolis here is pretty depressed over the local football team. Wow, that seems to be a constant theme of wherever I happen to be! But we'll start with baseball since the Redskins were off yesterday and because there were only two games worth talking about in the NFL. MLB needs to adopt expanded replay right now. When the technology is available to show everybody at home what happens, the sport looks bad when the only guys who don't know are those on the field. Sports, like any other industry, have to be as current as possible. With all the replay angles, HD, etc. there's no excuse for a sport not to use replay in all the situations where there's subjectivity. Foul calls, home runs ... I think it's not out of the question to look at balls-and-strikes in the context of tennis and its line calls. Home plate umpire? Sure, for tag plays at the plate but not for balls and strikes. I could see it. I'm old enough to flinch a little bit but we have to update everything. Baseball seems prehistoric in its approach to some of these things. It's time. And the notion that it would take too long doesn't fly since managers and umpires get into 30-minute arguments all the time that would be avoided with a quick check of replay. By the way, Big Ten football gets this right all the time with the way they review almost everything and get it right within seconds. It's worth the effort.


Seattle: Do you think Damon's steal of third will have teams re-thinking the infield shift trend?

Michael Wilbon: After 100 years? Probably not.


Arlington, Va.: I'm a big fan of you and Kornheiser on PTI and read your column when I can.

I'm a Cincinnati alum and estatic about the top five ranking, but sick of the back-handed compliments I often hear in the media. How about some credit for the squad stepping up when their starting QB goes down with an injury.

Also, any thoughts on the chances coach Kelley returns next year?

Thanks for the time.

Michael Wilbon: Cincinnati deserves a big smooch for marching right through its season, especially having to do it with the No. 1 QB down for a bit. Very impressive ... Do I want to elevate Cincy ahead of Texas Christian? No. TCU has many more impressive victories and should be ranked no lower than No. 4. TCU won at Clemson, at Virginia, at BYU when they were in the top 20 ... and to go undefeated they'd have to win against Utah, which I think has one loss still. So hugs for both of them.


Avon, Indiana: How good are the Colts?

Michael Wilbon: Along with the Saints, I think the Colts are one of the two best teams in the NFL. Peyton Manning is playing as well as he ever has. There's a nastiness about the defensive players we don't usually see in Indy. In a game against Denver or the Patriots I'd take Indy right now ... How about Jim Caldwell, boys and girls, as a serious candidate for coach-of-the-year? Guy comes in for Tony Dungy and we think he's going to struggle, and he's done just the opposite; he's thrived.


Orlando, Fla.: Hi Wilbon,

Do you think the A-Rod camera homer is what gave the Yankees the momentum going to a 3-1 lead?

Michael Wilbon: The Yankees erasing that 3-0 deficit, all the parts of that rally, is what has them ahead 3-1. If the Phillies grab a 2-1 series lead it's totally different. Now, it ends tonight, don't you think? I know Cliff Lee was masterful in Game 1 but the Yankees just seem to be the better team. I believe in the notion that at some point in every series that doesn't go seven games both teams realize who is the better team. This series reached that point last night when the Phillies couldn't finish off the Yankees after tying the game, 4-4.


Bears-Ravens: So, I see that the Bears are coming to Baltimore in week 15. How do you think these two teams will be by that time?

Michael Wilbon: I think the Ravens will have recovered to find a spot in the playoffs and I think the Bears will be 7-7 and hoping for a miracle. That's a difficult conclusion for me to draw as a Bears fan, but ...


Washington, D.C.: I don't understand the people calling for instant replay on fair/foul calls. After the umpire calls a ball foul, everyone stops running. What are we going to do, "assume" we know how many bases the runner would have advanced?

Michael Wilbon: What are we going to do? Get it right, Sir. Get the damned call right.


MLB: Mike -

Does baseball seem to be of the mindset that steroids will just blow over? With steroid user Alex Rodriguez on the verge of getting his ring, and Mark McGuire coming back with the Cards, it almost seems like steroids are no big thing.

I guess as long as TV contracts keep breaking records and advertising partners keep lining up, Bud Selig doesn't care what his players put into their bodies.

Michael Wilbon: As long as fans keep going to games. You convienently forgot that part, didn't you? People don't care, bro. In the main, fans don't care. May be hard for you to swallow. It was for me at first, too. But overall, it's a big deal to the media and to baseball officials. And that's a tough reality.


Washington, D.C.: Boxing has become synonymous with brain damage. Do you think it will happen with football as well?

Michael Wilbon: Very, very good question. To me, it depends on what parents think. If parents become too afraid to let their children play at the Pop Warner level, then the talent pool is going to shrink...This, of course, would take years, maybe a couple of decades. I'm the parent of an 18-moth old and I'm scared to death of him playing football, having read and talked to Malcom Gladwell. How could you not be scared to death? How could you not be scared if you watched Brian Westbrook of the Eagles lay there on the FedEx Field turf last Monday night, unable to move any part of his body for more than a minute, his teammates looking on crying, his brother coming onto the field when he saw the reaction. Remember, these things happen in high school football as well...Very unnerving for me. Question is, how many others feel the same way? Or is football SOOOOO big people will simply think the glory is worth the risk? I'm paying attention to every word of it. I'm trying to assess the level of concern to see if it's being dismissed or taken seriously.


Washington, D.C.: This season more than ever we have been reminded why the quarterback is the most important position in sports. Every good team in the NFL has one common denonminator: a good quarterback.

A good quarterback can overcome mediocre coaching (ie. Norv Turner), but a good coach can't overcome a bad quarterback.

Michael Wilbon: Good QB can overcome mediocre coaching only to a degree. The Chargers, remember, are one of the great underachievers in sports today...But in general, yes, your point is very well taken.


Dayton, Ohio: You and Kornheiser deserve that Emmy. Do you think Ken Griffey Jr. will always be a victim of being great during the steroids era?

Michael Wilbon: Thanks. I don't know if we deserve an Emmy or not. The TNT show with Charles, Ernie and Kenny, is unquestionably the best studio show on television. I watch 'em all and I enjoy that better than anything. As for Junior Griffey, yes ... Well, I don't want to say victim. I don't know that only people who took steroids won championships. Do you want to make that claim. He does seem, from what we know now, even more honorable, though.


TCU: Does beating Virginia really count as an impressive victory? Didn't Virginia lose to William & Mary?

Michael Wilbon: Beating Virginia in Charlottesville is more impressive than some of those overhyped SEC victories and certainly more impressive than winning most of the games in the Big East, which doesn't deserve its automatic spot in the BCS bowl games. Most of the big-boy teams won't even go on the road and play a quality opponent. They play eight home games, four road games, none of consequence ...TCU went on the road to play two conference non-conference teams (Clemson and Virginia) which are supposed to be competitive teams in a power conference. So don't dare downgrade that. It takes more guys than playing some of those games Florida and Alabama play non-conference.


Washington, D.C.: As a parent of a five-year-old who wants to play football, I'm with you. I'm trying to encourage anything and everything else in the sporting world (soccer, baseball, lacrosse, swimming) but he keeps saying he wants to play football when he's old enough. I have another son who plays hockey, and that doesn't scare me as much as football.

Michael Wilbon: I haven't done the research yet, though I will, on how dangerous soccer and hockey are. Seems to me, as the Godfather of a young woman who played soccer from 6-18 that soccer in some ways is just as dangerous when it comes to concussions and some of the head injuries suffered. Hockey, I have no idea of yet. My father simply banned football when I was born, and I'm glad he did. I've watched it, consumed it, loved it, studied it, covered it ... but only played sandlot football, if you will. Tackle football, yes, but no organized stuff with helmets and pads. And I'm glad I never did. I might ban it, too. I'm old school. I'm not running a democracy at my house. It's a dictatorship to some degree, especially as it concerns safety issues. I don't give him the choice of sticking his hand in the fire. It's no, get away from it, and that's that. Haven't made up my mind about football just yet ... I've got six or seven years. And with my kid (38 inches tall, 32 pounds already at just 19 months) football is probably going to be something he wants to play.


Columbus, Ohio: Fellow honorary member of the Bald Brotherhood. Much to Tony's dismay, we all know that Lebron is not going to the Knicks. Do you think the Lakers could possibly sway him to the West coast and if they can, how good of a team would that be?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, LeBron is not going to the Knicks. The Nets, however, are another thing. It was never going to be the Knicks. The Nets, playing in Brooklyn with Jay-Z involved is what attracted LeBron ... and now that there's a new owner with billions (yes, with an "s") of dollars to spend on the team and a new complex in Brooklyn, watch out. And yes, L.A. I could see, too. I've posed the question about the Clippers instead of the Lakers, though. Think about this: That team already has two combo guards who can play the point (Baron Davis and Eric Gordeon), the slasher he doesn't have in Cleveland in young Thornton, and two inside players in Marcus Camby and Chris Kamen. Add LeBron to that and bring in whatever coach you want. Isn't that a much better squad that he's got in Cleveland right now? Of course it is.


Bethesda, Md.: How can a baseball player admit to doing steroids in the year they won the MVP and not be stripped of the award? If it was the Olympics they would take those medals away in an instant ...

Michael Wilbon: Ah, but it's baseball ... self-righteous baseball ...


Southern California: How do you feel Coach Saunders would best utilize a young, skillful and talented player such as Nick Young?

Michael Wilbon: playing him enough to showcase him for a trade now that Randy Foye and Mike Miller are aboard. How many scorers do you need on one team? Nick Young can score ... not sure he can do anything else but he can put it in the basket. The Wizards need an old dude for the streth run. Maybe Nick Young and a little something else can fetch one.


Monticello, Ind.: Not quite yet to the half way point of the season for the NFL. Who do you see winning the Super Bowl?

Michael Wilbon: I don't go that far. I see championship games: Steelers vs. Colts in the AFC, Saints vs. Vikings in the NFC. I had the Cardinals in that game until yesterday. Big setback game for Arizona.


Washington, D.C.: Why doesn't the NFL do more to make sure it's players wear helmets that fit properly? A lot of times they seem to bounce up and down like a bobblehead doll and fly off at time when players get hit.

Michael Wilbon: Well, you identify one of the areas where football simply has to do a better job.


Big East v. ACC: Big East has a far better record in bowl games than the ACC over the last four years.

Michael Wilbon: The ACC stinks, pure and simple. Is that your bar? They shouldn't have the automatic bid either. Virginia and Maryland are simply awful. Isn't Miami really the only good team? Okay, Virginia Tech is good but incredibly overrated (as I believe I pointed out from Week 1 of this college season. Where are all you Va. Tech people who were so mad at me then for saying you were overrated. Real quiet out there ... not hearing so much volume from you people!)


Raleigh, N.C.: So, I'm watching college football and see something I have rarely seen - lots of empty seats at SEC Games. In fact, my college, South Carolina, looks poised to put in a 20 year or so low in attendance. This coming from a school that sold out during an 0-21 losing streak.

Are colleges and the networks worried about this? It seems to be a trend in college sports. Yes, the economy sucks and yes ticket prices are probably too high (combined with more PSL's and the like), but lots of people aren't going to games (MLB, NFL, etc.).

For me, I would rather watch at home. Bathroom, no drunk fans, no parking/traveling nightmare, cheaper, etc. Plus, I can watch virtually any game on TV. Is this going to eventually harm athletics? Part of the hype in the SEC and such is the atmosphere. But, the ESPN/CBS deal may destroy that very atmosphere and harm viewership. I mean, a TV game used to be a big deal, now it's standard. And, if it's standard, why go to a game?

Michael Wilbon: Did you just join the discussion of the economy-and-sports in progress? This has been a primary concern of leagues and television partners for more than a year. Attendance is down, ratings are up. Football is a made-for-TV sport but when the economy bounces back people will go back to attending the games they cannot afford to attend now.


Denver, Colo.: Michael, when are people going to stop underrating Carmelo and the Nuggets? They get to the Western Conference Finals and yet all the "experts" discount them as a contender.

Michael Wilbon: Carmelo is my preseason choice for MVP this year. Problem is they lost Linas Kleiza who was a big part of what they did last year and didn't replace him. Don't think Denver can get back to the conference finals this year (I think they'll be passed by San Antonio and Portland. But I think Carmelo is really at the point where body and mind are at the place where he'll go from damn good player to great player who can beat out LeBron and Kobe for MVP, even though his team won't be as good as theirs.


Alrington, Va.: Who do you have tomorrow night in the Phone Booth? Gil or Lebron? Can the Cavs handle the Wizards depth? Who and how many will be in charge of stopping Lebron? Who gets more calls, Lebron or the entire Wiz team?

Michael Wilbon: That game isn't at The Phone Booth, it's in Cleveland, at The Q ... where I'm not taking anybody against LeBron and the Cavs. I know they lost once already, but that was to the Celtics, the champs once-removed ... and the Wizards aren't the Celtics. Oh, I'll be watching. Can't wait to see it and I'm thrilled the Wizards seem to have the wherewithal to be a much, much, much better team. Blatche ... who knew! Good for him. Hope he continues to pay attention. It's like adding a new player to the lineup.


Oregon Ducks: How 'bout them Ducks? BSC bound? They beat the snot out of USC!

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, they dismantled USC. The Quack Attack is beastly. That offense is every bit as difficult to stop as Texas Tech's offense last year.


Bowie, Md.: What Bowl do you think Georgia Tech will go to this year? Ga. Tech has performed well with the triple-option and defenses don't know how to handle it and then deal with Nesbitt when he throws. If they keep on winning do you see them being ranked higher?

Michael Wilbon: I don't do bowl guessing. But I picked Georgia Tech (sorry for leaving them out of the ACC discussion .. .probably did so because they don't seem like an ACC team; they're miles better) to win the ACC in the preseason. Looks like they have a real shot at being 11-1, no worse than 10-2 ... If they win the ACC they'll be in a BCS bowl and a good one. Their coach, Paul Johnson, is the best in the ACC, period ... and one of the best in the country


Didn't Virginia lose to William & Mary?: A couple years ago the Redskins beat the Patriots. Doesn't mean the Patriots weren't good or that the Redskins were great. Sometimes good teams just lose to worse teams. You can't judge on one game alone.

Michael Wilbon: You don't really watch a lot of sports, do you. It means the Redskins had a good game and the Patriots no so much. That's it. Stop trying to assign the meaning of life to pro football games.


Washington, D.C.: Regarding parents and football, it seems like a lot of football players also are talented at basketball, yet decide to play football for some reason. Considering the contracts in the NBA are guaranteed, while the NFL ones are not, why don't more parents steer their kids to football? Not to mention the safety issues already addressed.

Obviously there are less roster spots in the NBA than NFL, but there are tons of leagues overseas that you can make a fortune playing in, while there's no other legit football league.

Michael Wilbon: The kids who choose football over basketball are the ones who aren't as good at basketball. Most kids who are better at basketball, especially black kids, choose basketball. Different story with white kids and it's a fascinating cultural exploration...I've had this discussion with white basketball players...wrote about it a couple of years ago...White kids get talked out of playing basketball, even the good ones, often because their parents or people of influence talk them out of it...tell 'em "You're' not as talented as those black players." Football, even though 65-70 percent of the NFL players are black, is still a sport where talented white players from an early age still feel there's a place for them. And increasingly they rule out basketball. Tim Legler and Chris Mullin, among others, are great on this subject ... Anyway, that has nothing to do with safety because kids aren't thinkng about safety and most parents aren't either. But in African-American communities, which stock both the NFL and NBA, trust me, they ALL want to play basketball ...The exceptions are certain places in the south, Flordia and Mississippi and Alabama most notably. But even there, if they've got talent for both, it's basketball, which is a much bigger deal in Black World than football and much bigger deal than football in mainstream America.

Okay, gotta run and get to the studio in Tempe so that I can do PTI, then catch a flight back home to D.C. immediately after ... See you guys next Monday. Have a great week everybody ... MW


Arlington, Va.: Hey Mike -

Bill Simmons has been waving the Clips flag for LeBron for a long time. Seemed like you should give credit there in your earlier post.

Michael Wilbon: No, Bill and I -- talking to completely different sources -- have been on this for awhile now. I wouldn't rule it out.


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