The Chat House With Michael Wilbon: Redskins, Tiger Woods, Wizards, NBA and more

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, December 14, 2009; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Mon., Dec. 14 at 1:15 p.m. ET to discuss the Redskins, Tiger Woods, the NFL, the Wizards, the 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.

Mike was also excited to defend his candidates for best sports story, athlete and overlooked story of the decade, which are open for user voting now at World Wide Wilbon.

A transcript follows

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Washington, D.C. Eyestreet NW: Have you ever seen a meltdown similar to Tiger's present situation. It's like a PR Chernobyl. Is it conceivable that he might not play professional gold again for months or even years or ... ever?

Michael Wilbon: Good afternoon everybody ... hope all of you are enjoying the Holiday Season. I am. I'm a holiday fanatic so this is my favorite time of the year, actually ... The Tiger news has thrown a damper on it for me, however. And to answer this first question, no, I've never quite seen this kind of meltdown. I don't fully understand it, because I just don't think "Famous Incredibly Wealthy Man Sleeps With Women Other Than His Wife" is the most shocking thing ever. Not the cheating, not the number of women, not any of it really, other than the DISCOVERY of it. It's like "Dog Bites Man." As my journalism professors always told me "Man Bitest Dog" is the story ... Maybe it's just more difficult to shock me than most. Maybe I've spent so much time with one foot in the celebrity athlete world as a reporter that nothing much shocks me. Either way, it's so incredibly huge as a story now. I went to a holiday party the other night and it's ALL that anybody talked about for four hours. I mean, it was intelligent and sometimes compelling back-and-forth which was fascinating ... but again, famous wealthy man cheats on wife isn't exactly the stuff that's going to keep me up at night. A President of the U.S. did it outside the Oval Office. Hell, a QB who was in the Super Bowl 10 years ago was killed in an incident related to a woman who wasn't his wife. One of the most respected coaches in college basketball was involved in an extortion episode in which it was revealed he has sex in a restaurant with a woman who wasn't his wife. Was I stunned by any of this? No, absolutely not. Is Tiger Woods bigger than either of those and most of the others. Absolutely, yes. Did he allow his image to be crafted and marketed in a way that was hypocritical? Yes, absolutely. Is this a first? No. Are there far more celebrity-recognized men who cheat on their wives than people out there seem to understand? Oh, yes. People are stunningly naive. Still, all this is legitimate conversation in the wake of the Tiger Woods scandal ... Hell, we're not even in the wake; we're still in the eye of the storm. And it's been three weeks. Wow. That's what stuns me. It's the only thing that stuns me ... the reaction to it all.


Fairfax, Va.: Wilbon, love your work! I wanted to ask you about something that was reported by your colleagues at ESPN. Adam Schefter stated that if the Dallas makes a coaching change after the season then Shanahan would prefer going there as opposed to coming to D.C. If that is the case, should Redskins fans want Dallas to win to keep him away from Jerry Jones?

And what if Shanahan does go to Dallas, who is Snyder's plan B seeing that Holmgren wants no part of this place, Gruden is happy on Monday Night and Cowher is not a Snyder fan and would rather coach the Panthers?

Michael Wilbon: Thank you ... It's been known for weeks that Mike Shanahan would prefer Dallas over the Redskins. And I've been told Mike Holmgren would be open to the idea of running the Redskins but not coaching the Redskins. Me? I'd have tried to hire Holmgren to run the Redskins and hire the coach. But you've all seen that Holmgren has talked to the Bills and Browns about running those franchises, which leads me to believe that the guys who own those teams have not tried to convince Holmgren to coach the Bills/Browns.


Washington D.C.: Mike - Fess up - what was the new breakfast joint you referenced on PTI last week? Pleeease?

Michael Wilbon: Oh, those things are, well, created and dramatized...shall we say. Those opens to the show are meant to me, ummm, funny. Are they?


Hillsville, Virginia: What rumors are you hearing on Danny boy's choice for the next head coach?

Michael Wilbon: If Danny's choosing the coach again, what different does it make?


Washington, D.C.: Do you think that media outlets like the Today show are being irresponsible in their airing of the Tiger Woods stories? It seems like every day there is a new woman claiming to have had an affair with him but they don't provide any actual evidence. Shouldn't shows like these need real proof before they let people on the air?

Michael Wilbon: I don't watch the Today show...I'm not up early enough to watch any morning shows so I can't even speak to whether these women appear authentic or not, in terms of their claims of their relationships with Tiger. One would think the producers would have exmained them before putting them on camera but I don't know that with great certainty. Are people still titillated by these women and what they have to say. While there's completely justifiable criticism of Tiger for sleeping with them, is their criticism of them for knowingly sleeping with a married man and then talking about it publicly afterward? Just wondering.


Washington, DC: Wilbon, when Joe Gibbs left the 2nd time, he told both Snyder and Cerrato to keep the continuity of the team to which Snyder replied by firing both Williams and Saunders and bringing in a new system with Zorn. That being the case, is there anybody on the planet that Dan Snyder will not listen to but TRUST to help turn this mediocre team around? I mean he talked about having so much respect and reverence for Gibbs but then he screws it up again. I can just see another rebuilding, mediocre 7-9 8-8 season next year with a new coach and if Campbell is here, yet another offensive system he has to learn. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: That's the billion dollar question. Who would that person be? If not Gibbs, then who? I don't know of such a person. I'm not around the Redskins enough anymore to know who might be persons of influence ... but I would bet that he's going to hire another coach again. I'd be shocked if he hired a strong GM/Director of Operations type who ran the team day to day. Shocked.


Washington, DC: "It's the only thing that stuns me...the reaction to it all."

Really, the acts themselves don't stun you? Tiger Woods sleeping with dozens of women, including multiple actresses from the porn industry? Gimme a break.

Michael Wilbon: No. You give me a break. You think you around as many famous and wealthy men as I've been around on a daily basis for 30 years. Give me a break. Your naievete is stunning. And the worst part is people who don't know then have the audacity to tell other people what the score is are usually so clueless they simply need to remain quiet ... and listen to people who have a greater sense of the situation that they do. That surely includes you.


Washington DC: You have said in the past that you have spoken with Snyder and shared your thoughts about the Redskins.

Have you been able to determine why Snyder sticks with Cerrato when he is so keen on getting every new "it" player or coach each off-season. He seems determined to hire the best available coaches (Schottenheimer, Gibbs, in years past, Shanahan maybe this year), granted not always succeeding (see Spurrier).

He does the same with players (Deion, Bruce Smith, Haynesworth, etc.)

Why does he stick with Cerrato? By no one's standards is Cerrato considered great at what he does. Many would argue he is subpar, at best.

Why didn't he take your advice and go after Polian? Why doesn't he pursue the very best GM/Team President he can find?

Michael Wilbon: You think Cerrato makes these decisions? You think Vinny hires the head coaches and make unilateral decisions on which big star free agents to sign? You'd be completely and spectacularly wrong. That's why somebody strong enough to tell Snyder to take a seat and enjoy the ride has to run the Redskins to make any significant changes. Cerrato signs most of the players, yes. And he has input on the big players and on the coaches, yes. But Cerrato doesn't run the Redskins the way Bill Polian runs the Colts. Snyder is the lead dog in that operation. Always has been. That's the issue.


Waterloo, Iowa: Fred Davis has proven to be the most reliable of the "Cerrato Posse." In my mind this begs the question of a trade to assist in actually building this team. Chris Cooley is a Pro-Bowler with many great years in front of him so what to do? The Redskins are not in a postion to hold that type of depth at this time so I think a good GM would look at trading one for some picks (prolly Cooley). As much as I hate to say that as he is my favorite Redskin I see it as a must to assist in building a young, dominante, Offensive line along with the other glaring needs.

Michael Wilbon: I just had this conversation with Kornheiser this morning and agree with you completely ...


St. Louis, Mo.: Michael, with the way the Redskins have played over the past five or six weeks, it is possible that Jason Campbell may have played himself into an extension? Likewise, a number of players like London Fletcher have been vocal about their support for Jim Zorn. Do you see any way that Jim Zorn is back here as the head coach? Do you think he deserves to be?

Michael Wilbon: Zorn is gone. Get any other notion out of your head. If the Redskins win their final four games, Zorn is still gone. And that's as is should be. Zorn shouldn't even want to be here. He has to hope Snyder fires him so that he can get his money and get on with a normal life. Let's ask this about Jason Campbell: Can you find a better QB under the age of 30? The Bears thought they had with Jay Cutler. How's that working out? The Jets thought they had in Mark Sanchez. He's young, but how's that working out? Where would you get that QB? In the draft. You think Colt McCoy is automatically going to be better than Campbell? I don't. You think Jimmy Clausen, who is No. 4 on Mel Kiper's big draft board, is going to be better than Campbell? Maybe down the line, but how far down the line. In three years? It takes awhile ... I'd try and keep Campbell, but let me look at the other side of this. NO WAY if I'm Jason Campbell would I stay with the Redskins if there's another team(s) interested. I'd be getting the hell out of Dodge while the gettin' is good.


Washington, DC: Michael,

I think there is an argument going on here that has to do with semantics. Readers seem to be emphasizing a reaction based on revulsion at the acts when they use words like "stun" or "shock." You seem to be emphasizing "surprise," in that you are well aware of the fact that many powerful/wealthy people cheat. I think what the readers want to hear is your perspective on the Tiger story in terms of what it says about him as a person, not about his place in the social/economic hierarchy.

For what it's worth, I think the immorality of it is appalling, especially when you think of the disregard for his wife's health (and by extension his children).

Michael Wilbon: You raise a completely legit point. But you're not going to like my take on Tiger in terms of what it says about him as a person. Apparently unlike most people these days, I don't judge people based on their values or mine. Jack Nicklaus spoke for me when he said, "It's none of my business." I know Tiger a little bit, socially and professionally. I don't care who he sleeps with. I don't know (and don't care) what kind of deal he and his wife have or had. Some couples have deals, certainly when there's a celebrity involved, and some do not. Some have what I would call traditional marraiges, some do not. I know Tiger as a guy. I liked him before this information poured out. I rooted for him as a golfer. I still will. I feel badly for his wife and his children (who luckily, aren't old enough to grasp all of this yet), and his mom and their friends who this has to be rough on. I hate that the whole episode transpired. Do I find myself feeling differently about Tiger? No, not particularly. And if I did would it be based on him getting caught? Then would I be required to feel differently about men I know sleep with people other than their wives ... but YOU don't know that information? My larger point is, I don't base my judgements of men or women by whom they sleep with. Haven't, don't, and hopefully won't. It's not my business. Yours either (in my opinion).


In regard to Cerrato: I think the other questioner was asking why Snyder sticks with Cerrato, when he pursues flashy players and coaches. He is certainly not flashy - why no changes at GM?

Michael Wilbon: Maybe because Cerrato does what the owner wants him to do ... Wouldn't that be the obvious answer?


Washington, D.C.: I am happy you are pointing out how naive people are I mean they like to point finers but I know if I had all the money and fame Tiger has it would be tough to turn down all those beautiful women throwing themselves at me.

Michael Wilbon: That's a big, big, big part of it, too. BIG part.


San Juan, P.R.: Regarding the Tiger issue, what amazes me is that these days people think that any imperfection automatically implies that a person is a charlatan. Please. While I don't agree with his conduct, it's a personal matter and a mistake.

Michael Wilbon: thanks for that ...


And Zorn?: Mike - you seem to think Zorn WILL be gone, do you think he SHOULD be gone?

Michael Wilbon: Will be ... and probably should be.


Anonymous: I hope this makes it. As for the general public and this astonishing naivete', I would simply provide the simple example of the high school/college jock and how he typically had a good number of female friends. Not all beautiful, but numbers nonetheless. Now take Tiger Woods. Internationally known, took the world by storm at 21 or 22, and was offered $100s of million off the bat in endorsements. Not condoning his infidelity, but the women have been there since the beginning.

Conversely, Tim Tebow is a professed Christian "not until he gets married" virgin and many folks think it's a tremendous waste of the prime years of his life.

Michael Wilbon: Great point ... thanks for that.


BCS : Michael,

I am glad that you and Sally Jenkins keep after the BCS. Do you think that a Div. I playoff system could become a reality any time relatively soon - say the next decade?

Michael Wilbon: I think so, yes, in the next 10 years ... but maybe I'm just hopeful and am too close to advocacy here. But does anybody out there really believe a playoff right now, this month, wouldn't have been great for college football? And don't give me the "regular season matters more" thing if the teams who are anywhere near the top of their leagues are playing for inclusion in the playoff?


Bethesda, Md.: I have been shocked by not one thing that has come out in the Tiger Woods feeding frenzy. I am a year younger than Tiger and certainly do not have even a fraction of his money or fame but I see guys his and my age cheat all the time. And they certainly do not have the options that he has. I thought Jason Whitlock wrote a great article about Tiger last week that was thoughtful certainly controversial and completely not PC which I think commentary on this situation needs the most.

My question is as a member of the media who has developed close relationships with many athletes and access that the average joe who reads the Post will never have, what do you do when you learn of an athletes infidelities. Do you turn a blind eye because it is not sports related or do you report it? Hopefully the former.

Michael Wilbon: I turn a blind eye because I fundamentally believe it's nobody's business, period. Now comes the unless ... UNLESS it affects his (or her) performance in the arena.


Rhode Island: Here's the part I don't get: Anyone with Tiger's money and connections surely could have, um, hooked up with a high class, discreet escort service. Tiger is many things, but he's not dumb, so that was the shocker for me. Cocktail waitresses and pancake house hostesses; really? What could go wrong?

Michael Wilbon: Did it dawn on you that what you describe, the Escort Service, is illegal in America. And suppose he was caught in a sting or one of the escorts decided to talk to the one of the tabloids? This would be different, how, except for the part where it is illegal...


Dennis Green ... He's NOT who we thought he was: Tiger is so compelling because his actions are the complete opposite of how he marketed himself. He was our hero (rich, good looking, beautiful wife, excellent golfer) who turned out to be flawed. We wouldn't react to Brad Pitt acting this way the same as we would if Denzel did it.

Finally, the coverage of President Clinton was bigger when he had the fling with Moinca

Michael Wilbon: Very, very good points, all of them. Thanks for that.


Baltimore: What a strange ending Sat. night at the Phone Booth. At what point do the Wizards reach the point of no return and blow this thing up? And you can include Flip, Ernie, all of 'em. Maybe Leonsis's expected takeover (and the presumed accompanying drastic changes) is the out that this franchise needs...?

Michael Wilbon: Oh, I think you just got to the point. When the new ownership takes over, especially given Ted's success with thhe approach he had rebuilding the Capitals, why would he stick with what's going on now? I don't know the answer but I suspect he'd take the Capitals approach with the Wizards...


Seems like ..: I remember hearing you and Mr. Tony a long time ago, that neither of you will ever say someone is a nice/good person because of your experience covering so many personalities... you will always preface it by saying he or she "seems" like a nice/good person... because sooner or later, so many people turn out to be different than what they seem.

Michael Wilbon: That's true ... thanks for pointing that out about us. Also, I don't base how nice someone is on what they do behind closed doors in their homes.


Feinstein's Column Today: John Feinstein wrote today: "There has never been an athlete in history who has experienced anything like this in the prime of his career.....Woods is one of the 10 or 12 most important athletes in history. You can sit around and argue about the list for days and Woods is going to be on it somewhere. And no matter who are the other names on your list, none ever went through anything close to this."

Mike, judging by your previous columns, you and Feinstein are in complete disagreement. Care to comment?

Michael Wilbon: No, we aren't. I can't think of another athlete who has gone through something like this ... this kind of public humiliation? Who? It's a different time. More media, new media, social media, gossip as mainstream news. Oh, Tiger is the first athlete to have this hit him ... I wrote that in the lead of my column last week.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Seems to me Tiger had a pretty simple choice: stay single and enjoy the ladies, make a deal with Elin that allows him to play around, or get married and honor his vows. Based on everything I read, he went with choice No. 2 or choice No. 3. and didn't hold up his end of the bargain. He didn't hold up his side of the deal with his sponsors, either.

While you may call me naive for expecting a rich, famous athlete to be faithful to his wife, I would call Tiger naive for going after trashy chicks and not expecting to get caught.

Michael Wilbon: I'm not calling anybody naive for expecting it...I call them naive for thinking it doesn't happen anyway. AND I agree with the options you laid out 100 PERCENT. Agree. With you, no question.


Washington DC: For anyone who wonders why Zorn will be gone, think about this. The offense was going absolutely nowhere until Zorn was relieved of his play calling duties and Sherm was brought in. The offense under Jim Zorn was terrible.

Michael Wilbon: Could you ever believe we'd be saying the Sherman Lewis thing could work? Given how we all thought at the time it was insane? But ultimately, I agree with you. Okay, gotta run ... Wow, that went fast, all the Tiger stuff. But if you check World Wide Wilbon tomorrow morn, I will have answered at least five more questions, another one or two about Tiger and some more about local sports, including the Wizards, who have been so disappointing so far. We're really down to the Capitals carrying us this winter, aren't we? Well Caps and Georgetown Hoyas ... Bye everybody. Gotta run to prepare for PTI ... Have a great holiday week ... mw


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