The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: Pro Bowl, Wizards, college basketball and more

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, February 1, 2010; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon will be online Feb. 1 to discuss the Wizards, college basketball, the Pro Bowl, next weekend's Super Bowl, the Redskins' future, 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

Discussion Archive * Column Archive * Talking Points Videos


Avon Park, Fla.: Why doesn't Jim Caldwell get more credit for the Colt's success? If you say it's because he has Peyton Manning, keep in mind that Jim Mora Sr. didn't win a championship with Peyton Manning. So you can't say that anybody can coach him.

Michael Wilbon: Hello Everybody ... Coming at you live from Miami where it's cloudy but 70-plus degrees and best I can tell there's no threat of snow. Is it true the forecast up there in D.C. is for a 15-inch hit mid-week? I might never come back, especially after the D.C.-area's disgusting performance Saturday when malls and Fed Ex locations and banks (Bank of America in Bethesda near my house, anyway) started shutting down at 11 a.m. because there was (at the time) three inches of snow ... It keeps getting worse and worse. What's next, a George Clooney telethon for snow relief in the nation's capital? So, this is going to be our Alaska winter, with snow every few weeks? We're in big trouble then since our snow strategy is to say, "It doesn't snow here so we'll just shut down the city rather than have snow plows and salt and a strategy" even though it snows a little bit, at least, every year. The best thing you can do in D.C. in January/February is get the hell out because officials running the metropolis are too dumb to deal with 25-30 inches of snow. They'd rather lose millions of dollars closing stuff than remove it in a timely, sensible, responsible fashion. There's nothing cute about it, or rebellious ... It's just dumb.


Anonymous: Alright, so who you got in the Super Bowl? and where will you be sitting to see the big game?

Michael Wilbon: Ooops, I got so wound up in snow talk I forgot to answer the question about Jim Caldwell not getting more credit ... It's simple: the Colts were built by other people, Bill Polian and Tony Dungy. Caldwell gets about the same amount of credit George Seifert did when he took over for Bill Walsh after three Super Bowls, and about the same amount of credit Barry Switzer did after he took over for Jimmy Johnson after two Super Bowls. The Colts won more teams than in in the decade and Caldwell was there only for this season, so it's understandable. He didn't have to built this, he only had to maintain it for a year. Now, if he maintains it for four, five seasons he'll get major credit, too, especially if he does it with Peyton Manning's successor, or the team personality changes to defense-first or they become a power running team or something different than they are now.


Washington, DC: Michael ... You're Dr. Faustus and Satan comes to you with the choice: a Pulitzer for you or Northwestern in the Rose Bowl? What about Pulitzer or a World Series for the Cubs?

Also, as this is the 20th anniversary of Buster Douglas' stunner in Tokyo, what is the greatest upset (boxing, baseball, etc.) in the past 20 years? Douglas over Tyson has to be towards the top of the list.

Michael Wilbon: Great question: Here's my order of finish: Cubs win the World Series, Northwestern wins the Rose Bowl, Pulitzer for Wilbon. Winning a Pulitzer isn't something I thought seriously about for 10 minutes of my life, even though the newspaper nominated me a few times...The Cubs have been part of my life since I was five years old, Northwestern since 16 years old. It's not even close.

... As for upsets, I'll take Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson as my No. 1. And I was at Chaminade over Virginia. Either of those does it for me.


Washington, D.C.: In preseason ballots, North Carolina was ranked No. 4 (ESPN poll) and No. 6 (AP poll) in the country. They even received a few first place votes. At the moment they look middle of the pack in a conference that is having a down year and they have lost four of their last five. Why do we have preseason polls?

Michael Wilbon: Because we want something to react to. We want something with which to agree or criticize and the polls give us that. They're the jumping off point to discuss the season, the teams. I guess we need to take polls for what they are, which is a projection.


Washington, D.C.: Have you made it to a Caps game at Verizon yet? What's your take on the NHL's 3 game suspension to Mike Green?

Michael Wilbon: No, I haven't ... Only at the end of the NFL season (which means now) do I get to college basketball, NHL and a reasonable number of NBA games (which is to say, a lot) ... Went to the Georgetown-Duke game Saturday and that was my first college basketball game, which is preposterous since it's now February. I know the Capitals have won 10 straight games. I know they appear on course to play my Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals (though both No. 1 seeds have zero chance of advancing that far in the same postseason) ... I'll have plenty of time for the Capitals after the Olympics. The season will run into mid-June.


Not NOLA: I know you're not a lawyer, but I'm interested in your take on the NFL playing hardball with the T-shirt vendors of NO for printing "Who Dat?" and using the fleur-de-lis logo. Why does the league listen to its attorneys and not their PR folks? The League: Who owns 'Who Dat'? (Washington Post, Jan. 28)

Michael Wilbon: The NFL is accustomed to doing what it wants, whenever it wants. It's the 500 pound lion that doesn't have to listen to reason or have compassion. There's no point to messing with "Who Dat." None whatsoever, except to flex and say, "This is mine." It's part of the language in that region and should be treated as such...Now, the league logo or the Super Bowl roman numerals...fine, enforce the trademark agreements. But "Who Dat?" C'mon.


New York, N.Y.: How great a game was that at the Verizon center on Saturday? I've been going to Georgetown games since my student days watching Iverson at the Cap Centre and I cannot remember a better atmosphere for a Hoya game. Great game, great win, great time, eh?

Michael Wilbon: I've been going to Georgetown games since 1981 and I thought that was the most spirited crowd (Capital Centre or MCI/Verizon) I've ever seen. Ever. That was a real college basketball atmosphere. It wasn't a great game; it was a good game and a great performance by Georgetown. And I got to chat with the President of the United States so that was great for me personally.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: This may be a week late, but is it just me, or is there something a little off about the NBA celebrating MLK day with wall-to-wall basketball games? It just seems an odd way to celebrate his accomplishments by having black men entertain arenas filled with mostly white people.

It's sort of like honoring Yom Kippur with a Woody Allen movie marathon. I'm not saying it's wrong, but something's just doesn't sit right with me.

Michael Wilbon: Okay, fair comment. But obviously this is something that was talked about quite a bit and black people who ought to be sensitive to the issue not only signed off on it but embraced it ... (I'm talking about players association officials) ... The NBA figures its league and players should own the day. Clearly commerce is involved; it always is. I'm not offended, but you raise a fair point.


Ithaca, N.Y.: How 'bout that Ivy League hoops, eh? Are you with the majority of pundits that believe that there's no way for the Ivies to get an at-large bid this year (or, potentially, ever)? I suppose Harvard's beat-down on Saturday didn't help.

Michael Wilbon: Harvard will have to bounce back with something better than they put up Saturday, when they were a no-show at Cornell. But yes, before Saturday I was in favor of the Ivy League getting two bids. It's not over yet.


Falls Church: It was a great Saturday. I bet you can't wait to take kiddo out in the snow for a sleigh ride or to build a snowman.

Michael Wilbon: I have to travel on winter Saturdays (to New York) so it wasn't so great for me. Luckily, the trains were ready to take up the slack for the shuttles from Regan National. The Acela was right on time to NYC. And Matthew doesn't seem to care about snow. Can't get him interested. Doesn't want to put on his boots. But he does love ice skating. Just looking at it. Cried Friday night because I wouldn't let him go out onto the ice at Columbia Country Club. I'm hoping in two years he'll be ready for skating lessons. I loved playing hockey as a kid and I'd like him to, as well.


Orlando, Fla.: Well played with the D.C. snow strategy commentary, and great pics with The President! (sorry, no question, just praise)

Michael Wilbon: What pics? You serious? I have no idea of pictures and haven't seen any.


Washington, DC: Have a good time at the Duke-Georgetown game? How was your summit with the President? (The Post story said he called you over.) And has Duke settled into a long run of good, but not great? The name on the jersey makes me expect greatness out of them, but it's been a really long time since we've actually seen it.

Michael Wilbon: What story? I didn't see the newspaper Sunday because I was in New York. Goodness.


Michael Wilbon: Oh, and as for Duke Basketball, they're still very good ... they look like a Sweet 16 team. But dominant? No. Great? Who else out there has won three NCAA Championships as Coach K has? Jim Calhoun has won two, right? Hey, this is hard stuff. Coaches come along and have their runs. All these schools are trying hard to win. So the fact that Duke is in the ring swinging is still impressive, though they don't have the future NBA players (Laettner, Grant Hill, Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer) they used to have.

_______________________ D.C. Sports Bog: Wilbon visits with Obama (Washington Post, Feb. 1)


Suspense has been killing me:: So where were you just coming back from last Monday? You made it sound like something good.

Michael Wilbon: From Michael Jordan's Celebrity Golf Tournament in The Bahamas. Partnered for two days with Jerome Bettis. Played a round with Ken Griffey Jr./Alonzo Mourning. Golf highlight of my life was standing 10 yards away as Griffey (after a slightly errant drive), took a driver off the deck 283 yards against a three-club wind ... to the middle of the green, then drained a 22-foot putt for birdie on a par-5. Stunning. Guys like Griffey, Brett Hull, Roger Clemens ... they hit the ball further than most tour pros because they're bigger and stronger and they've perfected swing motions, too. John Smoltz is amazing. Bettis, who has been retired four years and has gone froma 24-handicap to a 6, hits it 315 down the center with the slightest fade on every swing. I loved playing with him and we would have finished higher had I made some putts ... Anyway, it was a great time, actually. Can't say thanks enough to MJ/Estee for the invite. I should write more about the part of this ... Like Alan Thicke and Aidan Quinn and the non-athletes who play in the tournament, I'm nervous as hell. And I do these things (like bowl against a professional) because I need to be reminded of just how difficult competing with the world's best athletes is, how great their concentration is, how much attention to detail it takes. I played pretty well Saturday and not at all on Sunday when the wind got into my head. I'm terrible in wind and when Mario Lemieux got on the elevator in the hotel and said, "Have you been outside yet?" I knew I was in trouble. But listening to Griffey talk about swing mechanics and seeing Bettis, a novice relatively, read putts like a caddie ... these guys are so competitive, so passionate about being good, about winning ... I get to be inside the ropes. It was quite the experience ... and that was just the golf.


Duluth, Minn.: Do you like how the NFL Hall of Fame voting process is currently set up, or do you want it changed? I just think that players and coaches should have a vote as well as sportswriters.

Michael Wilbon: My problems with the voting aren't necessarily about who votes, although that could be tweaked. Coaches don't need to vote. Too many agendas. I can see that in just TALKING to coaches about voting when I was a selector, which I was for 10 years but am not any longer. I think the voting should be made public. If you can't publicly defend your vote in something this important, then you shouldn't be voting. I can see some players voting, but players vote for the Pro Bowl and that has been lacking, according to many players I talk to. There's no easy system of HOF selection that everybody will like. But I think making the votes public helps, and it certainly forces a sense of accountability.


Burke, Va.: Michael,

Is Roger Federer, in your opinion, the greatest men's tennis player of all time? I say he is, without question. And he's not done yet. Fun to watch greatness.

Michael Wilbon: It's hard to argue against Federer as No. 1 of all-time. Who else could it be? Okay, Rod Laver did win the Grand Slam and Federer has that out there. I don't understand him saying that's not really a goal? Really? Why the hell not? What else has he got to play for? He's won everything that matters. So, why not go for The Slam? What is Federer, Bill Polian? "That wasn't one of my goals?" Then change your goals. As my man Jason Whitlock wrote, dating Beyonce wasn't originally one of my goals, but if something happened and I had the chance WOULD I NOT CHANGE MY GOALS??? Sports people and their cliches are killers. Roger should go for it.


Washington, D.C.: Michael,

Men's basketball in the ACC has been going down hill a bit every year now for the last 3 or 4 years. The league this year lost the ACC-Big Ten Challenge for the first time in 10 years and the top tier teams have been so inconsistant of late. Do you think this pattern is going to continue and what do you think is the reason for this?


Michael Wilbon: It's a cycle. Why should I read more into it than that? In two years when the ACC has six or seven top recruits in one class and throttles the Big Ten, what will we say then? The question will be flipped. By the way, didn't North Carolina just win the NCAA Championship last April? How down are we talking about. Didn't Duke, Maryland and North Carolina win championships in the last decade? What other conference did that? The Big East had Syracuse and UCONN...Anybody else. (My memory is awful) ... Point is, it's down now, it's back up in a year or two...Check the last 60 years and see how it's worked out. Yes, the league is down this year. Duke is the best team and the Devils aren't great by any stretch ... but nobody's at the top every single year. The Pac-10 is terrible this year, too. The Big Ten is pretty good. The Big East appears to be great.


Denver, Colorado: Follow up on Chaminade over Virginia ... Probably just me, but I was never impressed with Holland's squad those days. Did they even make the Final Four? Maybe once. And speaking of deals with the Devil, I guess Terry's was "Say yes and you get Sampson ... Say no and you get Sampson." I still believe that if Sampson would have gone to Maryland, Lefty would have nailed his feet to paint and had Buck pound on him until he got it -- that he wasn't a freaking 7 foot wing man. Just my opinion, of course. And love your chats by the way.

Michael Wilbon: They made the Final Four twice: Ralph went. And UVA went without Ralph, with Olden Polynice (of Haiti, by the way) playing center with Ricky Stokes and Othell Wilson at guard...Very exciting team. Took Houston with Olajuwon to OT in the national semifinal. So Terry Holland went to the Final Four twice. You really want to not be impressed with that? (Ha, I got the bad memory revved up for that one, didn't I?)


Washington, D.C.: You mentioned on PTI last week that you purchased a lot of Suns tickets when you are out in Arizona. It made me wonder, when are you as a reporter that covers the NBA, allowed to go to a game without buying tickets? You might not write a column on that specific game, but you are supposed to be up on what's going on in the league. I always wondered how it works, and I can imagine that the press boxes in arenas are not that big, so as to allow any reporter to show up. Another dumb question ... when you want to talk to an athlete, phone or otherwise, do you go through their agent, the team press rep?

Michael Wilbon: 90 percent of the time I go to games as a member of the "working press." I used to own Bullets/Wizards season tickets but don't anymore. I might want to take a young relative to a game and will sit in the stands (not in D.C., but in Chicago or Phoenix I do it every blue moon) ... Sometimes, especially when preparing for the show on ABC, I'll go to pre-game on a pass. The locker room is open for about 45 minutes before every game and I might just want to talk to a coach or assistant coach or player(s) about some bigger issue. I use shoot around and pre-game chats (we all do) for that purpose. Some guys love to talk pre-game, some don't. Some will talk before games but not on-the-record, not for publication or attribution. That, too, is of great value. You come to know the preferences of the players, who wants to chat before games, who would rather wait until after the game, and proceed accordingly.


Arlington, Va.: Are the Celtics done? It seems Garnett lacks hops, Pierce won't drive after his injury, and Rasheed is allergic to the paint. Where do they go from here?

Michael Wilbon: I'm worried about my friend Doc Rivers' team, which is in D.C. tonight to face the Wizards, right? Or is that game tomorrow night? In any case, the Celtics have a lot of mileage on them. KG has played 41,000 minutes, which puts him in the top 25 all-time. That's a lot of wear and tear and pounding. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are, what, 33, 34 years old, respectively? I just wonder whether they can stay healthy. Players tell me KG isn't the same on that balky knee and I believe them. Healthy, they can beat anybody in the league. But is that a reasonable expectation? I don't know that it is, based on the Celtics being 6-11 since Christmas Day. They couldn't hold off the Lakers yesterday even though L.A. was almost two weeks into a road trip and stop No. 7 on an eight-game road trip. The Celtics needed that game yesterday and couldn't take it ... at home where they are something like 14-7 this season. Seems Danny Ainge needs to make a move to help that roster, but who?

Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI on the beach. The clouds have me worried. I ain't into getting drenched. Okay, we'll chat next week after the Big Game ... Goodness, we didn't talk much about that, which is good. I hate the week off and the Super Bowl hype, which is so worthless. I think the Colts will win the game even though D-Freeney has this ankle sprain. By the way, a severe ankle sprain indeed involves torn ligaments in the ankle ... anyway, avoid the snow back there in D.C. and have fun this weekend watching the game. take care everybody ... MW


Is anyone interested in the Pro Bowl?: I didn't think so.

Michael Wilbon: Aaaah, no.


"Cubs win the World Series, Northwestern wins the Rose Bowl, Pulitzer for Wilbon": I know which one will happen first ... and so do you. Keep writing, brother.

Michael Wilbon: You do? Tell me, dog.


Washington, D.C.: Senator Hatch and the Obama Justice Department have been exchanging letters about the BCS.

Do you think this issue really has any traction? Will we see college football playoffs while Obama is President? That would really be change I can believe in. Federal government weighing action on BCS (Washington Post, Jan. 29)

Michael Wilbon: Yes, I think (and hope) we will, and it will be because of those two men you mentioned in your question.


Silver Spring, Md.: Re snow You said "We're in big trouble then since our snow strategy is to say, "It doesn't snow here so we'll just shut down the city rather than have snow plows and salt and a strategy"

Have you been in DC or the suburbs in the past 15 years? Yes, Mayor Barry did have that policy but those days are long gone. We do not have the same ratio of snow plows per mile of roads as Chicago, but I have been very impressed by how well all of the jurisdictions get out there.

Lemieux and his partner maybe buying the Pirates: Brilliant! Bob Nutting has been printing money with that gorgeous stadium and lowest in the league payroll for too long. It's time for a change.

Michael Wilbon: Major streets like Connecticut Ave. and Old Georgetown are often unplowed for hours. Wisconsin Ave. The District, yes, is better than it was under Marion Barry. Is that your standard? It's not mine. All three jurisdictions are awful. In my experience (and I've lived in D.C. for eight years, Fairfax County for 9 1/2 and Montgomery County for 10 1/2 years) is that Northern Virgina is a lot better. Montgomery County's performance in December with the big snow was too incompetent for me to talk about without getting angry again!


New York, N.Y.: What do you think of the reaction to this Tebow ad? Seems to me like some of these liberal groups that pride themselves on tolerance, think any opinion besides there's is wrong. Seems like they have the problem with tolerance. I don't think we'd see such a big stink from conservatives if there was an ant-gun ad running during the Super Bowl.

Michael Wilbon: Of course you'd see ranting from conservatives in such a scenario. Hell, there are entire radio networks devoted to conservative rantings. I fully support Tebow's right to express his opinion, but I fully support his critics' right to rip his butt. That's the way it works, and the way it ought to work.


USA: What's your take on Phil using an old style Ping wedge to get around the new groove rules?

Michael Wilbon: Why do the rules allow him to do this? If you don't want people to get around the rule, don't let them ... don't allow an exception. What does "exception" to a rule mean? That extends the rule, by definition, right? So why are people killing Phil? If you don't want the square grooved wedges, ban them all with NO exception.


Houston, Texas: Okay, Georgetown got pumped up for the Duke game and got some energy from Obama being in the Verizon Center. But you think Georgetown beat Duke due to the energy and maybe Duke getting caught up in the moment with the Pres. in the building?

Michael Wilbon: What?


Washington DC: Mike,

Thank you for having Myron Rolle as a guest on PTI. As an FSU Alum, former student athlete, and African American, I have nothing but the respect for him and his acomplishments.I wish him much success in the future in any career path he chooses.

Michael Wilbon: He's an amazing young man. And we get more mail, positive of course, in response to Myron Rolle appearances on the show than any guest we have. His manner, his intelligence, his eloquence, the substance of his answers ... all of it just elicit strong responses from viewers.


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