The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: Tiger Woods at the Masters return, NCAA Tournament, NBA and more

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Tuesday, March 16, 2010; 12:00 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Tuesday, March 16 to discuss Tiger Woods announcing a Masters return, the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, NBA, the Wizards, the latest sports news, his columns and 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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No surprise: Mike, it's hard to believe Tiger would miss a major and, in my opinion, there's no reason that he shouldn't, in terms of public opinion or "penance" (whatever that might mean).

It is also not a surprise that he would first play at Augusta National, the most private private club in golf and a place that controls the spectators and the media like nowhere else.

Based on your experience, will they restrict media access and keep out the tabloid element? You know darn well they're going to throw out anybody who heckles Tiger (and take them off the ticket list forever).

The real question I have about Tiger's schedule is: will he play in the British Open? Their tabloid media are far worse than ours and much harder to control. I'm not sure he's ready for that. What do you think?

Michael Wilbon: Hi Everybody. I'm in San Francisco, doing a combination of basketball-related things ... covering NCAA Tournament games in San Jose Thursday, following Kobe Bryant and the Lakers around yesterday and today, from the Bay Area up to Sacramento. Anyway, it takes some news flash to knock March Madness out of the lead spot in the sports news, and that's what we've got with Tiger Woods saying he'll resume his career at The Masters in a few weeks. I'm glad to see him playing golf, I just wish it was sooner, like March 25 at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Tournament. I just don't think you can show up at Augusta and win ... if that happens, it'll be one of the most breathlessly reported sports stories in many, many years ...


Anonymous: OMG woods is gonna play in the Masters. It's not like everyone and their mother didn't know this was gonna happen. Seriously who gives a damn.

I mean there was like two or three days which covered A-Rod's split and ongoing adultery, and I don't care about that either, and I think most are with me.

Michael Wilbon: I think Tiger Woods' sex life, like anybody's else sex life, is none of my business. But if you're suggesting that people don't care that Tiger is back, you're not connected to reality. Of course, people care that he's back. Television ratings are down tremendously for golf so far this year and it's because of one thing: no Tiger Woods. This isn't debatable. So, a ton of people will give a damn ... tens of millions actually. I expect those Thursday and Friday rounds in Augusta to attract viewership of, oh, 6-8 million people. And if Tiger makes the cut--and there's nothing automatic about it--we're talking a Saturday and Sunday audience (I would expect) of more than 20 million. If he's in contention on Sunday we're talking more than 30 million. That's my bet. So, sorry, people care. You can not care about his sex life and still want to see him swing a golf club. I know I do.


New Orleans: Who is more likely to go deep in the tournament: Maryland or Georgetown?

Michael Wilbon: Georgetown, I think. Maryland would have to beat (probably) Michigan State in the second round, which is very possible but I wouldn't bet on it. Georgetown could go out in the second round as well. Look, either could lose in the first round. Other than the 1 and 2 seeds, I don't see any of these games as automatic. Georgetown and Maryland, of course, is in that Group of Death Midwest region where you've got Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Michigan State, a totally known but damn good Iowa State team. Why the NCAA Tournament would stack the region where the overall No. 1 is I don't know ... But I don't understand half the stuff the committee did this year.


Arlington, Va.: So, you think Tiger returning for the Masters will generate any attention?

Actually, my real question is this: How much influence did ESPN have on Tiger's return? Seems the needed ad revenue for the Thu/Fri warranted a LOT of lobbying.

Michael Wilbon: You're not serious, are you? You think an ESPN executive is in touch with Tiger Woods, given what he's been through since Thanksgiving, about helping out the ratings? You're not serious, are you?


Reston, Va.: Do you think they already sold all the ad time for the Masters or is CBS all of the sudden in a very happy place?

Michael Wilbon: It's already sold anyway. Yes, ESPN (Thursday/Friday) and CBS (Saturday/Sunday) are thrilled beyond belief. It's pennies (okay, Benjamins) from Heaven for both broadcast companies.


Germantown, Md.: Hey Mike,

You have to mediate a truce between ESPN and Jason Whitlock so you can have him on PTI again. He was one of the best stand-in hosts on the show.

Michael Wilbon: I love Jason and think he was damn good at sitting in for Tony and for me, but I have about as much influence in that department as ESPN had in Tiger choosing Augusta for his comeback.


Reston, Va.: Hi Michael,

Yesterday I caught the semifinal and championship game of the Big East tourney from 1985 (Georgetown vs Syracuse and Georgetown vs St. Johns). I couldn't help but marvel at Patrick Ewings rebounding. Kids today don't rebound like that anymore. And also that Patrick was legitimately feared for his tenacity. There isn't a player out there like that anymore.

Also no one plays defense like that anymore.

Michael Wilbon: Patrick played great defense in college, but not really in the NBA, which is interesting. He absolutely was feared in college and that John Thompson group (starting in 1981-82 when Ewing was a freshman) changed the way defense was played in college ... changed the way offense was played, too. St. John's was probably the first team that realized Georgetown applied so much pressure defensively that a second primary ballhandler was needed ... that's how Mark Jackson got so much time as a sophomore even though Mike Moses (I think it was Mike Moses) started at point guard for St. John's. Louie Carnesecca realized his team was helped by having both those guys on the floor at times, or certainly keeping each one as fresh as possible. Those were such great games. Ewing was great defensively, and John Thompson was the perfect coach for those teams. But Dikembe Mutombo came later and he and Alonzo Mourning were great defensively as well. The game has evolved (at the college and pro level) into a much more offensive game ... So has football. Any irony in that the best defenses ever in those two sports (Georgetown 1985 and Chicago Bears 1985) played at the same time, and coaches over the next few years (Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, etc.) had to come up with offenses (and did they ever) to combat stiffling defenses. There are kids now who can play great defense and play with intensity. But Patrick Ewing was a once-in-a-lifetime player for a program ... Remember, three Final Fours in four years, with two of the most incredibly narrow defeats ever. One shot against UNC and one shot against Villanova and we're putting Ewing up there with Alcindor and Walton and Russell as perhaps the greatest college player ever.


Washington, D.C.: The Cavs have been playing well without Shaq in the lineup. Do you think they need him to go through Orlando and Boston in the East and possibly in the Finals against the Lakers?

Michael Wilbon: Certainly they'll need Shaq against Dwight Howard and Orlando, which is primarily why they got him this past offseason ... perhaps against Boston (Perkins/Glen Davis), and against young Andrew Bynum of the Lakers or (and I doubt this) Brendan Haywood of the Mavericks. They won't need Shaq as much, but they'll likely need him.


Phoenix: Michael,

I am a fan of your work, both printed and broadcast (PTI, the NBA, talking points back when you did them). I feel you come off as quite angry when responding to many of your Chat House questions. Angry and almost a little demeaning towards people at times. I understand that doing live chats doesn't allow for excessive editing of your responses. I'm just wondering if you notice a difference in yourself when you're live chatting.

Anyway, kudos on the great body of work.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you, and I'm sorry if I come off that way. And I'll monitor it more closely. I think part of it is the nature of this kind of communication, which is abbreviated and sometimes abrupt, by necessity. I get annoyed at certain things, which I presume also comes through in my column, things like presumption and self-righteousness ... In those cases I mean to sound annoyed; it's intentional. But that's not most of the time because I'm DAMN LUCKY that people care enough to consume my work and even luckier that people care to participate and engage in a forum like this. Maybe I've become a bit of my PTI persona, where Tony and I are so chippy. And if that's the case, maybe I'd better check myself ... though presumption and self-righteousness are still going to be met with a rant! Sorry. But thanks for the heads-up.


Washington, D.C.: The sun is going to come up tomorrow and Tiger woods is going to return to golf - no theological mysteries here.

I'll look for subtleties - a courteous shunning, foreshortened conversations and body language. Golf is traditionally well mannered; however, it doesn't necessarily have to be warm or effusive.

Michael Wilbon: I think you're observations are interesting and worth pursuing. And I, too, wonder how fundamentally changed he'll be as a golfer ... even he says he'll be more courteous. I can't imagine a fist-pump for awhile, no matter how spectacular the shot. But mostly, I want to see if putts are dropping, if the ball is landing 300 yards down the middle of fairways, if he's better in the pressure situations than his peers, which he always has been. I'm looking for many of the more obvious signs of whether Tiger is back and how he might be evolving.


Re: PTI fill-ins: All due respect to Whitlock, but forget him...when does Jemele Hill get to be part of the guest host rotation? She is amazing (and smart, and funny, which I know Mr. Tony appreciates).

Michael Wilbon: We're not looking for a wide range of substitute hosts. We're not casting a big net. That happened for awhile in the early years of PTI. And while I have almost ZERO to say about our strategy regarding subs, I do know (and agree) that the rotation should be tiny. And we're all happy with Dan LeBatard. I think it's pretty darned seamless when Dan does the show. Same with Bob Ryan, who has his own television/newspaper committments in New England and doesn't sub as much as he used to, but I think will this summer. Anyway, not only do I know Jemele, but she's a dear friend. When I was given the National Association of Black Journalists' Lifetime Achievement Award last summer, Jamele presented me and I was absolutely honored. Of course, Jamele does her own thing on First-and-Ten and writing, so I don't know if she'd frown or laugh at the notion of more arguing. Dealing with Skip Bayless can be quite enough ...


Washington, D.C.: Michael, even though LT is past his prime, as a Dolphins fan I am not looking forward to facing him twice a year. With the NFL draft a month away and new parameters in place because of the uncapped year ahead, what NFL team is having the best offseason so far?

Michael Wilbon: This is quite a legit qustion, but I have to remind people every now and then that I'm simply not an off-season guy. While the baseball zealots are keeping tabs on the hot-stove league and then Spring Training I'm into the NFL and NBA seasons. While some are into NFL offseason, I'm locked into March Madness and the NBA(especially since signing on with ABC to cover the NBA), and to a lesser extent the NHL end-of-season. When some are into NFL mini-camps and training camp, I'll be watching parts of several baseball games per day. I guess that's the long way of saying that with the crazy overlap of seasons, off-seasons of most sports are something I just don't care about at all anymore. I'm the last guy who should be weighing in on which teams have done the best off-season work because other than the Chicago Bears and to a lesser degree the Redskins, I'm paying so little attention to NFL matters now. Yes, I can go back-and-forth with you on the big-splash matters, like LT signing with the Jets and whether the combination of Shon Greene and LT will be more effective than the departed Thomas Jones and Greene. I know increasingly the NFL is year-'round business, I just find so many other things to be more worthy of my interests ...


Rockville, Md.: Do you think Tiger Woods would have been better off if he had confronted the press at the outset and not gone into hiding and just said I have some problems in my marriage but they are my own personal business? There was like void with him not being seen and I think it made this whole mess seem bigger then it was, another guy cheating on his wife.

Michael Wilbon: I agree with you absolutely. Yeah, I think this could have been handled in a way that it would have died down by now a whole lot more than it has ... Yep, that's my opinion, too. I know PR strategists who will line up on both sides of the issue and argue their points rather convincingly. Me? I think this could have been talked down already and it serves no purpose whatsoever to have let it go this long, to the point where we're nearly four months into this ...


Silver Spring, Md.: Mike, big, long-time fan. Keep up the insights.

This may seem like small news compared to the NCAA tournament, Tiger Woods, and even the Caps locally, but have you at all followed the news about a potential strike by the MLS players? Has there been any talk among the general, non-soccer specific sports journalists about the effect of an MLS strike? I know many probably don't even know about it or care, but it's a big topic for the sport in the U.S. especially with the World Cup this summer. Thanks!

Michael Wilbon: "Kept up" with it would be a little misleading. I'm aware of it. I talked with a couple of soccer heads (one who played college soccer) last night and there seems to be a general agreement that a MLS strike would barely cause a ripple, in terms of news coverage or outrage that might give players any leverage ... IF NFL players can be replaced, you think soccer players (in America!) can't be replaced? I wonder how many people who identify themselves as sports fans in this country would even notice or have their viewing choices affected.


Fort Lauderdale, Florida: I could not care less about Tiger. He lost my respect as a person and as a professional player. He acted in total disregard to his reputation and prestige. I would not pay one cent to see him play again. His attitude and lack of control is disgusting! It is time we give others a chance to take the number one spot. He is done, as far as I am concerned.

Michael Wilbon: You've got your opinion, which I find, well, silly. You can respect whomever you want. But in professional sports we don't "give others chances" like it's elementary school or Little League where all the kids get a chance to bat and run the bases. In pro sports, people earn chances by winning, by being the best, which Tiger Woods has done, no matter with whom he sleeps or whether you approve. You can like, root for, respect whomever you want. But the rules of sports? Sorry, you don't get to determine who's the best or who has the chance to be the best, and for that I'm pretty happy.


Evanston, Ill.: Hey, at least our Cats made the NIT.

Michael Wilbon: I should probably be happier than I am about Northwestern's men's basketball team playing in the NIT ... Lamar Odom and I are trying to figure out a suitable bet since we're playing is Rhode Island Rams in the first round. We set a school record for victories and it's not like we're in the postseason every day. But a first-ever spot in the NCAA Tournament was there to be had if we'd beaten Penn State twice and Indiana. We should have beaten out Minnesota for that last Big Ten at-large bid, and I'm disappointed in that. But we've got a good young team, a very nice freshman in Drew Crawford (son of NBA ref and Chicago buddy Danny Crawford), and Coach Bill Carmody's done a nice job lifting that program. I hope we're on a better course now than we've been ...


VCA: If Tiger Woods wasn't married, would anyone care? At all? My guess is that guys like A-Rod, Jeter, etc. are sleeping with dozens of women at a time too ... they were smart enough to stay single (or get divorced when allegations became public in A-Rod's case).

Michael Wilbon: Jim Brown, Wilt Chamberlain ... Currently Sergio Garcia comes to mind, Tom Brady before he got hooked up. Yep, dozens minimum. Not a value judgement just a statement of fact. But being married isn't just, oh, kinda sorta a difference, it's a huge difference.


Laurel, Md.: Hey Mike,

Have you been watching ESPN's 30 for 30 series? How great was Sunday's ep? (Reggie Miller vs the N.Y. Knicks)It was great seeing how players (and not that long ago) played with such intensity and physicality. That's missing today..

Michael Wilbon: The 30 for 30 series has been fabulous, and I've seen several of them. Haven't seen Reggie Miller and "Winning Time" just yet, though I have the DVD in my computer bag and may watch it on the flight back East next week. I've heard such wonderful things about it and I know the participants (Reggie, Patrick Ewing, Spike Lee) so well at this point. I can't wait to see it. And I've been looking forward to each project ... it's just very well done.


Baltimore: Just a comment on "Winning Time" (ESPN's 30/30). What made that Knicks-Pacers rivalry so great is it came kind of out of nowhere, and ESPN, even if they tried, could not have scripted that story any better. You think about what happened and it's almost surreal. If in the summer of 1993 someone told you Michael Jordan would retire, allowing the Knicks to rise to the top of the East; the forever also-ran Pacers suddenly become one of the best teams in the east and make a playoff run; and Reggie Miller (who up to that point was a trash talking punk) would lead the Pacers to the brink of the NBA finals and in the process get into an ON-COURT shouting fest with Spike Lee as they play the Knicks ... you'd have thought that person was crazy. Spike himself couldn't have come up with something so sensational.

Its one of the few times a story just drops in the laps of sports fans and really needs no hype whatsoever. It was a geniune rivalry where the story just wrote itself.

Michael Wilbon: Very, very well said. Thank you ...


Washington, D.C.: If Kentucky wins its region, is it too cynical to immediately call it Kentucky's Future Vacated Final Four appearance?

Michael Wilbon: Man, that's cold ... Funny line, but cold.


Washington, D.C.: Did you catch that awful Pacquiao vs. Clottey fight? With the eight punches in the fight that Clottey did throw, they seemed to take a toll on Pac Man. Do you still think he can beat Floyd Mayweather?

Michael Wilbon: I couldn't see the fight (sadly) because it took me 8 hours -- yes, eight -- to get from D.C. to NYC Saturday night because of the storm between the two cities, especially in NJ/NY by mid-evening. The fight was over before I could get to a TV in NYC. Anyway, Clotty didn't want to fight, which was sad. Maybe those punches that did connect (and did damage to Manny's face) are why Freddie Roach wants Manny to retire after one more fight. Personally, I don't think Mayweather wants to fight him. I think Mayweather wants to wait and wait until (he hopes) Manny starts to get old and lose his edge ... It's too bad. It's the best fight out there, the one we all want to see.


Tiger, the Arrogant: Even before this sex scandal stuff, Tiger Woods was not a worthy candidate for a role model for the young to look up to. He is a cocky, arrogant winner prone to angry outbursts on the course like flinging his clubs, lashing out at photographers, or unleashing a bunch of profanity. This coupled with the fact that he is a sore loser makes him a poor role model for the impressionable youth of the world that follow his dominance of the game.

Case in point: when Phil Mickelson loses a tournament, he emerges from the clubhouse to gracefully meet the press. Hotheaded Tiger beats an angry retreat. Greatest golfer of all time? Undeniably. Role model to be elevated on a pedestal? Certainly not, in my humble opinion.

Michael Wilbon: Okay, thank you.


Tiger: I think we should be embarrassed as a society that so many of us spend so much time talking about, and thinking about Tiger Woods' personal life. Sounds like a sleeze to me, but that's his business and those that choose to make it their own would do well to remind themselves that judging the lives of others does nothing to improve your own.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you, as well.


Alexandria, Va.: I think it is great that he is coming back to play in the Masters. That is his job, professional golfer.

Michael Wilbon: I just think he should come back to play Bay Hill first. What do athletes talk about all the time, "Getting reps" right? Well, he'll have none and I think it'll show...Okay, gotta run for a novel reason: must write a Tiger column before doing PTI...BREAKING NEWS! This is the new media world a sportswriter lives in ... forget that old 7:30 p.m. deadline. "Deadline is right now!" And so it goes. Or as Moses Malone said, "That's what bes." Gotta run. Everybody have a great week. See you Monday ... MW


Columbus, Ohio: Hey Mike, thanks for taking my question today. Long time fan of your columns in the WP and on PTI, kicking Kornheiser's sorry butt! (just kidding)

Anyway, since I'm graduating from Ohio State on Sunday, I just wanted to know, who is your college player of the year? Is it John Wall, Evan Turner, Greivis Vasquez, or someone else?

Michael Wilbon: Evan Turner. And he's pulling away from the others, including John Wall. Asked Kobe Bryant the same thing last night and that was his answer, exactly.


Union Station, D.C.: Hey Mike - what are your thoughts about the female football coach at Coolidge High School in D.C.? Would you let your son play for her?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, I would. And take a look at the column I wrote on the subject in Saturday's Washington Post.

_______________________ Here's Mike's column on new Coolidge football coach Natalie Randolph: Michael Wilbon: Coolidge's new coach, Natalie Randolph, stands out for all the right reasons (Washington Post, March 13)


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