washingtonpost.com
Lebron James picks Miami Heat; Dan Gilbert explodes

Cindy Boren
Washington Post Sports Social Media Editor
Friday, July 9, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post sports social media editor Cindy Boren was online Friday, July 9, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss LeBron James's decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat.

Full Coveage

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Cindy Boren: So this is what the day after the apocalypse is like. I watched the LeBron show last night. You watched. And, while I understand that all athletes move around, the way in which this announcement was handled left me feeling like I needed a shower -- a long, Karen Silkwood kind of shower. Instead, let's chat!

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New York City: Given the reaction of the Cavs owner yesterday after the announcement, do you think LBJ was justified in making the move to Miami?

Cindy Boren: Hello, NYC...how're you feeling about those Knicks? While I feel Dan Gilbert's pain (the full text of his letter can be seen on Wizards Insider), I can't help but think that perhaps something more might have been done on the front end to prevent the King's abdication. Still, Gilbert's miles ahead of LeBron in the lovability department today. For one thing, he's still in Cleveland.

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Washington DC: Why didn't ESPN drag this out into a weekly miniseries? Each week, LeBron could have told us which team he was leaning toward.

Cindy Boren: They wanted to see how this one would do. Based on its success, expect "Brett Favre: What I'm Thinking, How I'm Feeling, I Don't Really Need Co-Hosts" Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern. In perpetuity.

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washingtonpost.com: Here's that Dan Gilbert letter. Ouch. Still smarts: Wizards Insider: Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert unloads on LeBron James (Washington Post, July 8)

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Washington, DC, Eyestreet.: No further evidence needed of how sports-drugged American society has become. Look how much coverage we grant this humorless, dull-witted person who throws a ball through a hoop so skillfully. Meanwhile we are fighting two wars, tens of millions of people are out of work, and our schoolteachers make less in a year than "The King" makes in a day. The fate of Lebron James should be way, way down on the list of things to devote serious attention to.

Cindy Boren: While I try to cover sports as if it were of life and death importance, I am always mindful of exactly what you say. The LeBron show was what passes for cheap entertainment during a week in which the East Coast is a pizza oven.

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Clifton, Va.: So what happens three or four years from now when LeBron hasn't won it all and maybe even not made to the Finals?

LeBron has not demonstrated that he can be like MJ, Kobe, Magic, Larry et al. and take over and win the biggest games. He does not make his teammates better.

As coach I would hate to have to make these three knuckleheads happy. Wade is stand up guy but when LeBron is whining it will just become a mess.

Cindy Boren: Hey, A-Rod got a ring with Jeter and the Yankees, so maybe this gets James over the hump. The once and future coach of the Heat, Pat Riley, has some experience -- and has had some success -- in dealing with multiple egos. He's going to be challenged to repeat it with these guys. He'll go to the Riley playbook, he'll work the guys in practice and then we'll see if it's Showtime again. I think he'll have success with them ... for a couple of years. Then it'll wear thin. And, yes, I know Pat Riley isn't the coach of the Heat. I think ESPN will have a special on that in another six weeks or so.

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Seattle, WA: Considering Miami has a reputation for its party scene, how long do you think before LBJ gets caught and has to wear an alcohol monitoring anklet like Lindsay Lohan?

My money's on 1 year.

Cindy Boren: Well, if you ask Clevelanders, he's already visited Lohan's manicurist...bada bing.

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Arlington, VA: Lebron is catching some serious flack today about 'The Decision' and how he handled it. But, do you think the reaction would be the same if he'd said, "I'm staying in Cleveland" instead of "I'm heading to South Beach"?

Cindy Boren: Wouldn't have been much of a show. Second-day hatred would have been replaced by second-day psychoanalysis. "Why doesn't LeBron want to win?" "He lacks the killer instinct." "Is he just a complacent, highly-paid athlete?" "Big fish, little pond syndrome." I think I prefer the emotional detritus to the clinical.

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Washington DC: As a Boston fan, I had little to no stakes in where Lebron ended up (although I feared Chicago, and hoped he would stay in Cleveland for the sake of my Cleveland friends).

But after watching the interview, I couldn't help feeling that he answered everything in the -wrong- way. Go to the Heat, fine. But thank Cleveland. Thank the fans. Tell them they are the best, most loving fans out there. Tell them you're leaving for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but that nothing would take away from his time there.

Instead, Lebron just acted flippant and uncaring. From an initial feeling of apathy, I have now developed a desire to see his team crash and burn in the playoffs (a fact of which I am not proud).

I know he is young, and he deserves a good team to support him, but isn't this what you pay PR people to coach you on?

Cindy Boren: This is exactly why there's a PR industry. He should have handled it exactly as you say...and there should have been a big musical number at the beginning of the show.

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Lovability: " Still, Gilbert's miles ahead of LeBron in the lovability department today. For one thing, he's still in Cleveland." I really don't understand this sentiment: LeBron James is a free agent, free to contract his basketball playing ability to anyone willing to meet his demands. He doesn't owe Cleveland or Gilbert anything - he was with the Cavs for 7 years and they just had a one- man team, which is impossible in today's NBA. He played by the rules and became a free agent, but the fact that he is leaving for another team makes him "unloveable"? Or the fact that ESPN was willing to spend an hour on this makes him "unloveable"? Why blame LeBron because corporations are willing to give him an hour of time?

Cindy Boren: I love free agency as much as the next person, but so much about this was off-putting: an hourlong special complete with self-indulgent references "King James." That was what was so awful. They should have called it "MeBron!"

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Midtown, DC: Are you like me? I have lost some faith in ESPN as a serious sports news channel after the way they have endlessly hyped and dissected this LeBron-a-Thon.

Cindy Boren: At least they didn't handcuff Chris Broussard when he was reporting that Miami was the frontrunner. Of course, the first to have it was Alan Hahn of Newsday...that may have forced their hand. The network pays the NBA a boatload for their broadcast rights. Same is true for the NFL. Remember the heat ESPN took over Roethlisberger coverage? ESPN overall does a great job, but you've got to keep them honest. Checks and balances for everyone!

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Washington, D.C.: Aren't the Heat doing exactly the same thing that made the Redskins and Dan Snyder the laughingstock of the NFL over the last decade: overspend on "marquee" free agents with no coherent plan on how they fit together as a team or how you will build a team around them? What's the likelihood that this works out better for the Heat?

Cindy Boren: I would argue that there's a more coherent plan with the Heat...simply because you need fewer players. There's a better GM/coach structure in place, too. It's just easier to build a powerhouse quickly in hoops. I actually think this will work for Miami. Certainly it puts a lot of focus back on East Coast hoops, which is something the NBA badly needs. Nothing against the Westies, but the NBA could use the Eastern eyeballs.

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Washington, D.C.: I don't like the way LeBron handled this BUT it's funny how the loyalty card only gets played as it pertains to the player. If he had blown out his knees the Cavs would have replaced him in a heartbeat and justifiably so. He made a business decision plain and simple. I just wish he had walked away quietly.

Cindy Boren: So true. But there's a way to leave with class and dignity. This wasn't it. Not sure it if was his idea or if he was badly used. Guess it doesn't matter. He signed on for the special.

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Conspiracy Theory, USA: The Heat retired No. 23 several years ago and in the middle of the last season LeBron applied to change his number to No. 6 for the upcoming season.

Think he's known for months/years that he wanted to be in South Beach? (provided Wade and Bosh were there)

Cindy Boren: I see your conspiracy theory and raise you one grassy knoll. These three fell in love in Beijing and hatched the idea of playing together in the NBA there. How's that? After years of seeing owners (in several sports) collude, these three may have pulled it off.

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New York, NY: Have you ever seen anyone turn themselves into a villain as quickly as LeBron did? It's like a move scripted by Vince McMahon. I half-expected him to hit the Cavaliers' owner with a chair. I've never seen an athlete squander so much goodwill as fast as he has. I am actively rooting against him.

Cindy Boren: I believe he broke the record only recently set by one Eldrick "Tiger" Woods.

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Toronto: Did he at least give Miami's GM a rose?

I can't recall ever seeing anything so narcisstic and egotistical.

From a journalistic standpoint, ESPN seemed like they were hosting an infomercial and had completely abstained from any sense of impartial journalism.

What a disgrace.

Cindy Boren: I could not look away. And, of course, I loved the audience of children and the University of Phoenix presentation at the end was just the cherry on top of this hideousness.

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Why Hate LeBron?: We have turned basketball into an industry that rewards those that seek the best opportunity. On and off the court. LeBron shouldn't be punished for that.

Cindy Boren: I'm not ripping him for that...Clevelanders are free to do so and I'm cool with it. Again, it's the giant obscene gesture to the city and Cavs fans that was so offputting. These folks bought tickets to the King James show for seven years.

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No. Virginia: Who wouldn't want to play with Dwayne Wade, the very best when you consider the combination of character and playing skill?

Cindy Boren: Absolutely. As Wilbon pointed out the other day, LeBron is 25; he's got seven championshipless years behind him. The window closes quickly.

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Titles : People thinking LeBron won't get a title forget he is playing with the best WINNER in the NBA: Dwayne Wade. That guy takes his team of journeymen into the playoffs and even a ring year after year.

Cindy Boren: More DWade luv.

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Columbus, Ohio: I agree the show was over the top, but don't you think Gilbert's response is an attempt to cover up his own failings? He could have put together a package for Bosh and Wade just like Miami did. Was his rant more about buying himself some time with the Cleveland fans?

Cindy Boren: It's sure easier to write a memo like the one Gilbert wrote when James' Cavs jerseys are in flames on the ground and the Cleveland paper is putting together a great front page. Very easy to step in front of that band and lead the parade.

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ESPN: How do you think The Decision affected ESPN's image. Do they get tarnished as well?

Cindy Boren: I think their image is tarnished, but it'll be obscured by the shiny ratings they no doubt drew. It's tough to cover a league that you also regard as your "broadcast partner." I'll also say that I have a number of friends of impeccable integrity at ESPN.

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Boston Fan: I agree completely with the Boston fan posting earlier. Although the parallel is not exact, when Ray Bourque left Boston to go to Colorado for a chance to win the cup, most fans still supported him because he was so classy about how he handled it. And were very happy when he won the Cup. His bringing the Cup to Boston was seen as a sign of respect for the Boston fans, not as a taunt. "King" James could have learned a lot from Ray but instead he chose to burn his bridges.

Cindy Boren: Good point.

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Helena MT: Man, I read that Dan Gilbert letter and what I got from it was: Le Bron James is a curse and I was willing to pay him $100 million to stay in Cleveland with the curse. So, how does a Cleveland fan cash in on the "guarantee" of a championship? What bank does the fan go to?

Cindy Boren: The Bank of Baloney. Clevelanders are working through a lot today...just look at Mo Williams' Twitter feed: http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2010/07/mo_williams_reacts_on_twitter.html

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Poorly Handled : I don't blame LeBron for leaving Cleveland, I blame him for the way he left. Dragging it out for an hour on national television was low class. Do you agree that he could have handled it better, or do you think that he would be vilified for leaving no matter how he did it?

Cindy Boren: You know what would have made the LeBron hour magic? Oprah. It desperately cried out for Oprah. Only she could have saved him from himself.

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DC Knicks Fan: Yea I'm disappointed today that he didn't go to NY. But I'm so disgusted with his public breakup with Cleveland. The guy talks about how much he cares about his hometown and area but all he had to do was sign a contract and move on. And shame on ESPN for facilitating it. Let Kevin Durant be your guide.

Cindy Boren: Exactly. Players come, sometimes they win, they go. We're all adults (or as adult as any sports fan can be). Sign with Miami, say nice things about Cleveland, shut up and just win a ring.

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Enough on the theatrics: What about the basketball?

Can a team with 3 max-salary stars, 1 mid-salary 3-point specialist, and 10-11 minimum salary vets win a championship?

Cindy Boren: You left out Pat Riley, but why quibble over that? I think it's possible that the Heat can win -- unless LeBron chooses to stop giving his full effort like he did against Boston. (The Q word is so harsh.)

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Detroit, Mich: I can understand why Dan Gilbert wrote his missive and I can understand why Lebron would leave for Miami and how tough the decision was. The real question is, is anything less than a championship considered failure for Lebron et al? If so, what happens to his legacy and brand then? Miami, as currently constructed, is still not better than Orlando, Boston, even Chicago, in my humble opinion.

Cindy Boren: And the real answer is, yes, anything less than a championship for this group will be considered a failure and even a joke. This is the Dream Team.

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Laurel, Md.: I feel for fans in Cleveland. Making this a publicly televised spectacle and then telling the world that he was spurning Cleveland is tantamount to publicly spitting in the faces of the Cleveland fans. Comes awful close to being personally insulting I would say. I really feel for those people.

Cindy Boren: Everybody does. It's like the Browns leaving all over again.

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NYC: Is Lebron now the most hated NBA player of all time? More than Ron Artest? Latrell Spreewell? Bill Lambeer? Dennis Rodman?

Cindy Boren: Oh, I don't think so. It turns around for him pretty quickly if he puts it all together and gets some rings in Miami.

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Washington DC: Lebron is a pragmatist. He knows he needs help to win a championship. Sports heroes should not be penalized for being practical. Why do the fans in Cleveland feel a sense of entitlement to Lebron? Shouldn't he have the right to pursue his goals?

Cindy Boren: The special sense comes from the fact that he's Ohio-grown. That's what makes this even tougher for Clevelanders, I think.

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NE DC: This is capitalism at its best. David Stern and King James just made a boat load of money. They added more fans from the biggest tv markets. People will watch just to see King James fail. This was pure genius. Hate the game not the player.

Cindy Boren: Someone asked me yesterday on Twitter if David Stern minded. I think the dude is doing cartwheels. Very bad ones, but cartwheels nonetheless. When was the last time the NBA was a national topic of discussion all across America in July?

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ESPN has jumped the shark: ESPN is another big loser in all of this. Who respects ESPN anymore? They cater to the BOston/NY teams and individual stars and could care less about the fly-over cities and their teams.

Cindy Boren: But there's no real competition, so you're stuck with the worldwide leader.

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Dwade year after year: Dwade has only one ring. The Heat have not been tearing it up all that much recently, either.

D-Wade would've left Miami if Bosh didn't sign and LeBron decided to go somewhere else.

Cindy Boren: Bet they will now, though.

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Wilbon: I assume you know Wilbon. And while I'm sure you have no say over his work on ESPN, as a colleague, could you please tell him to never do another special like that again. I like Mike; but he looked ridiculous last night. Remind him that he's a journalist; not a TMZ reporter.

Cindy Boren: I do know Wilbon and have nothing but respect for him. You would, too, if you knew him. He's a terrific journalist and writer and, despite all his fame, he hasn't changed. I don't think he looked ridiculous last night, but I do think he works differently when he's reporting for ESPN and when he's a Post columnist. I don't think he's the only journalist who wears two hats who asks questions differently on TV than in a one-to-one, untaped interview. I also think it's important for him to read comments like this one, so I'll pass it along. Thanks!

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Arizona: What is the over/under on how long Pat Riley takes to hire himself as coach of the Miami Heat?

Cindy Boren: I'm still stunned that it wasn't a 30-minute ESPN special ("It's Showtime!) beginning at 10 p.m. EDT last night.

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Arlington, Va.: For many people who feel like James owes Cleveland nothing I would suggest they are buying the agents PR hook line and stinker. Players and Teams owe the fans EVERYTHING! Period. End of story. Without fans there is no "King" James.

LeBron could have left and still showed some class and respect for the fans that had supported him. Instead he pulled out all the circus stops and used a charity for PR cover. Says a lot about him, and his closest adviser ... "Juicy" Jame$.

Cindy Boren: Oners and players so often forget that fans pay the freight. They're getting that reminder pretty vividly in news clips, sound bites, and user comments on web stories today. Let's see how the James Heat jerseys are selling.

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Waldorf, Md.: Watching MJ, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Akeem, Magic and Larry pick up a team and carry it on its back to multiple championships, if LBJ does manage to win a ring or two in Miami...will he be viewed in the same light as the names mentioned above?

Cindy Boren: I think I'd take Patrick Ewing out of that list (I had a front-row seat in NYC for that show), but I do take your point. All he has to do is win, baby.

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LeBron hatred: It is fine if you don't like the way he handled his announcement, but the comments that he is not a great player or a leader or that he does not make his teammates better are crazy. He is way better than Kobe he is just not on a team where he can have a bad game and have his team win. If LeBron plays the way Kobe played in game 7 the Cavs get blown out, but the Lakers can still win.

Cindy Boren: Way better than Kobe? Really?

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Washington DC: You know what's sad. ESPN used to be fun to watch. Now it's heading down the path MTV took to non-relevance. The Tour de France is more exciting than last night's charade of an event.

Cindy Boren: It was much better when ESPN didn't have "broadcast partners" and was fighting a guerilla war against the networks. That's always the case, though, isn't it? ESPN also is a victim of its success: fans are smarter and more aware of events because of it (and the internet). It does something like last night's show and looks dated.

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Washington, D.C.: Following the release of the letter by the Cavaliers' owner, I thought a Deadspin commenter had an excellent point: The NBA has a new standard for "Craziest Gilbert."

Cindy Boren: Good to pass that title along, isn't it?

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Sterling, Va.: You are being too nice to your fellow WaPo guy Wilbon. Both he and Stuart Scott were knee-deep in the LeBron love fest last night. It serves as a reminder that the "E" in ESPN stands for Entertainment.

Cindy Boren: I do love Wilbon and think he did the best he could with that thing last night. I thought the E stood for "ew."

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Bremerton, Wash.: Through that show and all of the questions, I was feeling pretty sorry for that "audience" in back who apparently were not allowed to move through the whole thing. Did they at least get paid for that crappy gig?

Cindy Boren: At first, I thought they were cardboard cutouts or Fatheads or CGI. Then, I hoped they were because it seemed unfair to ask people to sit there without rolling their eyes. Their presence and the blather near the end about "the kids" nearly finished me off.

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Ballston, Va.: If LeBron was as good as Kobe, Magic Bird, or MJ he would won a ring or two in Cleveland.

He didn't end of story. he will not tolerate being second fiddle to Wade. Just watch!

Cindy Boren: I submit that they had better supporting casts. I actually think he'll be okay letting DWade lead. But if he isn't, it'll be a delicious soap opera. Another special could be in the works.

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Albany, NY: "Social Media Editor"? Ah, Cindy. Is that why we haven't seen you much?

I don't have a LeBron question, so I'll go with a cookie question. Is it too hot today for pfefferneusse?

Cindy Boren: Yes! Social media editor, tweeting all things sports at twitter.com/cindyboren. And, soon (as in at the end of the month), writing a blog. I'll share details on that as the launch approaches. Is it ever really too hot for pfefferneusse? I think not.

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Washington, D.C.: LeBron had 7 years of Bad management in Cleveland the owner can only be mad at himself for hiring Danny Ferry and Mike Brown. Not exactly championchip caliber minds.

Kobe has had the likes of Jerry West, Phil Jax, Tex Winter, Magic, and Dr. Buss.

Welcome to Miami LeBron.

Charles can stuff it. He had Dr.J and Moses Malone. Then KJ Marley Then Clyde Pippen Dream. So its easy for him to say that's why he has ZERO rings.

Cindy Boren: There you go!

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Enjoy it while you can: This goes to show that you have to enjoy your local sports superstars while they're here. Folks are already talking about Strasburg going to the Yanks in five years or whatever it is (not going to happen. No way that guy is going to NYC unless Boras brainwashes him). He's in D.C. now. Enjoy it for now. But...when he does become a free agent will there be a "THE DECISION II" special on ESPN?

Cindy Boren: While I see "The Decision" repeating ad infinitum, I don't see Strasburg doing one of those. We're way way premature with this, but what the heck. I can see a dalliance with the Yankees during free agency but I don't see Strasburg -- the guy I see now, at least -- having any interest in this kind of me-fest. This is a guy who is cool with not being an All-Star.

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Boston, Mass.: This is kind of like me getting up from my desk and going to the middle of the office and shouting: "Hey everyone! Look how handsome I am!!" True, but off putting.

Cindy Boren: On that note, I must ring off. Thanks for joining me on this here chat. You've been great. See you on the Twitters and the interwebs!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

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