Chat with Michael Wilbon
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN's Michael Wilbon stops by to chat and share his thoughts on the sports world, as the NFL season gets ready to kick off.
Wilbon, a longtime Washington Post sports columnist, is co-host of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, the popular weekday sports debate and discussion program, as well as an NBA studio analyst for both ESPN and ABC, in addition to writing for ESPNChicago.com. A pioneer in sports journalism, Wilbon was one of the first sports writers to broaden his success beyond newspapers to include television, radio and other media.
Send your questions now and join Wilbon Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (1:34 PM)
Hang on folks. I think Mike got stuck in traffic.
mike wilbon (1:37 PM)
Happy New Year everybody! That's always the way I feel about Labor Day and the first week of September, with college football and pro football beginning, with pennant races taking shape, with the U.S. Open tennis going full bore in NYC and training camp about to begin in the NHL...so welcome back...and thanks in advance for chatting.
Bryan (Springdale, AR)
Can you believe that of the Top 200 players ranked in the NFL, by NFL players, the Seahwaks are 1st with 12 players, 49ers are 2nd with 11, and the team with 10 players, coming in 3rd, are the.....Dallas Cowboys? Mike, I'm stunned. I love my Cowboys, can they put it together this year?
mike wilbon (1:41 PM)
The problem, I think, is that people following the Cowboys (and lots of teams for that matter) obsess over the talent level instead of how the team plays. It comes closest to working that way in professional basketball, but so rarely, it seems to me, in professional football and MLB...Of course, you have to have talent. But how do you define "talent?" I don't trust some of the ways "talent" is measured. Is intelligence and the ability to make the right decisions under pressure "talent?" Was it considered that way in the Top 200 list, whatever that is. I think Cowboys fans, in particular, are so desperate to cling to something, anything, that will suggest the Cowboys will be better...I think they're still 8-8 material, maybe 9-7, despite all the predictions I'm seeing of a division title and a trip to the Super Bowl. Seriously, how many years? Would you rather win or top the talent polls?
s.e (peoria il)
should jay cutler get a long term contract. is he ever going to be a superbowl qb?
mike wilbon (1:45 PM)
If he has a great season he should be rewarded with a long-term contract...kinda like Joe Flacco's situation in Baltimore last season. How the hell does anybody know whether he's a Super Bowl QB? With all the former great QBs on television not even they know. That's what makes the Bears season so interesting, seeing whether Marc Trestman can get out of Cutler what nobody else has (yet) not even Mike Shanahan...I think the Bears have all the raw materials on offense...but AGAIN, they have to play to that...like I was saying about the Cowboys. With Marshall and Alshon Jeffery AND Matt Forte that's a lot of weapons...But Cutler, in concert with a largely new OL, has to deploy them...Let's see. If he does, cha-ching!!!
Who has hit 400 home runs more quietly - Alfonso Soriano or Paul Konerko? I know growing up 400 home runs was like hitting 3,000 hits. You punched your Hall of Fame ticket with it. Is there a baseline home run number now that gets you in or have PEDs completely diminished home run stats?
mike wilbon (1:48 PM)
PEDs have rendered the numbers useless...okay, not useless, but next-to-useless. A-Rod may hit 700...But what is it going to mean. I still think of Aaron and Ruth as the HR kings. I don't even know Bonds' final number. Their numbers are too murky, too mysterious. I'm not saying everybody should feel the way I do, but that's the way I feel. Yes, 400 was the magic number at one point for getting in because everybody who hit 400 WAS VOTED IN...Not now. There are are guys with 500 who might never get in. A glut of home runs can make you yawn. The dunk used to be spectacular, too, but what has it been reduced to when you see it 600 times a night? I'm sure chicks still dig the long ball, but damn sure not as much.
paul (new york)
Which two wide receivers are your favorite this week? Antonio Brown, Dwayne Bowe, Desean Jackson, Marques Colston, or Reggie Wayne
mike wilbon (1:50 PM)
I don't play fantasy football. Did it once and hated it. I have favorite players, yes, from professional and social interactions. There are guys I root for who aren't on the Bears, yes. But I didn't like the way I was watching the NFL when I played fantasy football...So I have ZERO idea who to recommend...Zero. I just want Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to get deep on the Bengals...
Mark (Middle of Nowhere) [via mobile]
Any chance that PED use isn't as prevalent as we might think in the NBA, at least amongst the stars, due to NBA players being eligible for international competitions such as the Olympics, and as such, subject to more drug testing than the average player? Or am I overestimating international level drug testing?
mike wilbon (1:53 PM)
I just think we care about PEDs in baseball, more than all the other sports combined, because of the numbers...because the offensive numbers have been sacred for the better part of 100 years. yes, we know Michael Jordan led the leage in scoring but is the number in your head? Hell, I covered his whole career and can't tell you specific averages. The ACTUAL number isn't sacred, but in baseball it is. I think there are PED users in every sport. I have a jar of the deer antler stuff (it's perfectly legal to have) and I'm thinking of taking it...ANYTHING to get stronger and improve my distance off the tee! I just think our fascination with the records in baseball lead us to obsess about PED users in MLB more than other sports. CLEARLY, few people give a damn about their favorite football players using...
Mr. Wilbon, can you tell us if you ever had to "avoid" a subject you really wanted to write/comment about?Thanks!
mike wilbon (1:57 PM)
Damn that's a good question...As a columnist with The Washington Post for 20 years I was never asked or told to avoid something...Common sense told me to never attack an advertiser, though if some car company was involved with an athletic scandal I think I would have felt free to...Nobody in my 12 years at ESPN (or doing Sports Reporters before that) has ever told me to "go easy on Roger Goodell" or anything remotely close to that...Now, there are things I consider off limits and don't need to be told they're off limits...I overwhelmingly don't go near co-workers or stuff like that...But actual stories? No. There are times I feel there is a conflict of interest and I stay away from something...usually I tell readers/viewers/listeners that I've got a conflict. I don't mind admitting it up front. When you do a daily show for 12 years people know where your loyalties lie and its best not to try and lie or run from them...But its a fascinating topic and we could talk about it all day...
Mike P (Greater KC)
Wilbon... The Cubs... as a fan do we just continue to right the train wreck straight to another poor year or will we be coming out of the tunnel of dispair any time soon?
mike wilbon (1:59 PM)
I said when Theo first arrived I thought there would be at least two full seasons of awfulness, then half of another before things began moving north, and nothing has changed my mind. The Cubs, after contending in 2008 and 2009 (or was it 2007 and 8, I forget) were in terrible shape, in terms of the entire farm system, etc. etc...So this was starting the building from the foundation...Any forecast that the Cubs would win in fewer than five years just wasn't reasonable to me...I hope the second half of next year they begin to look like a team...The signs are already there that they've got some young talent, but they're going to take some more lumps...
Honest question, why do you hate advanced statistics? I just thought that you would be more open to them considering that Epstein runs your favorite team and he was one of the main forces driving this movement. And also, a former colleague of yours (John Hollinger) was hired by a pro sports team off of his use of analytics.
mike wilbon (2:04 PM)
I don't HATE advanced statistics. I hate the obsession over them and the misuse of them...AND I hate anything, for instance, that tells me something is more imnportant in baseball than, say, driving in a run. So all these geniuses want to write RBI are unimportant. And I love that Jim Leyland (my favorite manager along with Joe Maddon) says, "how can anything be more important to offensive baseball than driving in a run. The game is measured by how many of them you score." That's one example. I can give 1,000...And what I KNOW from going into locker rooms is that those statistical measures can't come close to telling you what players are important to a locker room and its balance...or what player, by taking an extra base on a dare, can lift his team and help pull a guy depressed over his pending divorce out of a funk DURING THE GAME. Thousands of things cannot be measured though they impact a game and loathe the certainty people speak with over these numbers, failing to take into account the human drama...I hate people who are slavishly devoted to the numbers above all else, as opposed to using SOME of the numbers as a tool...
Chase W (Chicago, Illinois)
Given all of the offseason changes, which team has an edge in their newfound rivalry, the Seahawks or 49ers?
mike wilbon (2:05 PM)
Neither...And while I think they're positioned to be the two best teams in the NFC, I think one or both could be dinged by what I see as the emergence of the St. Louis Rams in the same division...
Jacob W. (Dallas)
Hello Michael. I am a young aspiring journalist and have looked up to you for awhile now. How do you think the industry is shaping up and how do you value and differentiate reporting versus writing long articles? And looking at it from you're view, what are the biggest keys for young writers today?
mike wilbon (2:10 PM)
There's still great reporting, but not nearly enough of it because of the obsession (here we go) with commentary and statistical analysis, both of which are essentially to today's discussion of sports in any depth, but both of which are done by people who don't understand the underpinning of any discussion is reporting. INFORMATION...The art of story telling has taken a hit too. I heard an anchor on my network say today, "We'll get sound out of Philly later" on the Riley Cooper fight. I cringed because he or she meant, literally, "sound bites" when I don't give a damn about the sound bites. I want INFORMATION out of Philly and there's a big difference. Sound? that's what producers care about. Sound and video...yeah, I want pictures. But I know as somebody who spent years reporting that I might not get "sound" out of a locker room about the fight in Philly but I sure as hell want somebody to tell me, accurately as best he can, what happened. So, that's a long-winded way of saying, LEARN HOW TO REPORT the old-fashioned way. Learn how to listen, how to tell a story that keeps your reader/listener/viewer...Do that before worrying about commenting on the story, or loading it up with stats. Writers like Shirley Povich and Jim Murray and Dave Anderson told stories fabulously without much of either of those things in some of their columns...Again, we could talk about this forever...Good luck. We need good story tellers more than more metric heads...
Are we perhaps overrating the Seahawks a little bit? They were one bothced call (Green Bay on MNF) from actually MISSING THE PLAYOFFS LAST YEAR and they don't exactly scream talent at some offensive skill positions, notably WR and TE. What do you think?
mike wilbon (2:12 PM)
Fair point...Maybe. They'll have a chance to play their way into contention again...I think they're a 11-5 sort of team, but again...I think the Rams are coming and the 49ers and Seahawks both are going to hear the footsteps.
NK (Queens NY)
How about the Brooklyn Nets this year? How well do you think the Williams-Johnson-Pierce-Garnett-Lopez lineup can do this season?
mike wilbon (2:14 PM)
My first reactions when those transactions were completed were 1) are they this year's Lakers? and 2) are there enough basketballs for all those guys who need to shoot? They're all GREAT players, but on the old side, and their coach has never been through the fire of a season as COACH...I guess that while I can't wait to see the Nets play, I'm a little skeptical. I'm in wait-and-see mode on the Nets. Maybe they're the 2008 Celtics, but maybe they're the 2013 Lakers...
Bryan (Springdale, AR)
Please comment on Brian Urlacher's admission that him and several other Chicago Bears were unethical scumbags by diving in order to slow down hurry-up offenses.
mike wilbon (2:14 PM)
Almost every team, if not every team, has something like that in its playbook. Urlacher, as is his way, just told the blunt truth.
Mike P (Greater KC)
If you had a half of fame vote... Do you vote in guys like Bonds, Sosa, McGuire, A-Rod, Palmero?
mike wilbon (2:17 PM)
I've never been a HOF voter (I was in football, but not baseball) and I'm glad I don't have a vote because I think I would NOT vote for those guys...not right now. I don't know how long I'd wait either. I saw Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson last week and just talking to them I was instantly reminded of how much I admired them and how, to me, cheating means cheating THEM...So, I wouldn't vote for those guys...It's a very, very personal decision...and I suspect as the HOF voters become younger and younger, with fewer ties to the stars of pervious generations, they'll feel very differently.
So Steve Young on PTI yesterday pesisted all the RG3/Mike Shanahan rift is overblown and irrelevant in the grand scheme of what they are both are trying to accomplish. You buying that?
mike wilbon (2:18 PM)
The Redskins performance will determine whether its overblown or not. I'm a little more skeptical than Steve, but there's a reason we like to have Steve Young on PTI whenever we can: He knows what the hell he's talking about.
Hey Mike, What is your world series prediction this year?
mike wilbon (2:18 PM)
NK (Queens NY)
Hey Mike. For starters, PTI is one of my favorite shows, so thank you for that. Two, How do you think the Lakers will do this year with the newly acquired Nick Young and Chris Kaman? Do you think Kobe can bring his last year with the team (if it will be) to another championship?
mike wilbon (2:21 PM)
This notion that the Lakers are going to finish 12th in the West is so preposterous it makes me laugh. I think there are five teams the Lakers are going to finish behind: OKC, Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies, Warriors...Even if we add the Rockets, which isn't a certainty, that's six teams. I think the Lakers will win 45 games, something like that, and finish 6th or 7th...Are they going to contend? No, I don't see that. But if Kobe Bryant is in that lineup and reasonably mobile, the Lakers will be helped by NOT having Dwight Howard. Paul Gasol will have a really good season and the Lakers will come closer to resembling the Lakers...oh...and if Steve Nash can play 70 or more games...
Mike, did you get a chance to read the article in TIME on paying college athletes? You've touched on this topic before but how do you see it actually playing out now that it seems to be gaining steam seemingly every day?
mike wilbon (2:25 PM)
I don't know that you can "pay" them. But I do tend to think the Olympic model can work. If there is value to, say, your signature or your jersey or shoes or whatever, then you should be allowed to reap the benefits. Every kid ain't gonna have that. Really, only football and basketball and sometimes track & field (depending on the region of the country) will have that. Maybe a wrestling champ in Iowa or a women's lacrosse star in the norteast or suburban Chicago...maybe somebody offers them something foor a stick or a jersey and they can take the money without an NCAA rules threatening them...I'm in favor of that, which means I'm in favor of Johnny Football getting whatever the traffic will bear for his signature...I do NOT see a model in which every athlete on campus is going to get paid. There's not enough revenue for that. BUT, I do think if CBS/Turner are paying out $11 billion for the broadcats rights to March Madness then there must be something available for the labor pool which produces it...
Tom (Eagan, MN)
Being a good Midwesterner, I wonder what you think about this being the last season in the Metrodome for the Vikings. I'm not sure what your history is with the place but it's hosted 2 WS wins, a Super Bowl, NCAA Final Fours (including a Fab Five year), an MLB ASG, and a lot of great events.Do you have any favorite Metrodome memory?
mike wilbon (2:32 PM)
Oh, I've been in the Metrodome for a lot of the stuff you mention...Sadly, you won't like my standout memory...It was of the Vikings, with Randall Cunningham and Dennis Green, on the verge of the Super Bowl when the most accurate kicker in football, Gary Anderson, missed a FG that would have put the Vikings, not the Falcons into the Super Bowl...It was January of 1999 if memory serves me correctly... That Vikings team had Cris Carter and Randy Moss...went 15-1 right? I remember that famous Bears victory in 1985, too, when Jim McMahon, who was injured, talked his way past Mike Ditka and onto the field to throw something like three touchdowns in eight passes...something like that...to lead the Bears to some impossible win...Sorry, I know you hate those two. I loved watching my South Side of Chicago brotha Kirby Puckett play there when I was covering baseball, was at the Final Four games there...It was so loud when the Twins played there...I was SUPPOSED to be there for a Bears game when the roof collapsed and they had to play the Vikings in the Golden Gophers new place...that was weird...Overall, I liked going there...I'm a big fan of Minnesapolis, in general, so I've got lots of memories from the Metrodome...The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, named for one of my dad's favorite politicians...
There is no way an NFL GM would spend a first or second day pick on Manziel, right? Its a terrible idea. It appears he doesn't have the positive character traits that you see with a Luck, Wilson or Griffin.
mike wilbon (2:34 PM)
well, I could see a team doing late in the first round, like the end of the first round...but more likely second or third round, right? BUT supppose the kid goes off again and has a great year? Is he all that different from Jim McMahon, both in size and demeanor? I'm just saying. Again, his performance this year could radically change your attitude, and those of GMs forced to consider him. Hell, Russell Wilson's performance forces GMs to look at Johnny Football differently...
Patrick C (Chicago)
Wilbon, any historic bets between you and Tony? On-going bets?
mike wilbon (2:35 PM)
Oh God, we have so many bets. Nothing big though. It's always "okay, a box of balls on blank" or "a round of golf" on blank...Every week there's something. Not many bets on the golf course, though, strangely enough...
Bears-Bengals quietly looks like it could be one of the best games of the week. What do the Monsters of the Midway need to do to get a W? Thanks!
mike wilbon (2:36 PM)
The OL needs to keep Cutler Clean, 18 carries from Matt Forte, passes to six different receivers, and two turnovers by the Bears defense. I'm sure you'll hold me accountable! LOL
mike wilbon (2:37 PM)
Okay, this first chat of "the new year" was a lot of fun...Glad we're back. Next week we'll be on Monday, before the Redskins-Eagles game here in D.C. Thanks everybody for participating...See you Monday after Week 1 of the NFL and the end of the U.S. Open, which we didn't even talk about. Serena and Nadal hoist the trophies...