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Posted at 10:42 AM ET, 12/ 8/2010

Wilbon to write for ESPNChicago.com

By Dan Steinberg

I know you're already read it, but here's Michael Wilbon's final column for The Washington Post. It was finely done. As he's said and written before, he found the final piece to be a depressing thing, saying it was the first column he "ever dreaded writing," and that the end "will be far more traumatic to me, I suspect, than to you."

That was on Tuesday. Wednesday morning, ESPN sent out a press release announcing that Wilbon would be a "featured columnist" for ESPNChicago.com, and will also be making weekly appearances on ESPN Radio 1000 in "his beloved hometown." His first ESPNChicago.com column and chat were scheduled for Wednesday. (Here's the column.) This would be the traumatic part for us.

"Although I've been working for ESPN as co-host of PTI since 2001, writing is my first love and I'm particularly excited to be able to join an impressive stable of columnists at ESPN.com," the release quotes Wilbon as saying. "And to lead some of the discussion in the best sports city in America, which is also my hometown, is both a challenge and dream-come-true."

Far be it for me to criticize. If ESPN rolled up the money trucks to offer me a featured columnist job at ESPNFredonia.com, I'd think long and hard about it. But it does add the scent of a jilted lover to this whole departure, doesn't it? Not only is he saying good-bye to The Post; at least metaphorically, he's also saying good-bye to Washington.

Of course, he discussed the incredible temptations of returning home over the summer, using his own wooing by the Chicago Tribune to try to add context to Dwyane Wade's free agency.

"Maybe the only thing more difficult than going home again is leaving home," he wrote then.

By Dan Steinberg  | December 8, 2010; 10:42 AM ET
Categories:  Media  
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Comments

Wilbon is a disingenuous jerk. So this surprises you why Steinberg? We're still waiting for him to apologize to Sean Taylor's family for ripping Taylor after he was shot, and then being proven completely wrong about what happened. He's a person of low character IMHO. Good riddance.

Posted by: poguesmahone | December 8, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

"I know you're already read it"

I skipped it. No time for someone who was outwardly scornful towards the city and sports scene that made him. Way to make all your loot, then start acting like an obnoxious a-hole transplant.

Posted by: Kev29 | December 8, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

How is he going to write about Chicago sports when he lives in Maryland? Should you not be a part of (meaning live in) the community you are writing on? Although at this point it doesn't really matter since Wilbon has become a blathering, contradicting, shell of a writer.

Good riddance.

(Would it kill WaPo to hire some "homer" columnists? Prisbell kills maryland half the time, Wise hates the Caps, and Wilbon hates everything DC unless Tiger's tournament is in town)

Posted by: fushezzi | December 8, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Glad he is gone. I was ashamed to have Wilbon write for my hometown paper!

Posted by: kiley1 | December 8, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

wow, I see I'm not alone in my utter disdain for this clown. He is unreadable and virtually unwatchable. That's right Wilbon, take your sorry azz back to Chi with the other trash.

Posted by: iubiquity | December 8, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

What's jilted loverish about it? People leave for bigger and better jobs all the time, and often relocate to do it. Yes, he's been at WaPo forever but that doesn't mean he had to stay forever. And if you pay attention he's already been living in Arizona part time for quite a bit. Far be it from you to sound like a jealous blogger but if someone offered you a real column and higher salary at another newspaper you'd jump at it. I mean really most of us would leave our current job if a new one came along with better perks (be they money, vacation time, corner office, etc). Stop the bitterness he got a better offer let's move on.

Posted by: lucl74 | December 8, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

SEE YA!! Wilbon could not give a rats behind about the DC area. Chicago and many other places are where his heart was and is. He has never had really anything good to say about this area's sports teams or players. If he did say something halfway decent,by weeks end he would be retracting his statements by agreeing with someon else. Anyway, maybe now we will get a sports columnist who is really into the local sports teams and scenes. Can't truly say I will miss him.

Posted by: ivyleague | December 8, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Wilbon's hometown is Chicago? Who would have thunk it? Oh, that's right, I should have figured it out from 25 years worth of columns on the Bears, Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox (notice I didn't include the Blackhawks, that white team that Wilbon could care less about). Stupid me, I also should have known he was a Chicago boy because HE MENTIONED IT IN EVERY SINGLE COLUMN.

Posted by: redhotCAPSaicin | December 8, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Wilbon stays mad cause the Skins have owned the Bears. Good riddance and stay in Chicago.

Posted by: Parlett316 | December 8, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Man, some nasty bits here. I think Wilbon's a good on-air personality but his writing has gotten worse or he seems to have lost a passion for it. Going back to Chicago I'm sure will benefit him in that regard. Twenty years away, it must be pretty cool to return home.

Posted by: richs91 | December 8, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

PART I

My Final Column at the Washington Post
By Michael Wilbarn

This is the first column I ever dreaded writing (all the other ones came so naturally to me). The only time I can recall experiencing that thing known as writer's block (because again, this all comes so naturally to me). It's my last column for The Washington Post, 20-some years after my first one and 311/2 years after I walked in the door as a summer intern (oops! '311'..a typo in the first paragraph of my last ever column). It's not Shirley Povich's 75 years (no, it's not) but I hung around long enough to think it might last forever.

Sadly and of my own doing (just so you know...the Post didn't break up with me, I broke up with her) I've come to that part in the program where it's time to say goodbye (this is a very historic day, permit me to be a little melodramatic) where I need to tell readers, editors, colleagues, even some of the people I've covered over the years just how enormously grateful I am for their helping me have the greatest adventure imaginable (My job is so much more awesome than your job).

It never dawned on me I'd wind up covering nine Olympic Games for The Post, or more than 20 Super Bowls, more than 20 Final Fours, more than 20 NBA Finals (did I mention that my job is just so much more awesome than your job?) or more importantly evolve to the point where the editors of this newspaper would trust me to lead the daily discussion (yes, I am a born leader) about the news of the day and the changing cultural landscape as it all related to sports.

I never woke up a single day in those 30 years hesitant to go to work, whether I was reporting on something as surprising as...historically significant as John Thompson navigating a Georgetown basketball program through the hostility of a sports world not yet comfortable with a black coach (you didn't seriously think I was going to write my final column without needlessly bringing race into the discussion)...as personally rewarding as being front and center to see David Robinson and Grant Hill and Byron Leftwich grow from boys to men (yeah, I knew them before they were stars).

There's no "favorite" or "best" interview, no "greatest" game because there were simply too many, thousands of each, over the years (I know I mentioned this already, but my job is just so much more awesome than yours). But there is a favorite moment: Aboriginal hero Cathy Freeman winning track and field gold in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 (yep, my favorite sports moment is pretty obscure, something you've likely never even heard of) leaving me to write through tears the only time in my career (it was so tough for me to write through those tears).

To be continued...

Posted by: Barno1 | December 8, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

PART II: WILBON'S LAST COLUMN

There is a biggest influence outside the profession: Coach John Thompson, whose 2 a.m. return phone calls would often begin with, "You want to sleep or you want a scoop?" (Famous coaches have my number on speed-dial) and evolve into 90-minute conversations that usually had nothing to do with the Hoyas but everything to do with what was right or wrong with the world (white people).

I can only hope, as I leave for my own personal gain (I'm rich biatch!) with a full-time career with ESPN (and I'm famous!), that the men who shepherded my career don't regret granting all those opportunities over the years. So many of us used The Post sports department (when I say "used" I mean it) as a launching pad to fame and in some cases (my case) fortune. Long before ESPN unleashed "Pardon the Interruption" on the world (yes, I just used the word "unleashed" to describe the moment my tv show started), Tony Kornheiser and I did pretty much the same thing on the fifth floor of the newsroom (I didn't start becoming a jackass in 2001, it was way earlier).

Few newspapers had the means or the interest in sending a young columnist to Shoal Creek, Alabama, for several days to write about the difference between an exclusive country club and the local municipal track where the descendants of slaves and slave owners found themselves, willingly, to play in the same foursome (Yeah I found a way to insert slavery into a sports column).

I don't recall ever being told "no" if I wanted to write about something, even when it had little to do with sports (I always get my way, no one ever tells me no). Probably my favorite enterprise assignment, one I viewed skeptically in the beginning, was going with Dave Sheinin to Los Angeles during the riots in the aftermath of the Rodney King drama in 1992 to try to find out whether there was any correlation between the decrease in funding for community programs related to sports and recreation and the increase in gang-related activity in the city (I drew my conclusions first, and THEN I researched the issue, to try to back up my preconceived beliefs).

Oh, yes there was a correlation (I knew it all along!). Kids who wanted to be running backs, center fielders, sweepers and shooting guards had become, largely through civic neglect, gang leaders (it's not the gang members fault for becoming murderers and rapists, it's the white people who didn't build them basketball courts). There was nothing quite like being invited one night to the Hollywood Hills home of the one and only Jim Brown (Jim Brown, like most famous people, knows who I am) to join members of the Crips and Bloods (I still keep it real) who had accepted his invitation...

Posted by: Barno1 | December 8, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

PART III WILBON'S LAST COLUMN

Don't get me wrong; I loved covering some of the greatest events of the end of the 20th century, like the game where Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's streak for consecutive games played (have I mentioned yet that my job is just a million times cooler than your job?). But the stories like the one in Los Angeles were the ones that separated The Washington Post from 99 percent of daily newspapers, and those issues were the ones that began to reshape the discussion of sports in America, the ones that led people to look to columnists essentially as discussion leaders (And have I mentioned yet that I'm a discussion "leader"?). The complex stories, the ones that made people examine their own values and beliefs (my columns made you think) were so far removed from box scores and game analysis (columnists like me have much more important jobs than lowly beat reporters), but they now drive viewership and readership (you people don't open up the sports page for the box scores, you open it to read my columns).

My very first "audition" column came before that in 1988 and was about Jimmy "The Greek" (you must be shocked that my first column was about a racial issue) and some controversial remarks he'd made after lunch in downtown D.C. (at Duke Zeibert's for those of you of a certain age) that got him fired and truly kicked off the discussion of language, stereotypes and race in sports.

(In that column, my thesis was this: "If you buy into the theory that blacks are in some way physically superior, you leave open the door for those who propose that white athletes are smarter or work harder." Yes, that's right...White Men actually CAN jump. And black men do not have any advantage whatsoever in terms of speed or jumping ability. And it's just a coincidence that all the track stars are black. And if you think differently, you're probably a KKK member).

Sally Jenkins, Tracee Hamilton, Mike Wise and Boswell will write, as they always do, with such passion and insight and grace (but not John Feinstein, at least not after he said some mean things about me last year) that many of you might not have noticed for months I was gone (but at some point, you'll notice I am gone, because well, I'm kind of a big deal around here).

Still, knowing that I'll no longer have those kinds of discussions in this newspaper, from the frivolous to the serious, will be far more traumatic to me, I suspect, than to you (but mind you, it WILL be at least a little traumatic to you that I'm leaving).

The past 20 years, I've had the best job in America (have I made it clear yet that I have a so much more awesome job than you?).

p.s. So long suckers! I'm rich biatch!

Posted by: Barno1 | December 8, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

First off, I like Wilbon and I am amazed at the amount of venom folks spew his way. I also completely don't get the racist comments (he says in his initial column at espn.com that he'd take Andrew Luck over Cam Newton - what a racist!).

Second, as I just mentioned, his first column is up at espn.com. It appears that he will write for espn.com and espnchicago.com. Given his preference for the "big" stories in sports and society, I would be surprised if he is primarily writing for espnchicago. He said on his last chat here that he would be doing two columns a week, so maybe one is Chicago-focused and one is broader.

By the way, the guy who says Wilbon never talks about the "white" team - the Blackhawks - you, sir, are wrong. He's worn Blackhawks jerseys on PTI and went to Blackhawks games during their Cup run (and he often brings up old Blackhawks players).

Posted by: gkronenberg | December 8, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Just leave. Move to Chicago and let us all pretend we never knew you. Go away. It was nice once, but that was long ago, because you and TK became so insufferably full of yourselves.

Go.

Posted by: bethesdaguy | December 8, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I also completely don't get the racist comments (he says in his initial column at espn.com that he'd take Andrew Luck over Cam Newton - what a racist!).
---------

Well that settles it, he must not be a racist!

Seriously, you "completely don't get" the racist allegations? And you've been reading Wilbon for how long?

Posted by: Barno1 | December 8, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

good riddance to a whiney, racist, hater

Posted by: bestmick1 | December 8, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

So glad this punk is gone. All he ever did was tell Redskins fans to shut up and stop talking about the Skins and rambled on constantly about his beloved Chicago teams. I have always hated him and glad he's gone. Good riddance.

Posted by: RiggoisDrunk | December 8, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Let me join everyone else by saying what a joy it is that we do not have to read this jerk's columns anymore.

He never cared about this town, and he spent most of his time writing columns about national sports topics rather than local ones. Further, he left no doubt that all he cared about was Chicago. Further, he either thought that we cared or to hell with what we thought.

You could easily tell Tony Kornheiser, a transplanted New Yorker, fell in love with the sports teams here and embraced them, even as his fame was soaring. Wilbon never did and never cared, which ultimately showed that he never cared about the sports fans in this town who yearned for a writer who identified with the teams in our nation's capital --- lived and died if you will.

But what is most odious about this man is the racial impramatur he often used to make his points in columns. It was offensive.

I will never forget the time he wrote about the Ty Willingham firing from Notre Dame (a school he venemously hates for bigoted reasons) and claiming racism in the process. Racism is always a dangerous accusation to level against anybody, but he used anonymous sources to level unfounded accusations against a school that had been only one of four out of 116 to actually hire a black coach in Division I just three years prior.

By the way, three years later, Ty Willingham was fired by Washington for incompetence (0-12 record) but did you hear the outrage from Wilbon then? Never, because he himself was a bigoted man loaded with double standards and hypocrisy and never had the character to face it down.

Wilbon, good riddance to your departure and never come back.

Posted by: mcleanva1 | December 8, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I also completely don't get the racist comments (he says in his initial column at espn.com that he'd take Andrew Luck over Cam Newton - what a racist!).
-------------------------

I think this is one step below "I have a black friend, therefore I can't be a racist."

But I suppose in your world, Strom Thurmond wasn't a racist because he slept with a black woman? Seriously, did you really try to claim Wilbon isn't a racist because he'd take Andrew Luck over Cam Newton? Don't bring that weak crap around here.

Posted by: Barno1 | December 8, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

If PTI's still in DC, does this mean lots more remote hosting from Wilbon?

I'm not surprised.

Posted by: WorstSeat | December 8, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I also completely don't get the racist comments (he says in his initial column at espn.com that he'd take Andrew Luck over Cam Newton - what a racist!).
---------

Well that settles it, he must not be a racist!

Seriously, you "completely don't get" the racist allegations? And you've been reading Wilbon for how long?

Posted by: Barno1 | December 8, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse


Barno, you are definitely a bit longwinded, but you hit on all the salient points. If you don't think Michael Wilbon has an issue with race, I have got to question your intellect. Sorry, but you are just flat-out blind or ignorant, and there are a lot of you out there. I was way ahead of the curve on Wilbon. I picked up on his biases back in the 80s, and the succeeding years only brought them into crystallized focus.

As for John Thompson, he may have been a good basketball coach, but I wouldn't trust him to take care of my dog. Just because you speak with a booming voice in serious tones doesn't make you bright. The man is a complete moron, and his employment as a talk show host is incomprehensible, until you take into account his audience.

Posted by: redhotCAPSaicin | December 8, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Guy works 30 years for the WASHINGTON Post, and in his first column for ESPN.com introducing himself, the only mention of any Washington team or athlete is the Washington Diplomats! The guy sets new standards for lack of self-awareness--or self-parody.

My favorite part of the column was this: "Never presume I don't know anything about hockey. A great many black kids in the Midwest (particularly Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago) grow up playing hockey. I'm one of them."

Mike, I never presumed you don't know anything about hockey because you're black. I presumed you didn't know anything about hockey because you hardly ever wrote about it the last 10 years, and when you did, your thoughts were generally superficial or ill-informed.

Posted by: TheFingerman | December 8, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Adios wilbon

Posted by: MReilly9 | December 8, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Wilbon's first comments on his ESPN Chat:

"I've done chats forever..since the late 90s for the Washington Post, but that was a by and large soft core sports audience."

Thanks for the shout out Wilbon (NOTE: sarcasm). Love ya on PTI, but quit disparaging the DC area, please.

Posted by: mjsciann1 | December 8, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"I've done chats forever..since the late 90s for the Washington Post, but that was a by and large soft core sports audience."

What a farking arsehat

Posted by: Kev29 | December 8, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Issues of race have been a part of our sports the past century or more, they are a part of its present, and, no doubt, its future. The fact that Wilbon included such issues in his writing is only to his credit. To say that he is "racist" because of this is idiotic.

Could Wilbon be just wrong, arrogant, overweening, obnoxious in his bashing of local fans, his over-the-top "principled" non-homerism, and unrelenting in his name-dropping and tendency toward fawning celebrity sports journalism? Umm.... YEAH! Absolutely. But do, please, get off the racism claim - rather, take a look in the mirror.

Posted by: JefComment | December 8, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

For heaven's sakes, the first comment on his chat room is that? The sound of Wilbon's whiny, shrill voice makes me ill.

Posted by: mcleanva1 | December 8, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Barno - ha, good point coming back at me re Strom Thurmond. Seriously, though, if Wilbon was all about pumping up the black man I would expect that he would, you know, pump up the black man in this instance. In terms of on-court performance, at least, I think he views things pretty objectively.

Maybe I'm completely wrong, but tell me where and when Wilbon has been a racist. Just because he brings up the issue of race doesn't make him a racist. Maybe he's racial - in that he delves into issues of race. And maybe his worldview doesn't comport with your's and maybe he sees racism (rightly or wrongly) where you don't and that affects his worldview, but I don't think any of that makes him a racist per se.

Posted by: gkronenberg | December 8, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse


Dan,

are you going to write anything about Jim Kelley?

If Wilbon can write about Chicago and Sally can write from New York, surely you can write a column about an apparently-beloved Buffalo columnist?

Posted by: metatext | December 8, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

"Issues of race have been a part of our sports the past century or more, they are a part of its present, and, no doubt, its future. The fact that Wilbon included such issues in his writing is only to his credit. To say that he is "racist" because of this is idiotic."

Claiming that anyone--anyone--is saying Wilbon is racist simply for talking about racial issues is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Blatant straw man. Invent a position your opponent didn't take, then knock down that position.

No one--no one--is suggesting nor implying nor insinuating that Wilbon is a racist because he talks about racial issues. That is absurd. No, people call Wilbon a racist because he is one. Any time a black coach if fired, Wilbon claims it's because of the coach's skin color. Any time a black coach is pass over for a head coach job, Wilbon claims cries racism. When a black announcer gets fired, Wilbon cries racism. When a white owner criticizes LeBron James for leaving his team the way he did, Wilbon supported the contention that Dan Gilbert was like a "slave-owner" and blamed racism for the backlash against LeBron.

I suggest you read some others' take on this issue, as many make strong cases illustrating Wilbon's racism:

http://newsbusters.org/node/7193

http://curlyr.blogspot.com/2007/09/michael-wilbon-inflames-race-war.html

http://sleepyeyedwhiners.blogspot.com/2009/10/michael-wilbon-lays-egg-on-limbaugh-and.html


Posted by: Barno1 | December 8, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Here's Wilbon on how it annoys him when others don't see the racism that he sees:

"What really annoys me is that some young black quarterbacks don't seem to have any idea of the context of the issue. Don't get me wrong, it was great to hear Tennessee's Young and the Redskins' Jason Campbell (two kids who played quarterback in the South) say they hadn't faced any particularly stinging criticism...But there also was a naivete about their comments, especially Young's, when he said the notion of black quarterbacks dealing with unfair criticism is 'not my fight to fight.'" -Michael Wilbon

Posted by: Barno1 | December 8, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse


I am unable to access ESPNFredonia.com

Posted by: apeirond | December 8, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

"please, get off the racism claim - rather, take a look in the mirror."

Please, read my earlier post.

Posted by: redhotCAPSaicin | December 8, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

What is wrong with you people? It's Michael Wilbon, not Chairman Mao. He's a good guy. Geez.....

Posted by: thegraneys | December 8, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Great day for Washington to say "So long" to that racist slug. Good bye and good riddance.

Posted by: PS7900 | December 8, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Who is Tony Kornheiser?

Posted by: capscapscaps2 | December 8, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

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