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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Michael Wilbon, Dan Steinberg spar over D.C. as a sports town

Michael Wilbon, whom you know from his work as a co-host on PTI and ESPN/ABC’s NBA coverage, got into a sparring match with The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg over Washington D.C.’s status as a sports town.

The Internet fight began over Wilbon’s criticism of D.C. as a sports town in the DC sports issue of ESPN the Magazine.

Steinberg, who runs the outstanding DC Sports Bog that we frequently use as source for stories here at LBS, hilariously described Wilbon’s criticism of DC in the magazine as a “giant smelly burp inserted in the middle of a delicious and pleasing meal.”

According to Steinberg, here’s what Wilbon said about DC in the magazine:

“It doesn’t compare,” Wilbon says of Washington. “No, it’s terrible. It’s not even close to New York, Philly, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, LA. It’s last….It’s because people don’t call this home, really. They still call somewhere else home. I’ve been here 32 years, and I still barely call it home….”

Steinberg responded with a few paragraphs that take apart Wilbon’s poor argument. And let me just say, Wilbon, as someone who’s lived his entire life in LA, it’s laughable that you would call this city a stronger sports town than DC. Laughable.

Anyway, you can read the rest of Steinberg’s post on the matter here.

Wilbon caught wind of Steinberg’s criticism and responded in a lengthy post on his Facebook page Wednesday night. There, Wilbon backtracked by calling DC a “pretty good” but not “great” sports town. He also personally responded to Steinberg and ESPN’s Bram Weinstein (Weinstein is a DC sports fan who was offended by Wilbon and called him a “carpetbagger” over Twitter). You can read Wilbon’s entire post here.

Steinberg posted a response on DC Sports Bog Thursday morning, and Weinstein responded in a blog post you can read here.

What I think happened here is that Wilbon took a stance that he knew would antagonize DC, and he spoke off the cuff the way he does on PTI. The only problem is his thoughts showed up in print for the magazine, and that makes the statements more glaring than when they’re said in passing on TV.

At this point both Steinberg and Weinstein have caught Wilbon speaking off the cuff, and they got him to amend his words in less than a day. But Wilbon was so heated after Steinberg got the best of him that he wrote another post on Facebook on Thursday, this time personally attacking Steinberg.

Wilbon’s great argument is … ready for this … that Dan Steinberg didn’t dress appropriately enough for the funeral of former Wizards owner Abe Pollin! Seriously.

Quoting from Wilbon:

I’ve seen increasingly how impressed Dan Steinberg is with himself and his non-column. What I wonder is whether he’s smart enough to know that when he takes a shot at Earvin Johnson flying to a celebrity roast at Landsdowne Steinberg also is belittling Don Graham’s massive charitable crusade to raise millions of dollars for tuition of D.C. High school children. Don Graham, last I checked, is still Steinberg’s boss…or does he think it’s the other way around? And when Don asked me to co-host that golf tournament to raise those dollars, I was thrilled to do it. If Dan wants to match Earvin’s donation to help a D.C. Kid pay college tuition, it would be welcome. Then again, it’s fair to wonder about the judgement of someone who would show up looking like a slovenly bum at a memorial service for the late Mr. Abe Pollin. If you’re going to wrap yourself in D.C. Sports patriotism, Dan, have the decency to come to a public service honoring the patriarch of D.C. Sports (while representing The Post, no less) in a professional manner. Then again, I’m sure you’ll find some excuse for that, too. You and your tag-team partner, Bram Weinstein, seem to think I’m under some obligation to run my opinions past you, like you’re my editors…or even qualified to be that. Anytime, anyplace you want to post and compare resumes or career highlights I’m more than happy to engage. Until then, I’ll form my own opinions, popular or not, without seeking your permission.

Wilbon resorted to name dropping and personal attacks because he knew his arguments about DC had no merit. Pathetic. It was so pathetic that Wilbon apologized in a separate post an hour later:

Looking at my own Facebook post and tweet from a couple of hours ago I realize I got too angry in my response to what I feel is a personal attack on me…and absolutely went too far in criticizing Dan Steinberg for what I thought was inappropriate appearance at a memorial service for Abe Pollin. I should never, ever address another person’s appearance and apologize to Dan and anyone else who might object to my characterization for doing so. Even in a public dispute, which I won’t have any further part in, that characterization went too far…

And Wilbon’s corner has thrown in the towel! LBS scores this bout in favor of the new champion, DC Sports Bog’s Dan Steinberg!

You know what the difference between Michael Wilbon and Skip Bayless is? Wilbon is actually a reasonable person who has a conscience. When he got called out for his poor, inaccurate viewpoint, he corrected himself. And when he crossed the line in a fight, he was apologetic for his behavior.

Don’t try so hard to be a troll, Wilbon, it doesn’t suit you.



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