ESPN analyst and former Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon described the Washington D.C. sports scene as “terrible” and referred to the nation’s capital as ranking “last” among sports towns. He has since recanted his unfortunate remarks, along with his much publicized squabble with the Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, and Bram Weinstein of ESPN.
My questions are, why did Wilbon apologize, and why has ESPN’s Rob Parker never been pressured to do the same after he viciously slandered the sports fans of Atlanta in January?
OK, so maybe Wilbon’s Twitter/Facebook war with Steinberg and Weinsten was a bit petty and impetuous. I’ll even give you childish on that one. But to apologize for what he said about D.C. sports fans and teams? Never apologize for your opinion, it only shows weakness or a lack of conviction about what you said.
As a sports columnist and analyst, Wilbon is PAID to give his opinions, and sometimes those opinions are not going to be popular among certain groups. I watch Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser regularly on ‘Pardon the Interruption’, and there are times I wholeheartedly agree with him, and other times I think he’s as full of garbage as the Staten Island landfill. But I would never assume that he should apologize for any of the opinions he states.
Here was Wilbon’s initial statement from ESPN The Magazine that started all the ruckus:
“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….
“If you’re going to really look at the DC sports scene, what’s more important than the Wizards and Capitals to people are Maryland and Georgetown. But think about this: When’s the last time you’ve seen anything that happened in DC lead SportsCenter? RG3 is the first time that’s happened in years. So DC, the center of the sports universe? Never, never.”
Obviously he felt pressure from above to make his mea culpa not only with his colleagues, but also with the sports fans of Washington D.C., and if he was pressured to do that, then by god, Rob Parker should have been pressured just as much (if not more) to apologize for his incendiary remarks about the sports fans of Atlanta, calling Atlanta the “worst sports town in America”, and going on about how the fans of Atlanta didn’t deserve to have the Atlanta Falcons win a playoff game.
So what did Wilbon do in the midst of his kowtowing to the people of the Beltway? He did exactly what Rob Parker did, and went and took a cheap shot at Atlanta
Wilbon: “The one thing in there I KNOW I didn’t say is [DC's] last. I mean, that’s just stupid….Miami and Atlanta are last.”
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) October 5, 2012
First of all, this debate about the “best/worst sports towns” is tiresome and has no way of being truly measured. But if one more so-called ESPN analyst throws an unnecessary gut punch to the sports fans of Atlanta, I’m going to absolutely lose my Irish and go on a rampage in Bristol.
It’s apparent that those “in charge” at ESPN have no problem with Atlanta or Miami being used as journalistic fodder for the rest of the country to get some cheap giggles out of, but if Washington is the subject of such ridicule, then whoooooaaaaaa…hold on, we’ve got a problem.
Anyone who wants to argue about ANY town being the worst sports town in America needs to just go ahead and have that partial lobotomy finished up. Every town has its ups and downs for various teams and their attendance. Did anyone happen to notice Citi Field in New York from August through October? I don’t see a lot of people on the waiting list for Washington Wizards season tickets. The Los Angeles area can’t even hold on to an NFL team.
If Wilbon wasn’t pressured to apologize, and just felt some sort of sudden unexplainable regret for his remarks, then he loses all credibility in my book. If you are willing to unapologetically slam one town and it’s fans, then you should stick by your guns when you do the same to another.