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Wilbon vs. Steinberg: Who ya got?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by H.L. Mencken, Oct 5, 2012.

  1. H.L. Mencken

    H.L. Mencken Member

    It's time for a good old fashion sports media feud!

    In fair D.C., we lay our scene, where ancient grudges break to new mutiny, and where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

    Let's break down what happened:

    -- ESPN puts out a DC Issue of ESPN The Mag. In the issue, a transcript of a conversation between former Washington Post columnists Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser discusses the "realness" of DC as a sports town. Wilbon -- a Chicago native to the end -- kind of dismisses DC, the city that made him famous and rich, saying it has very little passion compared to Chicago, Philly, NYC, etc.

    -- Dan Steinberg, who runs one of the few credible newspaper blogs in the country housed by major newspaper, zings Wilbon a bit, saying he can't understand why Wilbon constantly feels the need to take shots at the city that made him rich and famous.


    Wilbon responds with a long rant on Facebook (another ESPN person, Bram Weinstein is also involved in this tangentially):

    Greater Washington, D.C. is a wonderful place to live; I know because I've been here more than 30 years. It is NOT the country's best sports town, not close. I was quoted as saying that in a current issue of ESPN The Magazine and am taking a lot of flack for it, which is fine. But it's annoying as hell that a couple of colleagues, Dan Steinberg of The Post and Bram Weinstein of ESPN, felt the need to whine like little babies because I didn't speak a company line that agrees with their hypersensitive feelings.

    Saying that places like New York, Boston, Philly, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles are better sports towns than D.C. is an easy and obvious observation to make, and you'd have to be a cheerleading fraud to be offended with anybody who makes it. It's not an insult to say D.C. isn't among the best sports towns in America. It's a pretty good sports town...but not great. One of the reasons I've chosen to live here since 1980 and loved doing so is that by-and-large most people here don't definte themselves by how the professional teams here do. I've always found that refreshing, enlightened.

    Greater Washington is a more literate place than some of those I mentioned as better sports cities, has an greater range of attractions than some of them. It's too bad that Steinberg and Weinstein are so limited that they think making a fair observation about Washington as a sports town is a value judgement on greater Washington itself.

    Weinstein, who is a very talented anchor, demonstrates his professionalism by calling me a "carpetbagger" as if the job of a columnist--and that's what I was for 20 years at The Post--is to simply tell readers/viewers/listeners what they want to hear and make excuses for local readers regardless of the reality of a situation. I'd like to think Bram can see the value of saying something that isn't cheerleading, or making what's seen as a critical observation...but maybe he can't. Maybe he's afraid to offend his homies...which is part of the problem with mainstream media now.

    Steinberg occupies a position that is very dear to those of us who've held it over the years: sports columnist at The Post. If all he wants to do is be popular--and I think Dan is better than that--then the readers of The Washington Post sports section won't be very well served. Telling readers how great they are as sports fans was never one of my priorities. The only thing worse than people who can't stand to hear an unpopular or unflattering opinion is those that are too afraid to state one.

    Steinberg fires back:


    Wilbon returns serve again, says "we can compare resumes anytime" and says Steinberg dressed like a "slovenly bum" at Abe Polin's memorial.

    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 has second thoughts:

    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…

    Drew Magary of Deadspin (a DC resident) enters the fray and calls Wilbon a "gutless starfucking crybaby troll" (among other things):


    Wilbon goes on ESPN Radio 980 and says his own employer misquoted him in the original article, that he did not say DC was a bad sports town.

    I believe that gets you up to speed, if you care. I found the whole thing silly but amusing. I know neither of the parties involved.
  2. jbalan

    jbalan Guest

    This pissing contest was spurred by my least-favorite, manufactured and incendiary sports argument.

    What is the best sports town?

    It may get eyeballs, but the discussion is idiotic.
  3. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I agree with Wilbon's take on D.C. being a second-tier sports town, at least behind the cities that he mentioned, and I think Steinberg may have been a little hypersensitive about it.

    I have a ton of respect for Wilbon when he was at the WP. He was one of very few big-time columnists who traveled to all of the big events. You never heard about him writing from his couch. Based on my limited experience and a handful of short conversations with the guy, he's definitely one of the good guys.

    That said, I hated what he did to Michael Leahy over the whole Jordan book and it made me lose a lot of respect for someone who I held up in my own mind at least as "someone who does things the right way"

    I think his apology was more than adequate, but I think he had a good reason to be pissed when his former paper came after him. I'm not saying it wasn't warranted, but I'm sure it stung.
  4. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Agreed, but lord knows it's not the only idiotic topic that will cause countless people to dive headfirst into the discussion. :D
  5. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Every person mentioned in the initial post, save for Abe Pollin, will have a dynamite masturbation session tonight.

    And anything credible Wilbon might be saying about D.C. completely vanishes when he includes Los Angeles on the list of top-tier sports towns.
  6. Uncle.Ruckus

    Uncle.Ruckus Guest

    Whatever the answer is, I think we all can agree Atlanta is dead last.
  7. sm72

    sm72 Member

    Seconded, thirded and umpteenth-ed.
  8. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Wilbon did cross a line, but a line was crossed when a colleague took a shot at him. This isn't morning radio.

    Can you read his Facebook posts if you are not his friend? Anyone can read the blog. I think that is worth noting.

    Also, hard to take something seriously when they use "burp" in the first graph.
  9. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Any city that has people move there and not born there has the problem DC has with fans. Phoenix had this problem when I lived there.
  10. sm72

    sm72 Member

    He posted links to the Facebook posts and you could read them. He also apologized to the guy, which I thought was unnecessary, but was a classy thing of him to do. It was a stupid argument in the first place, and you'll never win one against a homer journalist.
  11. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Having read this further, Wilbon is completely in the wrong. Here is what he writes on Facebook:

    It's not an insult to say D.C. isn't among the best sports towns in America. It's a pretty good sports town...but not great.

    Here is what he is quoted as saying in ESPN:

    No, it’s terrible. It’s not even close to New York, Philly, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, LA. It’s last.

    He never said or implied that he thought D.C. was a "pretty good" sports town. He also is completely clueless when he says nothing in DC ever leads SportsCenter -- did he really not notice anything Strasburg-related in the last three years?

    The point that this sports city argument is tired is valid. But Wilbon is trying here to change facts regarding his prior statements.
  12. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Well-Known Member

    I read the Washington Post regularly when Wilbon was a columnist. I think his columns and his work on television, which I avoid but sometimes is on at my gym, is that he has adopted the persona of wise elder advising the young. Which leads to inflated feelings of self-importance. Which leads to to being insufferable.
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