Huddle Up with Gus
Huddle Up with Gus

Episode · 1 year ago

Michael Wilbon

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Joining me in the Huddle this week is the Co-Host of Pardon the Interruption on ESPN, Michael Wilbon. We talk about growing up in Chicago and perfecting his craft on the family couch, his time spent at Northwestern, and how he landed an internship at The Washington Post. 

Michael's love for Chicago sports still runs deep in his veins, but DC is a close second. He loves the Cubs, and when we started talking about some HOFers like, Ernie Banks his face lit up. He, of course, loves Da Bears too, but we push them aside and talk about the days of RFK Stadium and the Washington Football Team. Please, someone, help give them a new name!!!!!!

PTI has been running for 20 years thanks to Michael's dynamics pitted against the oft-maligned Tony Kornheiser. They make it a great show because of the push-pull of opinions they have regarding sports. Michael tells us the way PTI started and who made it all happen. 

Thank you for joining me on the show, Michael! 

...welcome to what surely will be a doozy of a matchup. Brian. Here, sports fans. Whether your game is on the gridiron, at the diamond or on the links, we can only say, Mm hmm, mhm. Welcome to this week's huddle up with gusts. 15 year NFL quarterback Gus parents' passion for sports has taken him on the field and behind the bench is playing for seven NFL franchises with 114 TVs under his belt. Gus knows who the players are and how the games are. One. Uh, it's not every day you get to hang out with an NFL quarterback up. Okay, sports fans from the decked out and plush 16 31 digital studios. It's kick off time, so snap your chin straps on and get ready to huddle up with us with two left. Hey, everyone, welcome to another episode of Head Up with Gus. I'm your host, Gus Frerotte, 15 year NFL quarterback, and I want to welcome you well. This is not my studio, but the 16 31 digital news studio. They're my partners. I'm really happy to be with them, and then also I want to thank sounder FM for hosting my podcast. Uh, today I have an amazing guest, somebody who who wrote a lot about me when I played for the Washington Redskins. I always liked him better than the guy. He's kind of coasting with. Quebec Guy was a little harder on me, but coming in today as my guest is Michael Wilbon. He's been an ESPN commentator and a former sports writer for The Washington Post. I mean, it's just for since 1980 you've been there and now he's an analyst for ESPN. He's he's a co host on Pardon the interruption. Uh, since 2000 and one. So, Michel, it's great to talk to talk to you and actually figure out your life, because that's what we're gonna do today. So thank you for joining me on. Huddle up with Gus. Gus, man, it is good to see what I first got the call. I was like, I knew that you were doing a podcast. I don't know that I knew that it talked about the origin of sports and people's lives, but I I was thrilled to hear it has been too long. Uh and yeah, man. I mean, it's sort of like parallel growing up periods in, in, in professional football. You did the real hard work, and I just looked I was a voyeur looking into people like you every week. And I listen, I was at some other games after you left Washington, Um, goodness, playoff games, even a couple of times as I still cover the NFL. So it's just great, uh, to catch up with you again like this. This is really cool. Well, thank you. You know, and we all take different paths, but we all kind of have similar beginnings, right? I talked to to Ricky Williams this week as well, uh, or last week for the show. And, you know, we all just kind of have these crazy beginnings, and sports is always ingrained in most of us. So tell me from the time when you were little, that you can remember back to where you fell in love with sports and when how that happened, it could have been family. Or you could have had a great idol. I mean, there were a lot in Chicago at that time. So tell me about growing up and how you fell in love with sports because it was. It was a combination, and you just hit it. You nailed it. Um, it was family. I mean, my dad, uh, raised my brother and me. It's just the two of us. My my brother, who's 2.5 years younger, and the three of us were on a cell phone screaming and hollering about sports from the time I can remember. And the funny thing is, now my wife will say when my 12 year old son and I are screaming at each other Well, you guys pipe down. We're like, No, we're never gonna pipe down. This is how this is how I grew up. This is how you know this life was formed. And so for me, the earliest memories are I think there they're kind of two different things. I was five years old when the Chicago Bears won their championship. The last one before the Super Bowl, 1963 was not a championship. It was a championship, not a Super Bowl. And it was not with...

Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus. And I only have vague memories of it. You know, memories of some of the place Mike Ditka was on that team as a starting tight end. But it was that, and it was then embracing the Chicago Cubs of Ernie Banks and Billy Williams and Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins and those guys and that that took me because, you know, teams stay together, then players didn't unless they got traded. There was no free agency. Um, and I grew up watching those guys play together on the same team from the time I was, I don't know, four when I can remember 45 until I was a teenager. I mean, you know, Ernie Banks played until I was 13. Billy Williams played until I was 16 or 17. Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins and I got to know them as as adults, which has scored sort of scary, you know, to meet your to meet your idols. But it was that, Gus it was. It was embracing those teams when I was a kid. And, you know, I thought I was going to be the next first basement of the Chicago Cubs, and when I figured out that wasn't happening, I was a good baseball player. Was a good baseball player through high school, probably could have played small college baseball certainly could not play Big 10 baseball. I was not that good was never gonna be that good, but I married my two interests, You know, sports and and and writing communicating. And that's, you know, very basic way of how I got to this point. But those those points that you asked me about, I remember them pretty vividly from the time I was 56 years old and certainly more vividly as I got older. So what was your neighborhood like? A lot of people tell stories about their neighborhoods, right? We don't see this today, to be honest, but going out, like in my neighborhood where I grew up in out outside of Pittsburgh, was you were on a bike. You were going to get a ball. You were doing something out in the neighborhood all the day like your parents didn't want you home, right? What was that like for you? So, like, I think I've learned about traveling and covering sports over the country is that there's some communities that are very much alike. Pittsburgh and Chicago or two of them, right? I've learned that from friends who grew up in Pittsburgh and just time spent. Um, I was on a bike. I played. We played baseball every day. Now we played. There was seasonal stuff. We played tackle football without equipment without helmets. We did that. We played baseball. It seemed like 150 days a year, which is hard in Chicago. We played when he got cold. I'm sure you play. We got cold in Pittsburgh. I know you did. We did all the same stuff with total disregard of weather. Um, I played everything. There was no soccer in the 19 sixties when I was a little kid. Uh, there was very little, um I grew up playing tennis. I skated, so we played hockey. We froze upon in the winter. Um, I played golf was not on the menu, but everything else was. And so we played more baseball than anything else. That was our first love. When you're my age, which is to say, 62 years old, baseball was your first love. And then everything else fell in line after that. Probably football for us. And then basketball, um, horseshoes, table tennis, tennis, everything. Everything. You had to play and play outside every day and I didn't want you home. So when you said that, I started laughing because, you know, I mean, I know I'm at least a decade older than you, but I suspect we grew up very much the same way in terms of the parks the kids, like you knew by 12 or 13, who was going to be really good. I can stay on the field and get chosen fairly early on for every game. But I knew who was really good. You know, I knew the kids who are gonna be playing Division one college basketball. Uh, play played minor league baseball. I wasn't one of them. I could play with them, but that had to be done. Man, I It sounds like we grew up pretty much the same way. Oh, yeah. I mean, we you give us a wolf, a bottle and one of those yellow bats, You go all day, no question, and you...

...can have a little area. It didn't matter of home run fence. That's all you needed. We played home run fence over the tennis court fence, and I mean, I don't mean the tennis court net. I mean, the fence, which was 14 ft high. Maybe. And we play coed. It's so funny. Like people talk about now, you know you need a title. Nine. You need all these official things to bring to force, you know, schools and institutions to allow young women to play girls and young women. We didn't have anybody needed to force that. We did that. Naturally, the boys had to bet on the opposite side. We played with the girls, and I'm talking about from eight years old to 18. And so I got to be a pretty proficient hit her from the left side because we had to play. We played with the girls. I had to battle Lefty being a natural writing, and we But we did. Everybody played, everybody had to participate. And if that wasn't your best sport, and I bet this was the way you guys did it because you still have to play any better. But I guess, sport, it wasn't your best support. You still have to participate, but yeah, you know, And the thing was, is that we all knew there were different levels of everybody out there. You you just you had what you had in your neighborhood or your town and you all played together and we never made anybody feel like they were terrible. We just all wanted to play, right. I had another question for you, though you're talking about you had to switch from right to left, e you know, and all that. And I know you're a cubs fan. Who is your Who is who Who did you try to emulate when you were right handed swinger and who is your left handed swing? Because I know you did. When you stood up there in that will football bat, you had your stance and your swing. Who was? I'm sitting right here next to my jersey. If I could turn the screen, I would. I have Ernie Banks, 1969 jersey. Um, heavy wall. Um, you know what? It's a visiting jersey with the gray and the blue Chicago on the front number 14. And I imitated Ernie Banks and he always did the fingers like this, you know? And it was high stated. The bat was held high in his his hands on the right handed stance and the left handed stance. It was Rod Karoo. I don't even know why It's Rod. Karen Nothing. Chicago I just like Barad Karoo stand. It was back. The bat was back. So the motion when he came through And, of course, rock ruin like six batting titles. But yeah, so those were probably my favorite batting stances. But you knew them all right? Like I knew Roberto Clementi stance. I knew Willie Stargell stance on the left side. I know. Oh, man, That was part of what we studied back there that I'm sure you did that as well. So those were the two and they come to mind immediately. Well, you know, and it's crazy. We didn't have, like, we couldn't sit there on the phone and and watch them over and over. But we would watch some games on TV because we didn't have any money to go to a pirate game. We lived an hour from Pittsburgh, and my dad was like, Yeah, we're not you know what I mean? We have more important things that go watch. But we watched them on TV and we listened to them all the time, and you just you only had to watch really started a couple times to get that swing down. It was, you know, that's exactly right. Where they used to beat the cubs like a drum most of my life, I have plenty of time to get it. You know what, though? Because I had a paper route. As a kid, I have money to go to games. Oh, really? Yeah. And so we went to you guys have to trade. You can take everything going Train? That's exactly right. If you wanted to take a train in Pittsburgh, you had to write on top of coal doing that. We We got very lucky in that. Comiskey, uh, to go see the White Sox was about a eight minute train ride. That's all it was going to make me feel was longer. But by the time I had that route, we did both, and I would I would buy it, just sort of foreshadowing. I would buy box seats in the upper deck so I could look right down on the action. And those are my...

...favorite seats. And it turned out to be like the press box seats I had as a grown man. I wanted to be in the upper deck looking down those seats cost eight bucks and my son says to me now, Dad, why do we always sit up here? I'm like, because these are the seats I had when I was a kid and damn it, we're sitting in the same seats every time we come to wriggle. Yeah, and you know, that's amazing, because I always feel the same way. Like my dad talks about going to games when it used to be Forbes Field here in Pittsburgh, and I never got to experience that. I always wanted to. Now it's like we're on. We're on our third stadium, you know? Pittsburgh Stadium is beautiful. You see the city downtown, everything. But it would have just been amazing to go and watch a game at Forbes feel. I feel like Chicago is so lucky that they have kept Wrigley Field for so long. I feel the same way. And so, you know, in the playoffs, even when they before 2000 and 16, I would say that my son who went I would say, Hey, Babe Ruth played on this field. Luke Garrett played on this field. You know, Willie Mays played on this field and we still go there now and you still have a sense of that. And you're right. Gus and I was old enough to see games at Forbes on television. I never I never got to Forbes, which is sort of a bad thing because I got to Cleveland Municipal. I got to Detroit and all those stadiums were kind of a set right, and I feel Forbes is the only one I did. I did. I get to Crossley. I think I did get to Crossley. So Forbes was like the only stadium is sort of the Rust Belt of the United States of the old original stadiums. Maybe not original, but very old that I didn't get to. And so I hear you on that. But I feel that connectedness when I go to Wrigley because it's the same field. It's the same walls with ivy. It's the same stuff. I saw Henry Aaron playing my first game as a kid going to Wrigley, and I'm very much, um, I feel that when I when I go to the place and I still go there now, well, it's crazy when you talk to these names because so I collect vintage baseball cards and I have all these guys write all these old cards and through covid. My sons were home because gonna, uh, graduate from William and Mary, but they didn't have a graduation. They just basically kicked everybody else school and gave us home from Delaware. So they got into the cards with me, and it was It's been awesome ever since. But I can see that picture of Ernie Banks, like on the card. And I'm sure you collect. You had some of those when you did, right, Hank Aaron? All Roberto Clementi grows Clementa. Yes, I had all the great players in the sixties. Yeah, and Gunner gave love like all the new guys, right? Because they know all the players, the basketball players, the football players now and everything. Baseball is not as as much anymore, but they said, Dad, why do you like all these old cards? I said, because they're not making anymore. And these guys kind of started. It was just something about listen to a pyre game, my dad's transistor radio that when I see those players, it just brings back memories. It's amazing. I am. I did that into the eighties. I listened to the first time the club's gotten in the postseason 1984 of my life because they went from 45 to 84 without being in the playoffs. With it being the postseason, I would go out and sit in the car in Washington, D. C. And Upper Northwest, DC Gus, I would go out and sit and listen to Harry Carey. Uh, got the postseason 84. And I tell my son is he looked at me and she said, Dad, I don't believe that I'm like we believe it, you little punk. I did. I went and got and sat in the car. And so I know that, you know, it's I know our sons, you know? It sounds like you were describing my kid, too, You know, he knows every NFL and every NBA player. He knows some some major league baseball players because we go to a lot of Cubs games. He loves it and he goes to nationals games, too. But baseball...

...does not the fabric of their lives like it was for us. Yeah, and actually, it's been great because my son's got to know a lot of these players because the cards that we've been collecting because that businesses exploded, right? I mean, when you were talking about the stadiums, like these older stadiums, I feel like I got to be a part of that at RFK. Like tradition. Right, That tradition. I felt like God, I got to you know, all these great players came before me in Washington. You got the report on a lot of them and write stories about going to RFK was It's still my favorite place I've ever played. Well, you know, it's really weird. Um, so I got here in 1980 so I had 16 years of RFK. And then since then, since 97 I think, um, it's been, you know, it's I mean, it's unbelievable. 25 years it's been this the stadium out in in P. G County and I didn't grow up with RFK, but my wife did, and her father took her there to watch. You know, everybody from Bobby Mitchell. Funny, you know, through through John Riggins and and even through what Brian Mitchell Brian Brian must have played four or five years at three or four years anyway, um, at RFK before he had to move Darrell green, and it's interesting. Um, I'll tell you a quick story. So when the Dallas Cowboys came back to Washington in 97 and they had to take a bus out to the stadium that Jack can cook built, they're still using, um, Evan Smith asked the bus driver if they could drive by RFK. And so many guys on there were a few guys on the bus that they had, you know, it didn't mean anything, but it meant something. Emmitt Smith to go to this visiting stadium and and And it was telling me the story after the game that day because he knew it meant something to me. He knew it meant something to anybody who had spent time in that stadium. And while it wasn't my stadium, there's no way I didn't appreciate the way of rock. And you remember how it bounced. Scared the hell out of you. Sometimes we have bounced, But yeah, man, there was so many, uh, great players are great games in that place. Um, and it's never been replaced, you know, it's never been replaced in the new stadium. There haven't been as many famous games, um, and crusades. If you will in that stadium as it were. And are they took all the I think the spirit. Uh, I don't know what you want to call it out of that RFK. It's like you said the bleachers were bouncing. The band was playing. The hog gets were there, right? Like there was just so much, you know, I'd go on to feel like when I would pull in the stadium. They actually let me park on the stadium when I was playing there. I don't know why they did it, but Sam hoppers, of course, Sam Huff used to meet me under the stadium when Annie and I would pull in and Abby was a little baby and he would get her out of this car car seat and he'd carry her around and take anti door seats. And I was like, That's Sam Huff doing that, you know what I mean? And then Sonny would be out June a cigar and like, it was just I never had an experience, even though I played a lot of places and had some great memories, never had another experience like that. So you've been a writer for the Post for so long, right? You were for from like, Yeah, um, and you had to have some amazing experiences. So tell me about when you first started at the Post and were you nervous? What was that? What you mean you're coming from the middle school? You're like, man, I'm fresh. I'm out of I'm ready to go. And so what was it like? Did you get humbled? Because, you know, we all have those moments. Yeah, I was, um I was terrified. I thought, you know, uh, the night before I started the night before...

...my first day as an intern, I went to see the movie All the president's Men, which was, you know, four years old by then. But I hadn't seen it somehow. And then you walk into the building the next day and have the post look exactly like that to get up on the fifth floor elevator. And I were wearing a suit, you know, wool suit in the middle of summer, Little June 1 of the 92 degree days in D. C. With 113% humidity and scenery. And yeah, I was nervous as hell. Uh, and what made me more nervous was that there's a, uh, the person who was in charge of the internship program, a man I came to know quite well named Tom Wilkinson. He was supposed to take all 20 interns to lunch, and he got he was sick or something that day and he couldn't take us to lunch. And they said, Okay, well, Tom Wilkinson, who All of us have gotten to know a little bit to the communication from school to move in Washington. He can't take your lunch. So you're going to have lunch with Bob Woodward. And it was like, Oh, my God, first lunches with Bob, Um and he somehow made us at least me. I was not terrified by the end of lunch, but it was It was the greatest experience of my life and the most important one, because after that internship, you know that that's that's being a first round draft pick and, yeah, going. I went back to school, finish my senior year model, but that made me confident. Probably too confident, just probably too damn cocky. You know, I thought I could conquer the world because I was getting job offers from everywhere. While I was a senior at Northwestern. I was getting, you know, I had the Miami Herald call, and I had to, you know, the Atlanta Constitution. I mean, I had job offers, and so I walked around as a senior in college, like I was, you know, a big man on campus. But that summer was both terrifying at first. Um, luckily, I didn't have a humiliating experience like I could have the next summer. I did have one. I got locked in the RFK. I was covering a game. A big high school All star game. The lights went out because I was the only person writing for a big newspaper. I got trapped in RFK until, like, two in the morning. So there's my hungry. But I it meant everything has shaped my life, going forward to be able to then come back to the post the start as a full time reporter. I worked there for 30 years, which set me up for everything I have done since. Well, obviously, model got you ready for the big time. So tell me who was your mentor? Who was that person and the deal that that really kind of pave that way or was helped. You kind of get to where you are today. Well, actually, it's really before that. It was, uh uh, See, when I was in high school, so I think Nations College prep a little Jesuit school in Chicago. Um, where you were tearing it up on the baseball field. I was. I was pretty good on that. Was pretty good at baseball. Then what position you play? I pitched and played first base. Nice, um, pitched and play first base in my most memorable game. Sadly, was the morning after prom I had to get in the bed after prominent about 2 30 with a morning game against Quigley South, Um, and I pitched a one hitter, but walked the bases loaded, giving a sac fly and lost the game. So my my my my greatest pitch game in high school was an L. But I, um James James Wall was my, uh He was my journalist. You talk English lit, and I'm one of those weird kids. I guess you knew which way my life was going on the fork in the road because I loved English lit. That teacher was crazy and theatric, and I still loved him. And then I had him for journalism when I was a junior or senior. And then...

...he wrote my recommendation letter to Northwestern, and so I had a I mean, I had a crew of teachers, professionals, people who were working professionals at the time, like Bill Dallas, who was a sportswriter of the tribute at the time. Um, and I had a lot of people that we're tough enough and good enough and smart enough demanding enough then I feel like they have more than taught me their coach to me. Yeah, I felt that that was what I took that seriously. I'm not sure I took everything else as seriously as I should have, because that took that seriously and they they got me ready. So they get you ready and you talked about. It's like, you know, it's like being in the NFL. It's like the first round draft pick to go to the post and have that internship. But you're from Chicago and you're at Northwestern. Did you have an opportunity like that that that one of the papers there in Chicago offer you a job? Sadly, Gus, both the papers there turned me down. Um, So you know how I felt when the Steelers never took? Yes. Okay. Oh, my God. It's so funny. You mention that because I grew up delivering. From the time I was 11 from 11 to 18, I had a paper route. I got up at five o'clock every single morning, meaning 365 days a year with my brother. We we delivered the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago sometimes, and all I ever wanted was to work for one of them. That's all I ever wanted. And when I was at McGill interviewing with both of them as a senior, they both said, You don't have enough experience. You got to go somewhere and work five years, five years, come back. So two years into my time at The Washington Post, the editor who told me that, um, I almost thought of her name, and I just drew a blank. Who said you gotta go five years? You know, you can't work here at the Tribune. Um, she called me. I remember sitting at my desk getting a call. Mike, can you hope the Chicago Tribune? I don't know. Yeah, and I'm like, What do they want? Do they want me to get a subscription? Because, I mean, you know what they want. And she said, um, God, I can't think I just almost start her name again. She said, We want you to come home. We made a mistake. You should be here. It's been 2.5 years. Usually come home and I go Wait. I wasn't a math major, but I know 2.5 85 right? And so they won, You know, they offered me a job and I said no. Um, and I stayed at the post and I stayed at the Post. You know, my whole newspaper career. I came very close to leaving, Um, in in 1997. I came very close to going home, but that's what I wanted, Gus. I wanted to work for the papers I delivered and they were like, Yeah, whatever. Well, I was the same way. I always wanted to play for the Steelers. I can imagine. Yeah, you know, there's probably a good thing that didn't happen because I have too many crazy family members here that would probably, you know, even When I came home, it was tickets, like out the wazoo, so I can't even imagine what that was. So okay, with the Washington football team, we have to call it now to be correct. You Did you play a road game in Pittsburgh when you when you recorded back here? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. You couldn't turn off your phone back then. You just had to take the call. So you know how crazy Steeler fans are. So I have family members are that crazy? And when I played here, I get my family tickets. And after the game, when I go out to see them, you know, at the parking lot before we go on the bus, my wife's all upset. I'm like, What? You know what the heck is going on? And I turned around and look and like my family members have like, Steelers jerseys on and not my jersey. And she was like, living like she was so upset. But that's just kind of how it is. I was kind of laughing, but...

...still a little angry, But what are you gonna do? You know what I mean? What are you gonna do? So so you have this great experience at the Post. You know, you've done so many things. You were on with Jordan. I remember you used to be on with George. Michael got arrested, Soul, uh, you know, used to do stuff with John Riggins and Sunny, but also, you've done so much basketball like, Well, how did you get into basketball? And I kind of understand your your football side, but tell me about your basketball story. Well, listen, I you know, I was one of those people. I was very lucky. And that the SportsCenter of the post. George Solomon. Whenever I got comfortable, he thought I got comfortable covering one thing. It was gonna movie over here, right? And so when I got older, he would say, I'm doing this because I want your your comfort level to increase. I don't want you to be afraid to move around, especially I was. One of those guys is just like we talked about playing everything. I mean, when you were great enough athlete to be a professional quarterback. I know damn well you must have been a pretty good point guard or shooting guard. One or the other. Which one was it? Oh, no. I was the big guy underneath. I was 65 was the biggest kid in my class. That's right. That's right. That's right. Okay. So perfect example, though. You can play everything. Everything. Did we not? Yeah, I played everything. I thought I understood everything. And the only way I kind of did was that George would say, Okay, you're gonna You're gonna go cover the bullets now and back then you can cover one thing. You've covered multiple things, and I don't know that I ever I got in the business to cover baseball. And the irony is, I did cover baseball covered Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray and those Orioles teams when there wasn't Washington. But I covered a lot of basketball. I mean, I would be around when Wes Unseld was coaching, he had retired, maybe 82. So I got to see a little of West playing. Got to see more of him coaching. Got to cover Big John Thompson and Georgetown got to cover Lefty Frizzell in Maryland. I missed the Big East and, well, you know how great was the Big East when we were When? When you and I were following it. Well, I was all in pit. Right pit Giant ST John. Oh, my God. Believe me. Coach Evans, who coasted Navy. He coached David Robinson before he went to pit. So I got to know him. You know really well, I got to be in some of those games with Jerome Lane and, uh, you know Charles Smith? I mean, I wouldn't trust, because you can, um What was the pit? Yeah, Who decides your own lane? Yeah. There are so many just just great games. Terrific players that that I loved it. So basketball was always a twin part. Once football season was over, you went to basketball and I loved them. I'm gonna say equally, and it just what? It's a great question. You asked what got me to embrace basketball even more? And yes, I you know, that became obviously the focus. And away from I was a Hall of Fame voter for 10 years for pro football. 1996 2 oh, six. But then football, which, of course, is the most popular form of sporting entertainment in America. It was harder. It was. It was easy to talk to guys like yourself But it was harder. Big stars became harder when you got to the late nineties and the early arts, and I don't mean the image Smith in Detroit Aikman's you know, um, who dominated, obviously that period in the nineties, and Darryl Greene, who became one of my better friends in life and and and be Mitch and and and And who was in my and Rick Doc. There's so many Redskins that I got to know personally. But around the league, Gus, it got to be heard. The frenzy of media right, the time demanded. But basketball remained a sport where even...

...the biggest of the big stars were accessible. So I have never had a one on one long conversation with Tom Brady. Never, never, By the way, it's funny, I was gonna say to tie it into a Pittsburgh athlete, but I've had many with Ben, so I can't extend that to the Steelers, who have a spot for, because I got to know all those guys. But in basketball, I mean I mean, I sat around and I still stood around and have a cigar with Charles Barkley. Oh, yeah, you wrote books with them. I have. I've worked with those guys. It was magic. But even before that, the relationships were forged When I was working right and that became different about basketball and I was like, Wow, I can sit and talk to Pat Riley. Even if he's mad at me that day, we can have an hour conversation. Yeah, and it was like the access was so vast, so easy. Well, uh, not interrupt you, but football always their rules and regulations and stringent like they've always been the worst, right? I've had friends who've played hockey. I've had friends who played, You know, I've been to some basketball, some baseball, like they're a little more lenient, like about people coming in visiting time with, you know, football. Is this like bam, bam, bam! In and out. Like remember, I played a game and Gunners favorite player was Brentford, right? Not me. Business bread fire. He comes in Minnesota in place, and and so I'm waiting after with him and they wouldn't even let me go in their locker room with Gunnar to see him. He had I had to wait outside and I'm like I just played against them And the matters how rules are. And I'm like a starting quarterback in this league for X amount of time. But see, that's just so so. My son. He's never been in an NFL locker room, even though Yeah, you know what? Larry Fitzgerald mad at me for not letting him take Matthew. And so there's a couple of instances, but But I grew up with Larry's dad, but I know Larry's dad, too. In the in, the in, the in the equivalent situation in basketball. John Wall during playoff games has taken my son in the locker room at halftime. It's insane, right? It's just the culture, the different cultures, different sports. It doesn't mean one is better than the other. But when the access is that and you do what I do and God knows I had access, I mean again, the people like Darrell and mentioned Doc and, you know, Sunny and you mentioned me working with Sonny and Rygel, which is a lifetime highlight. But basketball, Um wow. I mean, during off days in the middle of the NBA Finals, you could wind up having dinner, you know, as I've had with Kobe Bryant, you wind up sitting, having dinner, and it's a different access. And what it does is allows the storytelling that you can have people like Peter King and the people who have worked hard to forge better access in football and and and it's evident by the storytelling they're able to pull off. I know Schefty and there's an access they have, right? I found for me that happened more. Maybe because the guys I knew when I was coming up younger, like Magic and Michael Charles Well, I think about that call. You got 2.5 years into your time at the Post, and then the bulls go on this crazy running in the eighties. And I wonder if you think back and say, Maybe I should have taken that because I could have been in that bull locker room every day. Well, you know what? You know what, guys? Um, I got to see it from a national perspective, not the local. Because, just as you point out, because I didn't say yes, I didn't go back. But I got to...

...see from a national perspective. And that way you're not as close. And I'm not having to ask Michael and Scottie and Phil and about the minutia. Right. And that stuff gets irritating. I know I would be irritated. And I love the fact that nationally, you know, you're, like, flying over and from 30,000 ft, you can ask all the big picture stuff. It allows the relationship to be different, and so that's a great That's a great question. Um, you asked, and I think I'm glad that the way I played out, right? Right. So now you've done I mean, obviously you're a columnist. Now you're on the s. You've done a lot of ESPN. You do all that commentating, and then you start to show in 2000 and one. What was the premise and why you started? Uh, pardon the interruption, because a guy named Mark Shapiro was crazy enough to think that Tony and I could do what we do in print, which you already knew about people. Only people in Washington knew because I mean, that nobody else knew. I mean, and then we started to do He thought we could do what we do locally nationally, and he said, the first thing I'm gonna do when I'm named producer of something is I'm gonna put you guys on TV. And I said, the second thing you're gonna do is get your ass fired. You of us put the two of us on. What are you talking about? And he did it and he had faith in it, and we didn't necessarily, But it worked. So it we Gus, we were not looking to do that. We were looking to do what we continue to do. What we do When you when you knew us and saw us every week, we were looking to do that till, you know, until they threw us out. Right? Well, that's what I just told somebody who told somebody is going to interview you. And they said, Well, well, you know, And they were talking about the show. And I said, You know, hey, Tony wasn't a fan of mine. It wasn't a fan of his whatever, and And I said, Well, that's exactly why Michael and he get along because that's what people want to see. They want to see that back and forth, right? Love, hate, whatever you want to call it, and you guys do an outstanding job of that and it makes the show. Interesting, because if there were two Michael Wilbon No offense to Michael Wilbon Boring as hell. Enough is interesting. Boring as hell. Let me cut to the chase. Yeah, no, that's That's the yin and the yang. That's what made it. Because people will say to me, You know, I agree with you more than Tony. If people want to say that Tony, I agree with you more than wilbon and and you know we all we all watched sports with somebody, right? I mean, we let's face it. My brother, Sister Toni, my brother is 2.5 years younger than me. He's a banker and he just says Tony all the time, I was his first co host and he was because on the couch, Yes, because, Gus, it's not like we stopped doing it just because I do it on TV. When I get to Chicago and I'm in his house for three days or he's coming out to Arizona, we're here in D C to hang out with me. That's what we do. We still do it and it's never gonna stop. Oh, yeah, yeah. So I have one. My son Gunnar wanted me to ask you this. It's and I knew the answer, and I know the answer. But he said, Dad, are you going to ask him? Uh, LeBron or Jordan? And I said, Come on, Gunnar, He said, I know he's gonna pick Jordan I said, Of course he's going to pick the best player ever and that I have to have a Mount Rushmore, Russell, Magic, Jordan LeBron So to me, like I don't like to get in like arguments about their the greatest players ever with splitting hairs. But you know what? And I say this to my son, who's a Bulls fan because of his father. But every now and then, you know, LeBron has been great to him. LeBron has been great to my son. Every now and then, he will start to argue, and I should say, Maddie, just remember this. Michael Jordan didn't have to leave and go anywhere to win his championships. He want him right there. It's not An indictment is not saying anything negative. It just is. LeBron went to Miami and he hooked up with Dwyane Wade,...

...who had already won a championship Good Chicago, South side ER, by the way, another reason I love Wade, but he went to hook up with two other Hall of Famers, Wade and Chris Bosh. Michael Jordan didn't do that. He stayed right where he was. He took his lumps. He won. And to me that that will always elevate Michael. Not to mention the six championships, one and zero loss. Having said that, LeBron James is a wonder. I have never seen him make the wrong play. He has never made the wrong basketball play in 18 years. It's amazing. It's amazing. He he is an amazing, amazing athlete decision maker, Um, Captain, Leader. And so I you know, just because I think Jordan is the greatest, and by the way, I think magic could be the greatest on my list. I mean, those are my talk to guys and God. LeBron. There's nothing negative to say about LeBron. No, definitely not. And what he's doing at his age, you know what I mean and making it, because I remember when I was 38 I'm running sprints with guys that were 22. It's like it's like crazy to see the how time flies and and young guys just take over things right and LeBron has stayed right with him. You watch him play. He's a step ahead of him. Still, it's that part is amazing. So the other night we're watching LeBron and Matthew says Dad, would you agree that LeBron is better at this age or this? Deep into it, I'm like, Yes, no one has been like LeBron is deep into his career. He's better. This deep than Kareem was. Kareem had a great 38th year. I think so. Maybe. Maybe not yet. But LeBron doesn't have any. It doesn't look like there any signs of him. Uh, you know him And I mean, we've seen some incredible incredible athletes. I mean, him and Brady right now, Yeah, it's just amazing to watch, you know. And so you've been on the show now for a long time. What's What's the plans for Michael Wilbon in the future? It is any slowing down or we're going to keep moving forward. I LeBron should be inspiration embracing rolling. Um, yeah, I think I I'm just as engaged and passionate about it. Gus, I still wake up fired up and ready to talk about something I saw the previous night. or at night. I'm still texting, you know? Well, let's face it. I know you're in them. We all get in these text chains now, you know, and my text chains when it when it's bear season may have a couple of Hall of Famers. So on it from Chicago. And May I? I talked about it with Waddle. It has Tom. Tom Waddell is one of the guys. He's like a football mentoring me. And so when I'm watching games, I am in it with those guys like I was 26 years old. Yeah, so I know I'm not going anywhere. I got as I mentioned a couple of times. I got about to turn 13 year old. I got a lot of tuition left, so that means there's no retiring and I love doing this. I love doing it. I love going to games. I love watching them. I love the interaction of locker rooms, um, and being having access to people who can explain what the hell just happened. And that's a great part of it coming into the locker room, saying, Gus, what happens here on third and five and why did you do this? as opposed to taking a screen pass out here to be Mitch. What, Like being on the front row of that is a thrill for me? Still, Yeah. No, it's amazing. You do an unbelievable job. And it that's why there's just so many awards. There's too many to name that you've won and what everything that you've done for the profession for the job. I mean, people love you everywhere. Um, I appreciate you. I appreciate all the times it that you were so nice to me. You might be one of the only people in these, either. Nice. It was easy to be nice to you. I remember meeting and all those years ago. I mean, you guys were You're still a youngster, as far as I'm concerned. Oh, my God. She just Well, I'm not gonna hurt, but I'm turning 50 in July, so time flies, right? It does. Yeah. So, Michael, one...

...last thing before I know you got to go. But tell our fans you know where they can catch you if they can follow you anywhere. If you're on social media. Yeah, I'm on Instagram and Twitter at Real Mike, Wilbon and Twitter. I've got nearly five million, uh, Twitter followers. They may get sick of me every now and then because I don't do the trendy stuff, but both instagram and Twitter, Uh, real real Michael wilbon, um and you know, every day on P t I 5 30 Eastern, Um, you know, I'm doing it. I gotta I gotta I gotta say this about you doing this. This is important. What you're doing, I'm imagining you're doing it for the love of. But this is important what you're doing, you're you're you're examining why people do something and something that we all consider important supporting industry, no matter which angry come from it. But doing this, man, this is this is great. I mean, the library you're going to have and just to engage people in your level of curiosity. One of the reasons why I like just being around your locker and listening to you was because you were curious about a lot of things and that stuff came out. I think you know, those Redskin teams had a lot of guys like that. I'm still in touch with, you know, man, you know, and Charles before you, obviously, but oh, No, no, Charles Charles for a while and obviously be Mitch and Doc and I mentioned all these guys because they had that kind of curiosity. And again, you guys could You guys could have gone a lot of different directions with sports, the way with this, great athletes, as you were. But this is This is really cool the way you are doing this, and especially being from a community like Pittsburgh, my favorite sports communities are the ones that remind me of my own. Pittsburgh is always Detroit always has that sort of important playing in Detroit. Those are real cities where winning wasn't the thing that drew you. It was participation and competition, and I recognize that about the man. And to be honest with me, for me, it was always relationships, you know what I mean? It's always relationships, and and when you can meet people like I, I never wanted to not have a relationship with the writer reporter, right? Right, Because there are people there, humans, and you got to have those relationships. If you wanted them to treat you nice, you gotta treat them nice and it's kinda right. We're all doing our job and the older we get, we see the more common ground that we have. Well, yeah, that's why that's why I love doing the show because we all start very similar, right? Well, I've got a brother, a friend, somebody who's beating our ear. And every time now when I watch Petey, I can say that's not Tony Kornheiser. That's Michael's brother on the couch. You and you knew us when? And you know it's at the beginning of this. And so it's it's cool for me, man. It just be, you know, to be doing this and share this time with you. I can't tell you how much I appreciate. No, I appreciate you coming on and I hope that you like and share the show when we put it out. I really appreciate it. You know, this has been a passion. I've done over 100 shows, so it's been a lot of fun. And, you know, I appreciate you spending some time with me, and and I got to find out a little more about Mr Wilbon. I think it was what a story you have. Please, please tell gutter that we will have to. We have to sit in person to argue MJ LeBron one day, a good naturedly. And uh, please tell. And I remember meeting her all those years ago and and and it's it's really cool that you're doing this and I'm not going. Am I going to share this one? I'm gonna go and look up some other ones as well. All right, I appreciate you, man. Thank you, Michael. So much for joining me on. Huddle up with Gus. That's our show. Everyone, Thanks for joining us. Another great episode with an incredible guest. And I love hearing these stories. We all grew up the same...

...way, playing some with football. So thanks for joining me on. Huddle up with us and we'll see you next week. Thanks, guys. And that's a wrap sports fan. Thanks for joining in the fun at the 16 31 Digital Studios, for another actually huddle up with gusts featuring 15 year NFL quarterback Gus Theron Huddle up with Gus, is proudly produced by 16 31 digital media and is available on Apple music.

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