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  • Huddle Up with Gus

Michael Wilbon

Updated: Mar 16



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.

Michaels 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!


Announcer

Welcome to what surely will be a doozy of a matchup right here sports fans. Whether your game is on the gridiron at the diamond or on the links, we can only say, "welcome to this week's huddle up with Gus. 15 year NFL quarterback Gus Frerotte passion for sports has taken him on the field and behind the benches playing for seven NFL franchises with 114 TDs under his belt, Gus knows who the players are and how the games are won." It's not, every day, you get to hang out with an NFL quarterback. Okay sports fans from the decked out and plush 1631 Digital Studios, it's kickoff time. So snap your chin straps on and get ready to huddle up with Gus.

Gus Frerotte

Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Huddle up with Gus. I'm your host Gus Frerotte, 15 year NFL quarterback. And I want to welcome you to, well, this is not my studio, but the 1631 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. 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 co-hosting with now because that 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 just 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 since 2001. So Michael, it's great to talk to talk to you and actually figure out your life because that's what we're going to do today. So thank you for joining me on Huddle up with Gus.

Michael Wilbon

Gus, man, it is good to see you. When I first got the call. I was like, good. 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 was thrilled to hear. It's been too long. And yeah, man. I mean, it's sort of like parallel growing up periods in, in professional football, you did the real hard work. And I just looked, I was a voyeur looking into people like you every weekend. I listen, I was at some other games after you left Washington. Um, goodness, playoff games even a couple of times. As I still covered the NFL so it's just great to catch up with you again, like this. This is really cool.

Gus Frerotte

Well, thank you, you know, and we all take different paths. But we all kind of have similar beginnings, right? I talked to Ricky Williams this week, as well, 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 how did that happen? 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.

Michael Wilbon

Well Gus, it was a combination, and you just hit it. You nailed it. It was family. I mean, my dad raised my brother and me. Just the two of us, my brother, who's two and a half 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, will you guys pipe down? We're like, no, we're never going to 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 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, made memories of some of the fans. 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 took me because you know teams stay together then. Players didn't unless they got traded, there was no free agency. And I grew up watching those guys play together on the same team. From the time I was, I don't know four, what I can remember four, five, 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 adults, which of course was scary, you know, to meet your idols. But it was that Gus it was embracing those teams when I was a kid. And, you know, I thought I was gonna be the next first baseman of the Chicago Cubs. And when I figured out that wasn't happening, I was a good baseball player. I was a good baseball player through high school, probably could have played small college baseball and certainly could not play big 10 baseball. I was not that good was never going to be that good. But I married my two interests, you know, sports and writing, communicating. And that's, you know, very basic way of how I got to this point. But those points that you asked me about, I remember them pretty vividly from the time I was five, six years old, and certainly more vividly as I got older.

Gus Frerotte

So what was your neighborhood like? A lot of people tell stories about their neighborhoods, right? If we don't see this today, to be honest, but like my neighborhood where I grew up, outside of Pittsburgh, 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?

Michael Wilbon

I think I've learned about traveling and covering sports over the country is that there are some communities that are very much alike. Pittsburgh and Chicago are two of them. I've learned that from friends who grew up in Pittsburgh and just time spent. I was on a bike. 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 it got cold. I'm sure you'd played when it 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 1960s when I was a little kid. It was very little. Um, I grew up playing tennis, I skated, so we played hockey, we froze the pond. In the winter. I played.. Golf was not on the menu, but everything else was. And so we played a bit 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, horseshoes, table tennis, tennis, everything, everything you had to play, and you play outside every day. And your parents 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 were going to be playing division one college basketball, and played minor league baseball. I wasn't one of them. I could play with them. But that had to be done Man. It sounds like we grew up pretty much the same way.

Gus Frerotte

Oh, yeah. I mean, you give us a wifle ball. And one of those yellow bats, you go all day, And you could have a little area it didn't matter. a home run fence. That's all you needed.

Michael Wilbon

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 right. 14 feet high, maybe. And we played co-ed. It's so funny, like people talk about now, you know, you need a title nine. You needed all these official things 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 bat on their opposite side if you played with the girls. And I'm talking about from eight years old to 18. And so I got to be a pretty proficient hitter from the left side because we had to play. We played with the girls. I had the bat lefty being a natural righty. 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 needed to because you still have to play. Oh, it got better. But it wasn't your best sport, you still have to participate.

Gus Frerotte

But yeah, you know, and the thing was, is that we all knew there were different levels of everybody out there. You just 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 righty to lefty you know, and all that. And I know you're a Cubs fan. Who did you try to emulate when you're a right handed swinger? And who is your left handed swing? Because I know you did. When you stood up there and that wifle ball bat, you had your stance and your swing who was it?

Michael Wilbon

I'm sitting right here next to my jersey. If I could turn the screen I would. I have Ernie Banks 1969 Jersey, heavy wool. Um, you know, it's a visiting jersey with the gray and the blue Chicago on the front number 40. And I imitated Ernie Banks and he always did the fingers like this. It was high, the bat was held high in his hands on the right handed stance. And the left handed stance. It was Rod Kuru. I don't even know why it's Rod Carew. It had nothing to do with Chicago. I just liked the Rod Kuru stance, it was back. The bat was back. So, one motion when he came through, and of course, Rod Kuru, like won six batting titles. Yeah. So those were probably my favorite batting stances but you knew them right? Like, I knew Roberto Clemente's stance. I knew Willie Stargell's stance on the left side. Oh, man, that was part of what we studied back then. I, I'm sure you did that as well. So those were the two and they come to mind immediately.

Gus Frerotte

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'd 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 had more important things to go watch. But we watched them on TV and we listened to him 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.

Michael Wilbon

That's exactly right. They... when they used to beat the Cubs like a drum most of my life. I have plenty of time to get.... You know what, though? Because I had a paper route as a kid. I had money to go to games. And so we went to...

Gus Frerotte

You guys had the train you could go anywhere in Chicago.

Michael Wilbon

The train? That's exactly right.

Gus Frerotte

If you want to take a train to Pittsburgh, you had to write on top of coal. Nobody's doing that.

Michael Wilbon

But we got very lucky in that Comiskey, to go to the White Sox was about an eight minute train ride. That's all it was .To go to Wrigley Field it was longer. But by the time I had that route, we did both. And I would buy into sort of foreshadowing I would buy box seats in the upper deck so I can look right down on the action. And those are my favorite seats. And they 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 sell up here? I'm like, cuz these are the seats I had when I was a kid. And dammit, we're sitting in these same seats every time we come to Wrigley.

Gus Frerotte

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. And I always wanted to know it's like they're on. We're on our third stadium. You know, this stadium is beautiful. You see the city downtown and everything but it would have just been amazing to go and watch a game at Forbes Field. I feel like Chicago is so lucky that they have kept Wrigley Field for so long.

Michael Wilbon

I feel the same way. And so, you know, in the playoffs, even before 2016, I would say to my son, who I would say Hey, Babe Ruth played on this field. Lou Gehrig 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.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 things were kind of a set right. And I feel Forbes is the only one I did. I got to Crosley. I think I did get to Crosley. 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 go to the place and I still go there now.

Gus Frerotte

Well, it's crazy when you talk these names because I collect vintage baseball cards. And I have all these guys right all these old cards and through COVID my sons were home because Gunner graduated from William and Mary, but they didn't have a graduation they just basically kicked everybody out of school and Gabe was home from Delaware. So they got into the cards with me and it was awesome ever since but I can see that picture of Ernie Banks like on the card and I'm sure you collected some of those when the [inaudible]. Right Hank Aaron all Roberto Clemente.

Michael Wilbon

Pete Rose. Clemente. Yes, I had all the great players from the 60s.

Gus Frerotte

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's not as as much anymore but they said dad why do you like all these old cards I said, because they're not making any more and these guys kind of started it was just something about listen to a pirate game on my dad's transistor radio that when I see those players in just brings back memories. It's amazing.

Unknown Speaker

As

Michael Wilbon

I did that into the 80s. I listened to the first time the Cubs got into the postseason. 1984 of my life, because they went from 45 to 84 without being in the playoffs. Without being in the postseason. I would go out and sit in the car in Washington, DC and upper Northwest DC. Gus, I would go out and sit and listen to Harry Carey in the postseason in 84, and I told my son this, he was listening. He looks at me and she says, Dad, I don't believe that. Well, believe it you little punk. I did. I wouldn't have sat in the car. And so no, you know, it's it's I know our son's you know, it sounds like he would describe my kid too. You know, he, he knows every NFL and every NBA player. He knows some major league baseball players because they go to a lot of Cubs’ games. He loves it. And he goes to Nationals games too. Baseball does not have the fabric of their lives like it was for us.

Gus Frerotte

Yeah, 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 business has exploded, right? 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 that, tradition, right. That tradition. I felt like God, I got to, you know, all these great players came before me to Washington and you got the report on a lot of them and wrote stories about it, but going RFK was still my favorite place I've ever played.

Michael Wilbon

Well, you know, it's really weird. So I got here in 1980. So I had 16 years of RFK. Since then, since 97. I think it's been, you know, it's, I mean, it's unbelievable. 25 years, it's been this the stadium out in PG 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. You know, through John Riggins, and even through what Brian Mitchell, Brian Yeah, Brian must have played four or five years at three or four years. Anyway, at RFK, before he had to move with 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 Kent Cooke built, they're still using it. Emmitt Smith asked the bus driver if they could drive by RFK. And so many guys on that there were a few guys in the bus that they had, you know, it didn't mean anything. But it meant something to Emmitt Smith to go to this visiting stadium. And Emmitt 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 it rocked. Do you remember how it bounced? Oh, scare the hell out of you sometimes the way it bounced. But yeah, man, it was so many great players and great games in that place. 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 and crusades, if you will, in that stadium as it were an RFK where you played.

Gus Frerotte

They took all the I think the spirit that 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 Hoggets. Were they right? Like, there was just so much, you know, I'd go on the field, like when I would pull into the stadium, they actually let me park under the stadium when I was playing. I don't know why they did it. But 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 seat, and he'd carry around and take Annie to her seats. And I was like, that's Sam Huff doing that. You know what I mean? And then Sunny would be out chewing his cigar. 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 that and you've had to have some amazing experiences. So tell me about when you first started that Post? And were you nervous? What was that? You're coming from middle school? You're like, Man, I'm fresh Amata I'm ready to go. And so what was it like? Did you get humbled? Cuz you know, we all have those moments.

Well, obviously, middle got you ready? For the big time. So tell me who was your mentor? Who was that person in the deal that really kind of paved that way or was, you know, helped you kind of get to where you are today?

Michael Wilbon

Yeah, Gus! I was. Um, I was terrified. 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 them, but I hadn't seen it somehow. And then the walk into the building the next day and half the posts look exactly like that to get up on the fifth floor elevator. And I'm wearing a suit, you know, wool suit in the middle of summer,June, one of 92 degree days in DC with 130% humidity. And, um, yeah, I was nervous as hell. And what made me more nervous was that 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 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 of the communication from school to moving to 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. And he somehow made us, at least me. I was not terrified by the end of lunch, but 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, that's what I say. Go, I went back to school, finished my senior year in middle, but that made me confident, probably too confident, because I was 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. Yeah. 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 into RFK. I was covering a game of a big high school all star game. Yeah, 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 that's my home. But, but I mean, everything has shaped my life going forward to be able to then come back to the Post and start as a full time reporter. I worked there for 30 years, which set me up for everything I had done since.

Well actually, you know, is really before that it was a scene when I was in high school, St. Ignatius college prep. A little Jesuit school in Chicago.

Gus Frerotte

Where you were tearing it up on the baseball field.

Michael Wilbon

I was pretty good. I was pretty good at baseball. Then.

Gus Frerotte

What position do you play?

Michael Wilbon

I pitched and played first base. Pitched to play first base. And my most memorable game sadly, was the morning after prom. I had to get into bed after prom at about 230 with a morning game against quickly south. Um, and I pitched a one hitter, but walked the bases loaded, gave up a sac fly and I lost the game. My, my greatest pitch game in high school was an L. But I am James James Wall was my he was my journalist. He taught 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. Yeah, I that teacher was crazy and theatrical, and I still loved him. And then I had it for journalism when I was a junior or senior. And then he wrote my recommendation letter to Northwestern. And so I had a, I had a crew of teachers, professionals, people who were working professionals at the time, like Bill jous, who was a sports writer at the Tribune at the time. And I had a lot of people that were tough enough and good enough and smart enough, demanding enough that I feel like they've more than taught me they coached me. Yeah, I felt that was what I took that seriously. I'm not sure I took everything else as seriously as I should have. I took that seriously. And then they got me ready.

Gus Frerotte

So they get you ready. And you talked about it's like, you know, it's like being an 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 one of the papers there in Chicago offer you a job?

Michael Wilbon

Sadly, Gus, both the papers there turned me down. Um...

Gus Frerotte

So you know how I felt when the Steelers never took me.

Michael Wilbon

Yes, I do. Oh my god, it's so funny you mentioned 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, right with my brother and we and we delivered the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times. And everyone wants to work for one of them. That's all I ever wanted. And when I was at Mattel interviewing with both of them as a senior, right, they both said, you don't have enough experience. You got to go somewhere and work for five years. Five years come back. So two years into my time at the Washington Post. The editor who told me that, I almost thought of her name and I just drew a blank. Who said you gotta go five years? No, you can't work here at the Tribune. She called me and I remember sitting at my desk getting calls. Mike, can you hopefully Chicago Tribune? I don't know. Yeah. I'm like, what do they want? Do they want me to get a subscription? Because I'm in right now what I want, right? And she said, God, I can't think I just almost have a name again. She said, We want you to come home. We made a mistake. You should be here. It's been two and a half years. You need to come home and I go, Wait, I wasn't a math major. But I know two and a half a five. Right, right. And so day one, you know, they offered me a job. And I said no. And I stayed at the post and I stayed at the post. You know, my whole newspaper career. I came very close to leaving. In 1997. I came very close to going on. But that's what I wanted. Gus. I wanted to work for the papers I delivered. And they were like, Yeah, whatever.

Gus Frerotte

Well, I was the same way. I always wanted to play for the Steelers, you know, there's probably a good thing that didn't happen because I have too many crazy family members here that you know, even when I came home, it was tickets like out the wazoo.

Michael Wilbon

Okay, I can't even imagine what that was. So okay with the Washington football team. We have to call it now to be correct. Did you play a road game in Pittsburgh? When you when you were QB here.

Gus Frerotte

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Michael Wilbon

I mean, you couldn't turn off your phone back then. You just had to take the call.

Gus Frerotte

disco.

So you know how crazy Steeler fans are? Right? So I have family members are crazy. And when I played here, I get my family tickets. And after the game when I go out to see them in the parking lot before you go on the bus. My wife's all upset. I'm like what, you know what the heck's going on? And I turn around and look and like my family members have like Steeler jerseys on and not my jersey. And she was livid, she was so upset. But that that's just cut out is I was gonna laugh but still a little angry. But what are you gonna do? You know what I mean, what are you going to do? 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. You know, God rest his soul. You know, I used to do stuff with John Riggins. And Sonny? But also you've done so much basketball like how did you get into basketball? I kind of understand your your, your football side. But tell me about your basketball story.

Michael Wilbon

Well, listen, I know, I was one of those people. I was very lucky in that the sports editor of the Post, George Solomon, whenever I got comfortable, he thought I got comfortable covering one thing. It was going to move you over here, right? And so when I got older, he would say, I'm doing this because I want your comfort level to increase. I don't want you to be afraid to move around. And especially I was one of those, Gus it is just like we talked about playing everything. I mean, I Well, you're a 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?

Gus Frerotte

Oh, no, I was the big guy underneath the other six five as the biggest kid in my class.

Michael Wilbon

That's right. That's right. That's right for Okay, so perfect example though. You can play everything that everything that we not? 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 didn't cover one thing. You covered multiple things, right? Yeah. I don't know that I ever.

I got in the business to cover baseball. And the irony is I did cover baseball cover 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 Ansel was coaching. He had retired maybe 82. So I got to see a little of West playing and got to see more. Coaching got the cover big John Thompson. Georgetown got elected Roselle in Maryland. I missed the Big East. And well, you know, I helped me how great the Big East was when you and I were following it.

Gus Frerotte

All in Pitt, right, Pitt and John St. John's.

Michael Wilbon

Oh my god. Believe me, Coach Evans, who coasted Navy. He chose David Robinson before he went to Pitt. So I got to know him. You know, really? Well, I got to be in some of those games with Jerome lane. And you know, Charles Smith, I mean, no trespassing. You can um, who was his pit? Yes. Trust your own lane.

Gus Frerotte

Yeah, there's so many just just great

Michael Wilbon

There were so many terrific players that I loved it. So, basketball was always a twin part. Once football season was over. You went to basketball? And I love them. I'm gonna say equally. And it goes to what is 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 206. But then football, which of course, is the most popular form of sporting entertainment in America. It was harder. It was easy to talk to guys like yourself. But it was harder. Big stars became harder when you got to the late 90s in the early aughts. I don't mean Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman, you know, um, who dominated obviously that period in the 90s and Darryl Greene became one of my better friends in life, and be mentioned and and and who else? Am I a great doc Walker. There's so many Redskins that I got to know personally. Around the league Gus, it got to be harder. Um, the frenzy of the media, right? Time demands it. But basketball remained a sport where even the biggest of the big stars were accessible. So I 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 tied into a Pittsburgh athlete, but I've had many with Ben so I can send that to the Steelers who have a spot for because I got to know all those guys, but right. But in basketball. I mean, I mean, I I sat around and I still sit around and have a cigar with Charles Barkley. Oh, yeah, you probably wrote books with them. 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 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-long conversation. Yeah, and it was like the access was so vast Yeah. So easy.

Gus Frerotte

Not to interrupt you: But first of all, football is always their rules and regulations and stringent like they've always been the worst, right? I've had friends who played hockey. I've had friends. You know, I've been to some basketball games. Some baseball like they're a little more lenient like about people coming in visiting time with you know, footballs like bam, bam, bam, in and out. Like I remember I played a game and Gunner's favorite player was Brett Farve, right? Not me, because Brett Favre. He comes to Minnesota and plays until I'm waiting after with them. And they wouldn't even let me go in their locker room with Gunner to see him he had I had to wait outside. And I'm like, I just played against them in the matter. So rules are...

Michael Wilbon

You've been starting quarterback in this league for X amount of time. But see, that's just so so my son. He's never been in the NFL locker room. Even though Yeah, you know what Larry Fitzgerald is mad at me for not letting him take Matthew and so there's a couple of instances but but and I grew up in Larry's dad.

Gus Frerotte

Yeah. I know there's dad too.

Michael Wilbon

In the equivalent situation in basketball, John Wall during playoff games has taken my son in the locker room at halftime is 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 it, I do it God knows I had access to me. Again, the people like Darrell mentioned doc and you know, Sonny, and you mentioned me working with Sonny and Rico, which is a lifetime highlight. Right. But in basketball, um Wow. I mean during off days in the middle of the NBA Finals you Who wind up having dinner? You know, as I've had with Kobe Bryant? Yeah, well, you wind up sitting having dinner, and it's a different access. And what it does is allows the storytelling that you can have, oh, people like Peter King and the people who've worked hard to forge better access and football, and it's evident by the storytelling, they're able to pull off. Right, not no shifty, and there's an access they have. Right. I found for me, that happened. More, maybe because of guys. I knew when I was coming up younger, like magic, Mike, Charles.

Gus Frerotte

Well, I think about that call, you got two and a half years into your time at the post. And then the bulls go on this crazy run in the 80s. And I wonder if you think back, it's a moon, maybe I should have taken that because I could have been in that locker room.

Michael Wilbon

Well, you're right. You know what, Gus, um, I gotta see it from a national perspective, not the local, right, because I 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 minutiae, right. And that stuff gets irritating. I know, I would be irritated. And I love the fact that and nationally, you know, you'd like flying over from 30,000 feet, you can ask all the big picture stuff. Yeah, it allows the relationship to be different. Yeah. And so that's a great, that's a great question. You asked, and I think I'm glad that the way it played out.

Gus Frerotte

Right, right. So now you've done I mean, obviously, you're a columnist, now you're on the desk. You've done a lot of ESPN, you do all that commentating and then you start to show in 2001. What was the premise and why you started Pardon the Interruption.

Michael Wilbon

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 it mean that nobody else knew. I mean, in order to do he thought we could do what we do locally, nationally. And he said, the first thing I'm going to do when I'm named producer of something is I'm going to put you guys on TV. And I said, the second thing you're going to do is get your ass fired. For the two of us, 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 was us, Gus, we were not looking to do that. We were looking to do what we continue, just do what we do. And when you when you knew us and saw us every week, we were looking to do that till, you know till they threw us out.

Gus Frerotte

Right? Well, that's what I just told him. I told him I was 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 then makes the show interesting, because if they were two Michael Wilbons. No offense to Michael Wilbon.

Michael Wilbon

He is boring as hell let me cut to the chase. Yeah, no, that's the 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 and people are saying to Tony, I agree with you more than Wilbon. And you know, we all watch sports with somebody, right? I mean, we let's face it. My brother's sister, Tony. My brother's two and a half years younger than me. He's a banker. And he just says Tony all the time. I was his first co host. Right? And he was on the couch, right? Yes. Because Gus is not like we stopped doing it just because I do it on TV. When I get to Chicago when I'm in his house for three days. Or he's coming out to Arizona. We're here in DC to hang out with me. That's what we do. We still do it. And it's never gonna stop.

Gus Frerotte

Yeah. So I have one clip. My son Gunner wanted me to ask you this. It's and I knew the answer and I know the answer. But he said, Dad, are you gonna ask him? LeBron or Jordan? I said, Come on gunner. He said, I know he's gonna pick Jordan. I said, of course, he's going to pick Jordan.

Michael Wilbon

[inaudible] the best player ever. And that I have I have a Mount Rushmore, Russell, magic, Jordan, LeBron. So to me, like I don't like to get in like arguments about that. They're the greatest players ever was 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, in the bronze being great to him a little the bronze has been great to my son. Every now and then he'll start to argue and I just say Maddie, just remember this. Michael Jordan didn't have to leave and go anywhere to win his championships. Right one of them right there. It's not an indictment. It's not saying anything negative. It's just his LeBron went to my And he hooked up with Dwayne Wade who had already won a championship in Chicago South sider. But another reason I love wait to hook up with two other Hall of Famers waiting, Chris Bosh, Michael Jordan didn't do that. He stayed right where he was he took as long as he won. Yeah, 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've never seen him make the wrong play. He is never made the wrong basketball play in 18 years. It's amazing is it? It's amazing. He He is an amazing, amazing athlete, decision maker, Captain leader. And so I 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 top two guys. And then and God the Bron there's nothing negative to say about LeBron.

Gus Frerotte

No, definitely not. But he's doing it his age. Oh, you know what I mean, and making it because I remember when I was 38. And I'm running sprints with guys that were 22. Right. It's like, it's crazy to see how time flies and young guys just take over things right. And LeBron has stayed right with them. You watch him play. He's a step ahead of them still.

Michael Wilbon

That part is amazing. I saw it the other night. We're watching a LeBron match. He 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. And 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 are any signs of him slowing down.

Gus Frerotte

You know him and I mean, we've seen some incredible, incredible athletes. I

Michael Wilbon

mean, you're right now it's...

Gus Frerotte

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? Is there any slowing down? Are we gonna keep moving forward?

Michael Wilbon

LeBron should be an inspiration and [inaudible] rolling? Yeah, I think 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 we let's face it. I know you're in and we are getting these text chains. Now. In my text chains. It was bear season and may have a couple of Hall of Famers. So on it right from Chicago in May. I talked about it with a [inaudible]. What time was one of the guys he's like a football mentor? Yeah. And so when I'm watching games, I am in it with those guys. Like I was 26 years old. Yeah, that's awesome. And so I know I'm not going to when I get, as I've mentioned a couple of times, I'm gonna bout to turn 13 year old, I got a lot of tuition left. Yeah, 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, and 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?

Gus Frerotte

Yeah, no, it's amazing. You do an unbelievable job at 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. I appreciate you. I appreciate all the times that you were so nice to me. You might be one of the only people being nice to me.

Michael Wilbon

It was easy to be nice to you. I remember meeting and all those years ago I mean, guys weren't you still a youngster as far as I'm concerned?

Gus Frerotte

Oh my God word she just well my guess it hurts but I'm turning 50 in July so Time flies right it does. Yeah, so Mike well one last thing before I know you got to go but tell all our fans you know where they can catch you if they can follow you anywhere? If you're on social media.

Michael Wilbon

Yeah, I'm on Instagram and Twitter @realmikewilbon on and Twitter I've got nearly 5 million 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 @realmikewilbon. Um, and you know every day on pti 530 Eastern of it, 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 Imagine 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 in the sporting industry, no matter which angle we come from it but just This man this is great. I mean, the library you're going to have and just to engage people and your level of curiosity. One of the reasons 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, that I'm still in touch with, you know, man, you know, Charles was before you obviously but oh...

Gus Frerotte

I know Charles

Michael Wilbon

Charles for a while and obviously be mentioned 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 a with his 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.

Gus Frerotte

I loved playing in Detroit.

Michael Wilbon

You know, those are real cities where winning wasn't the thing that drew you it was participation and competition. And I recognize that about the well these man

Gus Frerotte

and to be honest with me if for me, it was always relationships, you know what I mean? It's always relationships and when you can meet people like I never wanted to not have a relationship with the writer reporter right? Right. Because they're people they're humans and you gotta have those relationships if you want them to treat you nice you got to treat them nice and it's got a right we're all doing our job.

Michael Wilbon

And the older we get we see the more common ground that we have.

Gus Frerotte

Well yeah, that's why that's why I love doing this show because we all start very similar right? I've got a brother, a friend, somebody who's beaten our ears and every time now I watch PPI I can say that's not Tony Kornheiser. That's Michael's brother on the couch.

Michael Wilbon

And you knew us when and you know us at the beginning of this and so it's cool for me managers be you know to be doing this and share this time with you I can't say how much I appreciate it.

Gus Frerotte

No, I appreciate it. 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 about Mr. Wilbon. I think it was great.

Michael Wilbon

Please Please tell gunner that we will have to we have to sit in person to argue MJ, LeBron, one day a good naturedly and please tell and I remember meeting her all those years ago and and and it's really cool that you're doing this and I'm not only am I going to share this when I'm gonna go and look up some other ones as well.

Gus Frerotte

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 for another great episode with an incredible guest. And I love hearing these stories. We all grew up the same way playing some wiffle ball. So thanks for joining me on Huddle Up With Gus, we'll see you next week.

Michael Wilbon

Thanks Gus!

Announcer

That's a wrap sports fans. Thanks for joining in the fun at 1631 Digital Studios for featuring 15 year NFL quarterback Gus Frerotte. Huddle Up With Gus is proudly produced by 1631 Digital Media and is available on Apple Music.


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