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In Wilbon's World

Wilbits: Sunday on the tube

It's not the first time a pothole has ruined my day, but damn if it should rearrange my television watching on the best non-NFL Sunday of the year.

Sunday was about television, especially since my Thursday and Friday night flights to snowy Dallas for All-Star Weekend were canceled, leaving me at home in Bethesda in my TV chair. (If you think greater Washington D.C. can't handle snow you should see Dallas.) Anyway, the lineup was pretty simple: start mid-afternoon with the final 50 or so laps of the Daytona 500 on Fox, slide my attention to the AT&T at Pebble Beach on CBS, see if I could hold up emotionally through Northwestern University's must-win game with Minnesota on the Big Ten network, then finish it off with the NBA All-Star game, presumably until I got bored.

That's a pretty good day of sports on television, especially if you can squeeze in a minute or two of Georgetown, a little Syracuse-Louisville. That's a two-TV afternoon, really.

But the pot hole threw me totally off my game. The Daytona 500 simply wouldn't end. Two hours plus of delays, especially the one around 6 p.m. eastern, ruined it. Okay, the finish was pretty sweet, Jamie McMurray holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. down the stretch to win the race. But by that point I was out the door, running out to make a dinner reservation. Should Daytona International Speedway, the most hallowed ground in racing, be held hostage by a patch of rebellious asphalt? Was this Daytona or the Schuylkill Expressway in Philly? Jimmie Johnson, the Derek Jeter of NASCAR, is eliminated by a flat tire? I was halfway expecting to see an orange cone in the middle of the track.

I will say this: Fox coverage of the first delay was outstanding; in some ways it was more enlightening than the race itself. Every driver approached was not only willing to talk during the delay, but forthcoming, illuminating. They all had something to say and didn't tell folks watching what a "distraction" it was for their Super Bowl to be delayed in such a maddening way. All said they wanted to finish the race, even Kevin Harvick, who stood the most to gain from just calling the thing off with 78 laps to go. Half the NFL quarterbacks are available once a week, if that, to answer a few questions. Ask for an interview after Wednesday during the season and club officials will look at your like you're a Martian. Drivers, on the other hand, will talk literally until they step into their cars, and as we saw Sunday, during any break. Nothing distracts them, flusters them, phases them.

Anyway, it's too bad the Daytona 500 didn't have the exact same finish minus the two-hours plus of delays. It got me out of my clicking rhythm. I missed Dustin Johnson getting up and down on the 18th green to win at Pebble Beach, forgot about checking on the Winter Olympics entirely, though I'll admit the only things that interest me from Vancouver are the hockey tournament and Lindsey Vonn. I stalled out waiting for the final re-start and forgot to check back on the OT of Northwestern-Minnesota, which was more important to me personally than any of this other stuff. A loss would likely have killed Northwestern's chances for making the NCAA men's basketball tournament for the first time ever, but we (Hey, I can say "we" because I'm an alum) came back to win in OT, leaving us with a chance of still finishing 10-8 in the Big Ten which had damn sure better get us an at-large bid in the tournament field or there's going to be trouble. And who knew Ralph Sampson III played for the Golden Gophers and posted up down on the low block (which his father hated doing) and has a nice little hook shot? Kid has really good hands, is strong...Anyway, Northwestern made my weekend, and the NBA All-Star game wasn't a total waste either. That ending was, well, okay. The West came from, what, nine down and had a chance to force OT except that Carmelo Anthony's jumper was nowhere close.

What I don't fully understand is why more than 100,000 people would go to a basketball game in a football stadium. Don't get me wrong, I love All-Star weekend. Those flight cancellations forced me to be in D.C. on this particular weekend for the first time since, I think, 1987. I've covered some part of All-Star weekend or the Winter Olympics every year since then. Maybe the big attraction was simply going to Cowboys Stadium, to look at the biggest big screen in America.

-- The NBA has to leave Dallas Monday morning feeling damn good, not just about All-Star weekend but about the sprint to the finish of the regular season. Basketball heads in Dallas are so happy about getting Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood from the Wizards, you'd think it guarantees them a spot in the Finals. It is a big deal, and just might be the trigger for GMs to make a slew of deals between now and Thursday's trading deadline.

-- Sounds like the Wizards aren't even done dealing. Word out of Dallas is that they're working on something else. One can only hope that freeing Antawn Jamison from the Wizards is high on the club's list of priorities. The Wizards, whether or not they pass along the newly acquired ex-Mavericks, are starting over. It's not like a deal is going to bring them a top 10 player in the league who will magically help them avoid rebuilding, which means we're going to be stuck with some pretty stinky pro basketball around here for another two years, at least.

-- Wasn't it only a few days ago that people fretted over the Olympic hiatus in the NHL season hurting the Washington Capitals' momentum? Well, after three straight losses (the ones in Montreal and Ottawa were entirely predictable) the break seems like just what the Capitals need to refocus. Long winning streaks aren't necessarily a forecast of post-season greatness. The Houston Rockets, just two years ago, won 22 straight games yet were dumped unceremoniously from the playoffs. Hitting the re-start button might serve the Capitals well so that they can re-gain their recent form.

By

Michael Wilbon

 |  February 15, 2010; 9:30 AM ET  |  Category:  Capitals , College Basketball , NASCAR , NBA , Wilbits , Wizards Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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About Beyonce re: Super Bowl Half Time...shouldn't we require someone who can perform WITHOUT lip syncing for the greatest show of the year ?

Still gotta lean toward Gladys Knight myself.

Posted by: petebowling1 | February 16, 2010 12:38 AM
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Indy isn't "hallowed" for stock car racing, moron. Daytona is.

Posted by: MACCHAMPS04 | February 15, 2010 1:44 PM
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I think Caron, Antoine and Brendan have all displayed a remarkable level of dignity and class during these turbulent times. I wish each of them Championship success, though that obviously won't be together in DC. My question is, WHAT NOW?

It seems clear that none of the players we've gotten (or will soon get) from trading these starters will remain beyond this year. What solid buiding blocks will we have (assuming Antoine is dealt) after this second-straight lost season? McGee? McGuire? Foye? Aren't they all best suited as backups? If this were football, I'd expect to rebuild through the draft. But most recent NBA draft picks have struggled to have any impact with their teams. Ernie traded away last year's #5 pick without blinking an eye, and received no long-term value in return. So, is "rebuilding through the draft" even possible?

Ernie's clearing alot of cap space for, what, free agent starters? Isn't that the stategy that has led to the team's recent RUIN? Tell me, Mike, on what can this fan pin his hopes? I'm willing to be patient for a few years if I see light at the end of the tunnel, but right now all I see is hopelessness & dark despair....

Posted by: DCtoDE | February 15, 2010 11:50 AM
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Mr Wilbon,

Please ask your friend, the thoughtful journalist Jason Whitlock, which American racetrack is truly "hallowed". I'm sure he will mention a track located just outside of the city where Peyton Manning plays his home football games.

Posted by: MikeNelmsReturns | February 15, 2010 10:35 AM
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