On Dec. 7, Michael Wilbon said goodbye to The Post. The man, now a national media figure, had an amazing 30-plus year run with the paper and proved along with Tony Kornheiser that even average-looking journalists could find a place in the national spotlight.
However, I’m young enough to know him more for PTI than for his column writing. And while he always had thought-provoking opinions, especially on matters such as race in sports, it became evident that in his last few years with the paper he was stretching himself a bit too thin. The best example is his NCAA tournament preview column last year, which really went out on a limb to declare that 2010’s March Madness was a wide-open field. Even better:
Maryland, with seniors Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes, would be a serious threat to Kansas . . . if the Terrapins can get past Houston and Michigan State, which would be a serious threat to Kansas.
Not much analysis there — it’s like someone put a Terps roster in front of him for the first time 15 minutes before he wrote this piece. While we can give him a break for doing ABC NBA games, PTI, a full-time blog on the Post as well as newspaper columns, most will agree that some of the last columns left something to be desired in terms of “in the field” journalism.
Consider Wilbon’s replacement, Jason Reid, who cranked out fantastic reporting everyday on Redskins Insider about a team I don’t like and is really bad. Even so, his stuff was worth reading, simply because of the way he broke news and offered analysis without tipping towards opinion. Now Reid is bringing that news gathering mentality to his new position as sports columnist, but he hasn’t quite come out with any bold declarations that we are used to from Wilbon, Sally Jenkins and Mike Wise. On the postive side, Reid’s Wednesday column on Georgetown has everything that most latter Wilbon columns did not: Quotes and statistical analysis. A quick snippet:
During the streak, six opponents have failed to make even 41 percent of their field goal attempts. None have shot 46 percent or better.
The contrasts couldn’t be more glaring, bringing to mind that a reporter turned columnist is a difficult transition to make. Those strong opinions which Wilbon was so gifted with, even late in his career at the Post, do not come easy. But if the Post wants Reid to fill Wilbon’s role as a sports tastemaker rather than a Boswellian analyst, it’s going to take time. Welcome Jason, I hope your career can fly as high as Mike’s. Don’t be afraid to tell us how it really is.