‘Top Line’ — ESPN’s Michael Wilbon on Obama, BCS, and Sports Figures Running for Office

By Gorman Gorman

Dec 17, 2009 3:02pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: We ran the sports gamut on ABC's "Top Line" today with one of Washington's premier sports journalists, Michael Wilbon, co-host of ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" and a columnist for The Washington Post.

We learned — among other things — that President Obama has been known to call some well-known sports journalists (Wilbon included) to check in on their "March Madness" picks.

Of President Obama's fandom, Wilbon said: "It's good for sport. There are certainly people who would take issue with time spent devoting it to sport, particularly now — maybe not in some other calmer times. But that's because the president knows stuff about sports. He's not just a fan, he's not just trying to send a play in."

Some other highlights:

On whether Congress has a role in reforming or abolishing the Bowl Championship Series: "I'm torn about this, and I'm stronger in my dislike of the BCS then the president is," Wilbon said. "There's no place for the BCS. But you're also talking about something that's removed from sports. You're talking about perhaps restraint-of-trade issues. I mean, you're looking at the big school, and I call them a cartel — the BCS schools with six big conferences in those 65 big schools controlling money and doing things — we're talking about legality potentially…. So we look at the big schools taking all the resources, and we're talking about scholarships. I'm starting to shift here, and think there is a wrong for Congress [to address], and I actually like what the House is doing."

On who among current sports stars may enter politics some day: "That's a dangerous topic now," Wilbon said. "I can think of two people who've thought this about a while ago: Tiger Woods and Tom Brady. And while Tiger's controversy — scandal, if you will — is a lot larger, Tom Brady certainly had his own in a general same area. And you don't now anymore. You don't know who passes the test, who can run for office now."

"And it's not just something confronting athletes who might be interested in public service…. But there are other people, [retired NBA star] David Robinson, [if] he chose to do so, and David is from suburban Washington, DC, and grew up with that in his blood, but is also devoted himself to education, this time in San Antonio. And I don't know if he's leaning that way at all at this point, in his mid 40s. But there are people that could survive that public scrutiny. The question is, are they as interested in politics as something else?"

Prompted by Wilbon's fellow Northwestern alum, David Chalian, we get Wilbon's take on the Wildcats' chances against Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

Plus, Wilbon makes a game attempt to assert Northwestern's historical athletic supremacy over my alma mater.

"It's easier to make it out of Division Eight when you're not playing big-time football, you are playing big-time basketball. And we wish we could be as successful as Princeton in basketball," Wilbon said.

(For the record, the Princeton Tigers and the other Ivy League teams are classified Division I-AA. But the 14 national championships were the real deal — though the last, it should be noted, came in 1911.) For full interview, watch HERE.
Also today, we checked in with Politico's Jonathan Martin on the latest in the health care debate, plus President Obama's goals as he heads to Copenhagen tonight for the UN climate conference — and Sarah Palin's latest headline-grabbing exploits. (Did she really think she could go "incognito"? Really — on this planet?)

"It's a gift for us in the media. So this holiday season we're very, very grateful to Gov. Palin for that reason," Martin said.

Watch the second portion of "Top Line" HERE.

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