Interview with ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon


Wikimedia Commons

ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon.

Blake Arrendel, Staff Writer

The sports and entertainment industry has largely been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. From basketball to hockey, seasons across all leagues along with the 2020 Summer Olympics have been postponed to help slow the spread of the virus.

One of the first leagues to suspend their season was the National Basketball Association (NBA) on March 11. This decision came as a surprise to many, as the league was in the middle of their season and headed towards playoffs. However, the difficult decision made a large impact on the fate of other sporting events.

To gain additional insight into the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on professional sports, I spoke to ESPN commentator and co-host of Pardon the Interruption, Michael Wilbon via phone.

Mr. Wilbon graduated from Northwestern University and was previously a sportswriter for the Washington Post until the launch of his show (co-hosted by Tony Kornheiser) in 2001. Mr. Wilbon currently spends his time between, his hometown of Chicago, Washington D.C, and Arizona. Currently he has been quarantining in the latter. 


Blake Arrendell: How has your job changed since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak?


Michael Wilbon: It’s changed a lot, while in terms of how I do it, ‘cause it’s not my studio… we’re not filming the show downtown, which we had been for the last 18 and a half years. Tony’s in his house doing it and in my case, I’ve been going to a studio here in Arizona, in Scottsdale, where they have a nurse and they go on great precautions. There’s only one person in the studio with me, and that’s the director and camera person, and she’s shooting about 12, 15 feet away, so that’s the number one thing. Another thing, it’s a part of a SportsCenter because you don’t have a control room set up in Washington to edit and produce our show. And then what we do, what we’re discussing, I mean, there’s no games, there’s no competition to discuss, but there’s still plenty of news. Like today, this dude is the number one recruit. He’s apparently going to the Drew League and not to college. You have, you have big news, like the postponement of the summer Olympics. So you still have plenty. There’s no real sports, but there is still stuff to do.


BA: Sports definitely aren’t the same. Do you think that the current situation [the Coronavirus Pandemic] would’ve been handled differently if the NBA hadn’t suspended their season? 


MW: No. I think somebody would’ve done something. They [the NBA] were the first, obviously, but the moment that somebody tested positive, whether it was the NHL or colleges, it was going to happen. The NBA was the first place and they acted very swiftly and wisely. I think it would have unfolded pretty much the same way because somebody was going to test positive at some point in that sport. Someone was going to have to say, ‘Wait a minute. We can’t just keep rolling along like its business as usual.’


BA: Do you think that the season will eventually resume, whether it’s over the summer or later in the year?


MW: You know, Blake, I don’t know, nobody knows. I hope it does. I keep thinking, I keep hoping in August that they [the NBA] could have playoffs. If they come back to train for two weeks, players could get back in shape in late July and early August. Then playoffs in August and even in September. I don’t know what it could look like. It could still be in arenas, but it’ll be interesting to see whether or not they can do it. It can be a late date or June in terms of discussion. How do we do it? But that discussion will happen. I hope that the NBA NHL can play their playoffs, to me that’s all. It’s going to be difficult to do, but I think they can do it for sure. 


BA: My last question is, what you’ve been doing to stay sane while quarantining?


MW: That’s a great question. In Arizona, it’s a little different than in the DMV. [In Arizona] we don’t live on top of each other. We have space. People aren’t talking about density. It’s much easier to socially distance if you don’t have density, you know? When we walk out of our house. There’s nobody that is within six feet of us. We are able to go to the golf course and have not just six feet, but 300 yards. We sit outside. We can just sit outside on our own at home, at the pool sitting. I’m catching up on reading, catching up on television, catching up on emails. I’m treating it like the offseason, like summer. I miss it.

BA: Definitely. Thank you for your time. 


MW: You’re welcome, man.