John Feinstein vs. Mike Wilbon: Media Fight Nerdy on an Epic Scale (Involves Curse Words!)

Mike Wilbon and John Feinstein both write for the Washington Post. Last week, when Feinstein opined on the Tony Kornheiser-Hannah Storm dust-up, he slipped in this line: “Wilbon, when he isn’t sucking up to famous athletes, brings smarts and experience to PTI.” Wilbon called and cursed him out.

Michael Wilbon: I don’t need Junior to get suspended. Junior caught an earful of language and heat that was both deserved and will stay private. I’ll match my credentials as a journalist with John Feinstein anytime. Junior has often mistaken his opinion with fact and with legitimacy. Thing is, my father didn’t raise me to be subservient to Junior, or anybody else. My opinions about Tiger Woods or any other issue are mine and I could give a damn about what Feinstein or anybody else things about them. The only thing special about Feinstein’s opinions is that they’re his. And I let him know that in very specific language that best belongs on HBO.

This isn’t the first time Wilbon has been called out for “sucking up” to athletes (he has written books with Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan). In what we think is one of the 10 best sports books we’ve ever read, Michael Leahy of the Post beautifully deconstructed Jordan in When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan’s Last Comeback, and in the process took a shot at Wilbon.

“All along, I thought that Wilbon’s treatment of Jordan highlighted the basic danger in getting too cozy with a subject,” Mr. Leahy writes. The access that Mr. Wilbon prized, Mr. Leahy argues, came at the cost of ever being able to write something critical about his celebrity subject.

Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser are immensely talented individuals and about 15 years ago, they were our sports writing idols. In their prime at the Washington Post, they were among the best sports writers in the country. What they don’t do well is take criticism from colleagues. They’ll definitely make the thin-skinned sports media member list in 2010.

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