BLEACHER REPORT REVISITED / HAROLD BELL JULY 3, 2009
In 2009 there was a sports column written by Jayson Whitlock (Fox News Sports) titled “Jim Brown my Hero” the blog must have had the late legends Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich and Afro-American sports columnist Sam Lacey turning over in their graves.
Mr. Povich was the author of a best-selling book titled “No Cheering in the Press Box.” I admired and respected the man. He and pioneers like Sam Lacey, Mal Goode (ABC News), and Wendell Smith (Pittsburgh Courier), stood for something and did not fall for just anything. These great men cleared a path for me and those who followed. They wanted to be sure we would not have to face the same racism that hindered them during their distinguished careers, but we have come up a minute late and a dollar short when comes to media pressrooms at deadline. They are only second to a church on Sunday mornings when it comes to racism in America.
I dared not miss their commentaries and columns here in my hometown of Washington, D.C. Never thinking one day instead of playing in the NFL, I would be a pioneer in sports talk radio. Their kind of sports writing and reporting has become an endangered species. They inspired me to write commentaries and host a Media Roundtable for my radio sports talk show, “The Original Inside Sports.”
Participating in my Media Roundtable were George Solomon, Byron Rosen, Dick Heller, Frank Pastor, Dave Dupree, William Rhoden, Kevin Blackistone, Sonny Hill, Dr. Harry Edwards, Tom Callahan, Howie Evans, and Larry Fitzgrald, Sr. Larry would introduce me to the Minnesota Vikings first black Head Coach, the trailblazing Dennis Green. He would also be the first black coach to be hired in the Big Big 10–Northwestern University. Dennis would become a regular on Inside Sports.
I remember Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., when he was in middle school. He would answer the phone when I called for his dad to participate on the Inside Sports Roundtable. He would yell, “Hey dad, its Mr. Bell in Washington, DC.” I also remember his late wife Carole, she would answer the phone, “Good morning Mr. Bell, I will get Larry for you.” Sometimes Larry would take a minute or two to get to the phone. She would stay on the line until he picked up. She would ask, “How are things in the Nation’s Capitol. She was always a sweet lady.
Now Larry, Jr. is headed to the NFL Hall of Fame as one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play in the NFL.” What a difference a day makes!
Jim Brown once said, “All Sam Lacey did was cover Jackie Robinson; he never really covered the NFL.” Jim does not like being second fiddle behind anyone.
I wonder why Jim failed to remember in the late 40s and 50s, Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson were the most important black athletes of our time?
Mr. Whitlock’s ill-timed and idiotic column in 2009 defending Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan against Jim Brown’s accusations as “Do nothing Negroes” was cheerleading at its worst. Plus, Jim Brown while he was calling the kettle black, had his own hidden agenda.
You would think Whitlock’s column would make the next sports columnist think twice before following in the same path. Enter, Washington Post columnist and ESPN’s PTI co-host, NBA Playoff analyst and “Expert” on everything sports, Michael Wilbon.
On July 1, Michael’s column in the Washington Post was titled “Tiger’s Actions Speak Volumes.”
Let me clear the air from the very beginning, I like Michael Wilbon, he is really a good person, but he is a go-along-to-get-along guy. He has never stood up for anything, including himself.
He has no track record of ever doing anything in the community before the Washington Post, but he should not feel like the Lone Ranger; he has plenty of company in the media.
During my radio days in the 70s and 80s, I had a pipeline into the Washington Post newsroom. My radio talk show, “The Original Inside Sports” was the No. 1 rated sports talk show in town.
Long-time sports editor George Solomon was my “Go to guy” in the sports department. George was a pretty smart guy, and much like Jim Brown, he thought he was smarter than anyone else.
My show was like a “Watering Hole” for writers and sports columnists at the newspaper.
Longtime Washington Post High School Sports Editor Donald Huff once said, “George Solomon runs the sports department like a Nazi Concentration Camp.” Despite that assertion, there were some great writers and reporters who worked for him, including Huff. My favorites were Shirley Povich, Byron Rosen and Tom Callahan (class acts). Huff once wrote, “Harold Bell gets his ratings off the streets of DC.”
If George wanted to know the latest on the Black Athlete or something going on in the black community, he knew he could hear it on Inside Sports.
He was a consistent contributor, he participated in-studio, and there were long-distance calls from Wimbledon and track meets and golf courses from around the World.
My community programs became one of his favorite hangouts, celebrity tennis tournaments, Christmas toy parties for needy children, etc.
His staff followed his lead: Rosen, Callahan, Wilbon, Dave Dupree, Donald Huff, and Dave Aldridge all became regulars on Inside Sports.
Somewhere in the 80s, I became a regular on the first televised Comcast Washington Post sports talk show. George treated me like a member of the staff.
Good Old Boys like Tony Kornheiser, John Feinstein, and hatchet-man, Leonard Shapiro, kept their distance.
I clearly remember Shapiro taking a gamble to come on Inside Sports to plug his bogus book titled “John Thompson: The Real Story.”
My first question to him was, “Leonard how could this be the Real John Thompson story when you didn’t interview him, or anyone in his family and you never interviewed me?” I am sure that was the longest hour he ever spent on the radio.
I have known John Thompson since he was in middle school. During his playing days on the playgrounds in Northeast DC. He could have easily played the role of the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz” (no heart).
I remember I had to chase him off the basketball court during a pick-up game. He wanted to be a jump shooter. I was capable of filling the bucket up myself, I needed a rebounder. He was not allowed back on the court until his protectors, Sandy Freeman and Bob “Batman” Grier showed up.
John Thompson’s NBA basketball claim to fame: “I backed up Bill Russell.” He backed Russell up so far, Red Auerbach put him in the NBA expansion draft the next year. He was not tough enough during that era for the wars of the NBA.
In my opinion, he was also overrated as a college coach. With Big men like Pat Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Michael Graham, and John Turner, etc., he should have easily won two maybe three National NCAA titles.
When he was first hired at Georgetown, he could not buy a story on any sports page, or time on any radio or television station to promote Georgetown basketball.
I gave him a five-minute time slot every Monday evening on Inside Sports (W-O-O-K Radio) to promote his team. When he became “Big John Thompson” he hired a white boy to do the play by play for Georgetown basketball.
He became another “know it all” in the media with no community track record. He started out working for 4-H on his retirement from the NBA that was his introduction to the black community.
He married a “Lady” named Gwen and started to smell himself as a lady’s man and an intimidator. When things went bad in the marriage he would show up at her residence unannounced. He would sit in a parked car and hide behind trees late at night. In the black community, we call it ‘Tree Boxing.’ He warned her he had Las Vegas connections and she better go quietly.
I assisted in her divorce. Gwen had her lawyer call me to tell her how to proceed with the divorce. I gave her all the skeletons in “Big John’s” closet.
She took him to court and to the bank to the tune rumored to be $6 million. It could have easily been $12 million but she wanted him out of her life.
John was a millionaire before he left Georgetown. He was taking money under the table from sports agent David Falk. That is the Real John Thompson story. I exposed Falk 20 years before the sports department of the New York Times. I exposed him for stealing millions from NBA Hall of Fame player Adrian Dantley. The New York Times called him a NBA snake.
I was the first Nike rep on the East Coast and thinking John was my friend, I went to him with a proposal to bring Nike to Georgetown. We shook hands and agreed to meet the next day to confirm the deal. The Nike store was a mile from Georgetown University and before I could walk back to the store, he had called to Portland, Oregon and made his own deal. He was the supreme “Back Stabber.”
Dave Dupree was the first to write a story on my community involvement (Christmas toy parties hosted by the Washington Redskins), but he started to smell himself after he became a columnist.
Dave and I fell out of love in the visitor’s locker room after a Bullets’ game. I jokingly asked him why was he a no-show on my talk show Inside Sports. He had a curt response, “I don’t work for Harold Bell. I took it as disrespect. I slapped him in his mouth and all hell broke loose—my bad!
Several of our colleagues stepped between us and I was hustled out of the locker room. I still regret the incident. Dave was not really a bad guy, he just got caught in the moment of trying to be cute.
Here we were in the late 1970s, Dave Dupree (Washington Post), Ron Sutton (WHUR Radio), Greg Mosso (WHUR Radio), Chuck Taylor (TV 20), Gerald Burke (Afro-American), and we were still sitting in separate but equal seats at the press table in Landover a ten minute drive from the Nation’s Capitol. Something was wrong with this picture.
I remember sports writer Frank Pastor and I were upstairs on the next corridor during half-time during a game and we notice the segregated seating. We walked down the steps to our seats, Frank went to the right and I went to the left. No one batted an eye.
The late Mark Splaver was the Director of Media Relations for the Bullets. One home game I arrived late after he had passed out media press guilds for the team. During half-time, I reminded him I had not received a press guild, he walked away without responding.
He returned in the third quarter and threw the guild on the table in my direction. I went after him for an explanation but Jerry Sachs the President of the team stopped me and asked me to let him handle it and I did.
At the next home game, Mark came to the press table and apologized. I think he had not gotten over the way Frank and I brought equal opportunity to the Bullet’s press table.
It was integration without a protest sign or march, we just did a sit-in. The following season, the press table was fully integrated. Frank and I gave each other High Fives to celebrate.
The new owner, Ted Leonis, and PR man, Scott Hall are carrying on the same racist tradition. The secondary media, Afro-American and Informer Newpapers, Roundball Report, Inside Sports are separated from so-called major media, Washington Post, USA Today, Washington Times, etc. Major Media seats are on floor level and black/minority media in the bleachers (nose bleed section).
In 1954, Rosa Parks had refused to get up and give her seat to a white man on a bus, and in 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King gave his life in Memphis fighting for our civil and human rights.
I am appalled here we are in 2022, and blacks in media are still being treated like second-class citizens.
My problem with Michael Wilbon started in the Green Room on the campus of Howard University. We were killing time waiting to go on a television talk show together with television talk show host Kojo Nmamdi (two-faces). Suddenly Michael start to cry his heart out to me regarding his boss, George Solomon.
It was here he confided in me that he didn’t like the way George was constantly looking over his shoulder and changing his columns.
Wilbon said, “He never does that to Tony Kornheiser. I am thinking since I am now a columnist, I should be free to write my own stories.”
Jill Nelson, a former Washington Post writer, wrote a book in 1993 titled “Volunteer Slavery/My Authentic Negro Experience.”
She wrote, ‘the Washington Post is The Plantation on the Potomac.’
My advice to Michael in the Green Room at the time was to take George to lunch away from the paper.
There he could let him know he appreciated his personal attention but thought that he could manage his column by himself.
I also advised him to leave George with the impression he had no problem calling on him if he got stuck.
It looks like Michael decided to kiss George’s jackass instead. He is now saying, “Harold Bell, how do you like me now?” I wonder if a heart attack was it worth his peace of mind?
When I see Michael on television playing the “Expert” on anything and everything, I don’t find him believable. He is still not a free black man!
For a better understanding of Michael Wilbon’s Trials and Tribulations with George Solomon, I am sending him a copy of my re-visiting the Bleacher blog from 2009.
I am thinking he is much like James Brown, he has been brought and sold several times over. There is a great possibility the system is telling him what to say and when to say it. Ed Bradley (CBS 60 Minutes) must be turning over in his grave—Ed was a real stand up black man.
James Brown admitted he was not a free black man when he called administrators at DeMatha High School. The call was made to apologize after he failed to mention former DeMatha High School All-American, Penn State All-American had died a day earlier. Steve was also 9-year vet NFL running/blocking back. He died on November 20, 2021, of Parkinson at the age of 57.
He confessed he had no say-so of what was broadcasted as the host of NFL/CBS on Sunday’s half-time show? I cannot understand that type of mentality.
James is living in a Fantasy World where it is okay to be someone you are not. For example; he pretends to be a minority MLB owner, and a pulpit pastor/minister!
I would guess it is easier for James and Michael to say, “I is rich instead of I is poor.”
Much like Jayson Whitlock’s column on “My Hero Jim Brown,” Michael Wilbon has crossed the line over and over again. For example; He managed to kiss Tiger’s jackass and Jim Brown’s jackass in the same column.
Check out the third paragraph leading into the story Whitlock says, ‘Tiger’s Actions Speaks Volumes.‘
He says, “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve admired Brown’s activism my entire adult life. One of the unforgettable experiences of my life came during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, when Brown through his determination, concern and sheer force of personality, persuaded gang members from the rival Crips and Bloods to call a truce to the violence and talk out their differences at Brown’s Hollywood home.” Would someone please get the toilet paper—No Cheerleaders in the Pressbox!
In Whitlock’s next breath, he goes on to tell how misguided Jim Brown is when it comes to Tiger’s contributions. He points out all the great things Tiger has done since he turned pro.
He reminds Jim that the Tiger Woods Foundation does not teach golf. He names the foundations’ activities; the courses taught at the academy such as engineering, robotics, and marine biology.
Then he cites the 25 scholars the programs have produced and the schools they attend like Georgetown, Florida A&M, Spellman, Penn State, UDC, Marymount, the University of Arizona, and the University of Idaho.
The learning center in California has had between 20,000 and 25,000 young people come through the doors.
Would someone please slow Michael down and fit him for a short skirt and pom-poms. No Cheerleaders in the Press Box!
The bottom line, is Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, and Michael Wilbon are nobody’s bargains in standing up for the rights of minorities. Jim Brown is heads and shoulders above the three, but he is also the great pretender!
Since Tiger has been on the pro circuit he has never hired a black caddy for the tour and he has had several opportunities to give a brother a chance to become a millionaire.
According to my former high school teammate and college roommate, Richard “Jelly” Hansberry, Tiger barely spoke to the black caddies on the tour.
Jelly once served as the Caddy Association’s Vice-President. He has been on tour for several decades.
Black caddies have become an endangered species on the pro tour (I was one in high school).
When the ruling was made that the tour’s pro golfers had to start paying the caddy a percentage of their earnings, they immediately started to hire people that looked like them (family and friends).
I have no problem with that. Tiger, on the other hand, he hired people he wanted to look like.
Keeping it simple, track star legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Charles Barkley both got it right, Tiger and Jim Brown are about themselves aka Don King!
Michael Jordan used to be Wilbon’s go-to guy. He has evidently fallen out of favor since Wizards owner Abe Pollin ran Michael out of town with his tail tucked between his legs and his foot on the gas pedal crying “foul.“
On the HBO special, Jim lumped Michael and Tiger in together, but Wibon never mentioned or defended MJ in his column.
Michael Wilbon is a contradiction. He closed his column with “I asked Tiger if it’s possible that a conversation with Jim Brown might be productive, and Tiger answered, ‘That depends on whether both parties show up open-minded.'”
Wilbon needs to get his own house straightened out before he can straighten out someone else’s.
In the three decades I have known Michael, he has never made an effort to donate a toy, book, shoes, a dollar or Send A Kid to Camp for my non-profit organization Kids In Trouble, Inc. I had to chase him down for a $1,000 to pay my rent, as I did with JB and David Aldridge (2). You talking about have to suck it up!
But Michael says “I have not forgotten.” He has made promises but has never followed through. He is still a lovable guy, but he is misguided.
He should not feel like the Lone Ranger: neither have benefactors like John Thompson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Adrian Branch, James Brown, and Adrian Dantley (he almost lost millions of dollars to David Falk’s Ponzi scheme until I alerted him). He never came back to bring a toy or to help a child.
There are some champions and some chumps among the group, mostly chumps.
There is one thing that is certain, whatever they are doing in the community or in the media, they are all following my Footprints in the Sand and I followed, Mal Goode, Wendell Smith and Sam Lacey.
Michael would have a life and death health crisis. I e-mailed him wishing him well and a speedy recovery.
He responded with “I was not surprised to hear from you, and I thank you for the thought. I am just disappointed when you get upset when people disagree with you.”
Michael is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He has never expressed to me vocally or in a written word about something I had written that he disagreed with.
I e-mail James Brown, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Michael, whenever their names appear in my commentaries.
I don’t want them getting second-hand information. He says, she says and anonymity is a dangerous weapon often used in the black community to purposely divide and cause confusion among the natives.
I understand that I am on the firing line every time I pen a commentary or column. My greatest asset is that I can tell the difference between Constructive Criticism and Destructive Criticism. My friends take everything personally, but I say, “if the shoe fits wear it.“
We always want to hear the truth when it is about someone else, but we never want to hear the truth about ourselves?
On chance encounters with Michael over the years, for example, there was the time I bumped into him coming out of the Washington Post in 2004.
The first thing he wanted to talk to me about was the book he was writing with Charles Barkley. No mention of any conflict with me.
In another encounter, I went out to my first Wizards game to witness the return of the gambling czar of the NBA, Agent Zero aka Gilbert Arenas. The Wizards were facing the best team in the NBA, the LeBron-James led Cleveland Cavaliers.
I would meet Michael in the press room after the game and you should have seen the surprised look on his face when he saw me. The relief came when he saw I had my wife Hattie with me. She was his checks and balances.
He knew I would not be all over him with her by my side. We smiled and made small talk about his $1,000 suit and $500 pair of shoes.
There was never a word about my commentaries or columns about him or his colleagues. Michael, proved there is still no defense against the truth.
Michael, I understand the need to have access to Tiger and have him on your side, but you don’t need to be a cheerleader or keep a roll of toilet paper in your glove compartment for whenever he shows up. I suggest you try speaking volumes about your own life and let Tiger speak for himself.
Our problem is that we don’t have a clue to our rich history and to who we really are.
Motown legend Smokey Robinson got it right when he recently said on the View television talk show. He said, “I resent being called Afro-American. I think that when you call me an Afro-American you’re disclaiming all the things, the contributions that Black people have made to America. You see, I consider myself to be a Black American. I enjoy being called Black, and Black has been so negativized as a color down throughout our history, by those who wanted to negativize it. And so it spilled over into the Black community and to the Black people. And even Black people back in the day calling each other Black was a sign for a fight.
Black Americans have bestowed so much positivity and culture and have even given their lives to fight in all the American wars; they did not do so for Timbuktu or Kenya, but have spilled their blood for Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama. He emphatically states that our contributions should be appropriately recognized.
He close saying, “I resent being called African American because Black people have contributed so much to the development of the United States of America.”
I wholeheartly agree, whether white America wants to recogonize my ancestors and my history, never the less Black America History is who I am.
When we lose great brothers like Steve Smith, his name should be shouted from the highest rooftop. It does not matter whether is CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX News or the Afro-America Newspaper, we should be made aware that he lived among us. If you see something, say something.
SPORTS MEDIA ALERT for Michael Wilbon: “You still don’t know DIDDLY.”
IN MEMORY OF RENEE POUSSAINT–SHE WAS A TEAM PLAYER!