June 8, 2020

Michael Wilbon turns obstacles into motivation

Andy Yamashita

Today we had the pleasure of talking to current ESPN staff member and former Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon, whom many of us have watched for years on his show, “Pardon The Interruption.” We discussed with him the impact of recent world events, particularly George Floyd’s death, and the obstacles Wilbon has faced as a black journalist. Some specific anecdotes he shared that I thought were particularly impactful included being accused of being an affirmative action hire, and having people assume he was an athlete just because he is a black man. Prompted by Mr. Leon Carter, Wilbon recounted the time when he and several other black professionals were mistaken for athletes at a diner because a friend had a passing similarity to Deion Sanders. The column Wilbon later wrote on the interaction is one he says is still brought up to him to this day. However, the biggest takeaway from this story for me was how he used those experiences to fuel his competitive nature. Wilbon told us it drove him to prove that not only did he belong in the industry, but that he was better than everyone else. Wilbon’s words reminded me of the sentiment shared by columnist Carron Phillips during our class orientation — to be great, you must have the same competitive nature of a star athlete. It reinforced that mindset and work ethic are just as, if not more, important as talent.

you might also like