Michael Wilbon: Ben Bradlee Was Reporter's Equivalent of Playing for Red Auerbach or Vince Lombardi

Ryan Glasspiegel

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon both spent significant time at the Washington Post before and during their tenure with ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. Yesterday, they taped tributes for the newspaper’s legendary former editor, and spoke volumes about his power of persuasion. In 1989, Wilbon had an offer to join Sports Illustrated — ostensibly his lifelong dream — and cover the NFL in tandem with Peter King, but Bradlee convinced him to stay at the Post.

Kornheiser recalled the time when Post columnist Dave Kindred left for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Bradlee wanted to fill the gap with two writers, including Kornheiser, who was happy doing features in style and sports at the time. Kornheiser initially turned down the column offer, but realized the next day that he didn’t exactly have a choice in the matter.

There have been an outpouring of tributes to Bradlee over the past couple days. Jim Romenesko has a good roundup of them, as well as a letter the editor wrote rebuffing a flack’s advancesDavid Remnick’s remembrance was great, and so was Rachel Jones’ personal anecdote from early in her career when Bradlee called her up at home and followed up on a previous vow to hire her.

“I had a nice conversation with Bradlee at a speaking engagement several years back, and told him he was a hero in our household,” my Dad emailed me yesterday. “He assumed I meant Pentagon Papers or Watergate. I told him my Dad was an early buyer of Washington Post stock. Then we spoke about how all the value was in Kaplan and the publishing was worthless. He said at the time they laughed about buying a company that gamed SAT scores, but thank God they did.”

Related: A Conversation With Erik Rydholm, Executive Producer of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption
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