- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 10, 2009

With his play this season, Washington Wizards center Brendan Haywood is making a strong case for a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

With his opinions, Haywood is making a strong case for a post-basketball career in the media.

Haywood has said he wants to go into broadcast journalism once his playing career ends. In the offseason, he has done color commentary for Washington Mystics games and briefly hosted a radio show on FM-106.7.

But since May, Haywood has used his keyboard to make his voice heard. Haywood, while doing a regular blog for YardBarker.com, has shown himself to be man of wide interests and strong - often controversial - opinions.

In six months of blogging, Haywood has addressed, among other things, his offseason training program, the Wizards’ progress, Michael Vick’s return to the NFL and Barack Obama’s performance as president.

In August, he questioned the sanity and sexuality of exiled NBA player Stephon Marbury in the wake of a 24-hour webcast in which Marbury exhibited a series of disturbing acts. Haywood later apologized and denied charges that he was homophobic.

Now Haywood has sparked another firestorm with his take on Tiger Woods’ extramarital affairs, which came to light last week. Haywood last week wrote on his blog that the public - largely disapproving of Woods - needed to look at both sides of the story. He also wrote that Woods’ wife, Elin, is more driven by obtaining a large financial settlement than by saving her marriage.

Haywood was criticized by bloggers at several national media outlets, including Sporting News and Deadspin.com. But when asked after Wednesday’s practice about the fiery feedback, he stuck by his comments.

“It’s interesting. I think some people obviously might not like it, some people might like it. It’s a different point of view,” Haywood said. “I think a lot of people are bashing Tiger out there, and he’s done his thing, but I try to look at both sides. I know I put something out there that might not be that popular, but that’s because a lot of people are thinking it. I’m not the only one.”

Haywood, who usually gets 15 to 30 reader comments on a given post, had 246 responses to his Woods post as of Wednesday. Some fans agreed; many did not. Haywood said he welcomes all responses and even responded to many because he believes the spirit of debate is one of the greatest aspects of sports.

“I love it. I would love to do a show like ‘Pardon the Interruption’ or get up there [on ESPN’s “First and 10”] with Skip Bayless. I love it. That’s what sports is,” Haywood said. “Sports isn’t fun if you watch it at home by yourself. That’s why you go to sports bars, so you can argue with people, so you can high-five your friends. … It’s a lot of banter.”

Haywood isn’t the first or only Wizards player to maintain a blog. Forward Caron Butler does an occasional blog for NBA.com and Hoops Hype.com. Backup guard Randy Foye blogs for Comcast SportsNet. But neither player offers controversial views, instead using the blogs mostly to discuss the team’s play and to reach out to fans.

The Wizards’ original blog superstar was Gilbert Arenas, who from 2006 to 2008 penned an entertaining - and at times controversial - blog. He stopped, however, after growing tired of the extra media scrutiny it brought. But Arenas said he believes Haywood is the perfect replacement for Wizards and NBA fans seeking a spicy take.

“Brendan knows how to make comments funnier than what they should be,” Arenas said. “I heard him when he talked about Marbury and got killed for it. But it’s just making your opinion. … If I’m talking about contracts, you’re saying the same thing [the] media’s saying. But since it comes out your mouth, it’s something big, like, ‘Oh he’s not supposed to be saying anything like that.’ ”

Haywood won’t let a little controversy here or there silence him - he is enjoying his new hobby and the additional interaction with fans.

“I like reading people’s different points of view,” he said. “I write my own blogs, I read all the comments, I respond back to many of them. You can only practice basketball so much. You’ve got to do a little something else.”