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What do you think: Jay Mariotti joins AOL Sports as national columnist

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jay.JPGOur former colleague Jay Mariotti, who left the Sun-Times in August in search of greener pastures -- presumingly online -- has a new gig.

Starting tomorrow, his polarizing opinions can be found at AOL Sports. Fanhouse is touting his arrival with a prominent ad on its front page.

Mariotti, whose departure after 17 years here sparked a war of words and attracted widespread national interest, says he will focus more on national issues than Chicago sports.

        "Because I'm going to be covering all these major events that involve championships, I'm probably writing more positive, upbeat, triumphant stories," Mariotti said. "You're not sitting back and analyzing, scrutinizing the same five teamsover and over and over again.

"Let's look at what's happened: The Cubs choked, the Bears [stink], the Bulls go in the tank ... it becomes monotonous," he said. "You can't keep spanking [Bulls general manager] John Paxson every week. You can't get on [Bears coach] Lovie Smith every day. [Bears GM] Jerry Angelo still doesn't have a quarterback. I'm going to keep writing that from now to kingdom come?

In the days following his exit, the Sun-Times ran a few scathing columns portraying him in a less than glowing light.

Chris De Luca levied the following against him:

"Mariotti spent the better part of his first day divorced from the Sun-Times acting like a scorned lover. He wants you to believe there was a greater principle involved -- one that somehow loomed larger than his ego. He wants you to believe that newspapers -- specifically the two biggest ones in Chicago -- are dying.

Once again, Mariotti was playing fast and loose with the facts."

"The Sun-Times was a vibrant, relevant newspaper long before Mariotti arrived 17 years ago. It remains one today. The Sun-Times has built its reputation as being a bulldog covering the city and being the No. 1 source for sports and entertainment coverage. You want to know about the Cubs, Sox, Bears, Bulls or Blackhawks, you read the Sun-Times -- either off the rack or on the Internet.

Much to Mariotti's surprise, there are bigger names at the paper. Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper enjoy the kind of international following envied by journalists everywhere. Rick Telander has a national appeal Mariotti never could match. There are hardworking reporters, editors and photographers who come to work every day, do their jobs the right way and somehow remember they're just a small part of a very big team.

One page does not make a newspaper.
De Luca then described some of the behind-the-scenes reasons some of Mariotti's colleagues weren't shedding any tears as he left.

"Not once in the last eight years can I recall seeing Mariotti in the Cubs' or Sox' clubhouse. With a press credential that allowed him access to every major sporting event and every major figure, he hasn't broken a single story in that time. He says Chicago is a weak market, the competitive edge gone. He has only himself to blame.

When Lou Piniella was hired by the Cubs, the Sun-Times reported it first. Mariotti had no role in that major story. He says the market has gone soft. If that's true, he played as big a role in the softening as anyone else.

He called his colleagues soft, forgetting we're the ones who had to face his targets on a daily basis. We were the ones who had to deal with the anger that he was too cowardly to face himself. We got the quotes that made up the bulk of his columns.

In spinning his story to the Chicago Tribune, Mariotti depicted the Sun-Times as the Titanic, and it was clear the self-proclaimed tough guy was knocking over the old women and children to be the first to jump ship.

''I'm a competitor, and I get the sense this marketplace doesn't compete,'' said Mariotti, who will remain a regular contestant on an ESPN game show.

''Probably the days of high-stakes competition in Chicago are over. To see what has happened in this business ... I don't want to go down with it.''

Stand-up guy to the end.

Sun-Times editor Michael Cooke weighed in with this:

"We wish Jay well and will miss him -- not personally, of course -- but in the sense of noticing he is no longer here, at least for a few days,'' Cooke said. ''A paper, like a sports franchise, is something that moves into the future. Stars come and stars go, but the Sun-Times sports section was, is and will continue to be the best in the city.''

The legendary Roger Ebert compared him to a rat:

"What an ugly way to leave the Sun-Times. It does not speak well for you. Your timing was exquisite. You signed a new contract, waited until days after the newspaper had paid for your trip to Beijing at great cost, and then resigned with only an email. You saved your explanation for a local television station.

As someone who was working here for 24 years before you arrived, I think you owed us more than that. You owed us decency. The fact that you saved your attack for TV only completes our portrait of you as a rat.

Mariotti's inaugural AOL column will address these things, as well give reasons why he is thrilled with his new position.

""What the hell kind of serious  newspaper does that? The National
Enquirer?"  Mariotti said, noting  his first AOL column would address his
Sun-Times departure. "It was almost a backhanded compliment that they
would sink to such levels.

"One of  the reasons I wrote this column tomorrow for AOL is I felt a
need to  connect the dots," he said. "There was such a disconnect. I
needed to  clarify what happened. It doesn't slam the Sun-Times. It
explains why I  left and why I'm thrilled to join this organization."

In addition, he says that Chicago sports fans need to embrace a wider spectrum of sports.

""If I there was one wish I had about  Chicago sports fans, it would be to
be more open-minded," he said. "It's a  great sports world out there with
all kinds of amazing stories every day.  ... I was working in a city with
a bubble around it. Yeah, sometimes they  care about Tiger Woods or
Michael Phelps. But I would be hard-pressed to  find any metropolitan
area that's more consumed with its own stuff,  including sports, than

"So therefore, if you're a Chicago  columnist and you're deciding on a
certain topic one day, [golfer] John  Daly might be a great topic, but
the sports fan in this city doesn't care  about John Daly as much as
[Bears quarterback] Kyle Orton. And after a  while, even I lose interest
in the topics."

This all raises many questions.

First, will you read Mariotti at his new address? What are you expecting from him?

Secondly, how do you feel about the way in which his departure was handled, both from the Sun-Times' side and his own?

Third, how do you feel as a Chicago fan when he says there is a "bubble" around this city? Do you agree or do you think he is way off base?

Jay Mariotti joins AOL Sports as national columnist     [Chicago Tribune]
Jay the Rat   [Roger Ebert]

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I wonder if he'll accept comments on his Fanhouse article. He would never let the Sun-Times attach reader comments to his articles.

Hmmmm... a guy that is too chicken to enter a Chicago clubhouse says we are too homer-centric. Now he doesn't have to go into ANY arena. Given that our Chicago teams tend to trade away the really good players, many fans continue to track their old favorites in new cities. As far as sports diversity, I know some huge soccer and cycling fans (who follow the Bears, Cub, Sox, Hawks, etc.)

I will read Jay's first efforts mainly to see reader reaction. Probably not after that.

This is breaking news. I didn't realize AOL was still around. Do you have to insert their disk into the computer and connect your analog phone to read his columns? And when you try to disconnect the service, do they hassle you endlessly until you threaten to go to the attorney general's office on consumer fraud? As to the rest of your questions, I don't really care about Jay's opinions - I'm more interested in the fire than the gasoline that is poured on the fire.

It's interesting how quickly a guy who went out of his way to berate sports blogs as the overly negative province of hacks can parlay his supposedly luminous print career into. . . a new job as a sports blogger.

Subjects of his inaugural, non-Sun Times-slamming column include his low opinion of the S-T's web editor, his mistrust of the S-T's editorial standards, and why sports blogs are so totally awesome. Stay professional, Jay.

Let’s be frank. Jay Mariotti mostly wrote the same three stories thousands of times (Owners are cheap, GMs are morons, I’m the only one brave enough to say it).

But beyond that, over the years, Mariotti threw out countless critiques that proved to be wrong and never stood up and admitted them (even if he excoriated others for being wrong a fraction of the time – including a GM who won a World Series THAT YEAR). Worse, he perpetuated more wrongheaded views about sports in this town than I can count and, for whatever reason, he had an impact as I’ll explain.

After the reign of this man, in what was otherwise a fine paper, there is a sizeable chunk of Chicago sports fans (those passionate about his column seem to be the same ones found raving the airways on talk radio) that are, honestly, among the least informed in the country and it is easy to track their rants back to him – they practically quote him. Honestly, it makes me embarrassed to be a Chicago sports fan when I have to listen to another idiot say “the Bears don’t win because they are cheap” who, when presented with the fact that there is a salary cap in the NFL that every team (including the Bears) pretty much spends every dime of, just kind of trails off into a muttering pool.

I just got the feeling that Mariotti wanted to write whatever was opposite of what everyone else was writing – facts be damned. This drives me nuts as someone who believes in the press and its role. If you want to write for tabloids, fine. But don’t you dare call yourself a journalist if all you want to do is push buttons. Because there are consequences,

However, the most unforgiveable sin among many is that I have never seen a city enjoy a string of championships (six titles in eight years) LESS than Chicago did during the Bulls run. Every day with Mariotti, it was another article complaining about this or that with management and Jackson or Jordan or Pippen. Memo to Jay: “Us against the World” is the oldest coach motivation trick in the book and all Jackson did was make “the world” Jerry Krause. Did you really fall for that or did you just want to “stir up things up?” Me, I just wanted to enjoy winning the title every single year. Was that wrong? Jay Mariotti robbed us of that. Think about that the next time you watch this horrible Bulls team – championship seasons are special and should be savored and not put through a meat grinder of second-guessing every minor little thing.

I actually stopped reading the Sun Times because, in the end, I could not flip past his face and headline fast enough to not piss me off. He actually played a huge role in making my favorite hobby, sports, a chore. I just wish there was some kind of “no fly list” for Chicago so I’d know he’d never set foot again in my town.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyle Koster published on January 4, 2009 6:49 PM.

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