Saturday, December 1, 2012

3 comments Jay Mariotti Has Changed By Not Changing

After having been in hibernation for the past two years (though he is very clear in interviews to point out he has been doing very many things during this time), it seems Jay Mariotti is slowly making his way back into the world of sportswriting and commenting. He has traded in his services as an ESPN screaming talking head, and from being the guy at AOL who serves to provide pageviews while the other columnists do the good sportswriting, in order to be the "outsider" who just loves to tell it like it is and shoot from the hip. That's his thing now apparently. He is "real" in a world of fakers. He's the guy screaming the truth while everyone else whispers lies. That's how he wants to be seen. He doesn't care for you, me or anyone else. He doesn't want to be famous anymore and it seems he spends most of his time now popping up to tell us he doesn't care if he is famous anymore. Also, he still loves sportswriting, which naturally explains why he isn't really doing it anymore. He writes for Chicago Side Sports, so perhaps that does count as sportswriting. In typical Mariotti fashion he writes for a Chicago site, but lives in Los Angeles. It's better that way. Now the people he bashes have to travel farther to try and kick his ass.

This seems like as good of a time as any to remember the time Mariotti wrote that college basketball conference tournaments are useless and only good for examples of greed. He posted this column and then after the Big East tournament was absolutely fantastic and had many close games and upsets, as fast as he could, Mariotti re-wrote the entire column as if he never originally wrote the conference tournaments were greedy and useless. I have written here for a while now and this is probably the most shocking example of a sportswriter who writes columns only for a reaction, fully not believing what he is writing. He completely changed his opinion of conference tournaments overnight in order not to look like a complete idiot when it turned out conference tournaments were good for more than making money.

The editor-in-chief of this fine sports site is floating column ideas.

He mentions something about Brian Urlacher being “the best Bear since Butkus,” which suggests Jonathan Eig either is overworked, listening to too many delirious Jeff Joniak highlights, or admitting that he vanished from Earth on a lunar reconnaissance mission between 1975 and 1987.

Exactly. We all know the greatest Bear since Dick Butkus is David Terrell.

Seems I must remind him about a running back from that era named Walter Payton, Sweetness for short, who not only is the best Chicago Bear ever but the greatest pound-for-pound specimen in the history of our savage national obsession known as professional football.

Clearly Mariotti's editor, who for whatever reason made a deal with the devil in having Mariotti write for his site, forgot about Payton and just doesn't have a differing opinion from Jay. What reasonable mind would have a differing opinion from Jay Mariotti?


What else, boss?

“How about a personal essay on why you like sports writing?” Mr. Eig offers. “Why sports? Why still?”

Why sports? Why still? This one, I like.

Well, release the balloons and let's start the party, because Jay Mariotti likes this idea.

Why continue to embrace a craft that literally almost killed me, a profession currently diluted by so many unskilled bloggers and corporate suckups that it has lost much of its soul?

See, Mariotti is not a corporate suckup. He doesn't even have a regular paying job with a corporation. He's such an indie sportswriter right now. He's actually listening to Silversun Pickups while writing this column, that's how indie he is.

One could only wish to be as skillful at sportswriting as Jay Mariotti used to be. It is hard to write columns criticizing athletes and coaches, calling for them to be fired, while blissfully ignoring under the bluster and angry screeds against everyone there isn't a lot of talent in what you write. If you don't walk the line well enough, you may see yourself as who you really are. It seems like it would take quite an ego to walk this line. Of course, I am just an unskilled blogger, so what do I know?

Because I still love sports, and because I still love to write. Sports + writing = sportswriter. And the fond memories still dance like nude women at Burning Man,

Jay Mariotti is hip and cool, he knows what Burning Man is. There are naked women there. How freaking super rad is that guys? Jay knows what's up with today's youth. Want to see him do the Macarena or the Electric Slide? What's up with all these crappy sportswriters today? Or as it is better known in song, "Who Let the Bad Sportswriters Out?"

I am blessed to have seen so much. How much do I love sports writing? I have a way of going through hell on the job and coming back for more.

This is not counting the hell Mariotti put our eyes and ears through as he yelled into the camera during "Around the Horn" and burned our eyes with "Blizzard of Oz" references when coming out of hiding to criticize Ozzie Guillen, only to go back into hiding upon hearing Ozzie wanted to kick his ass.

I had a heart attack during a bowl-game assignment, ending up drugged in a New Orleans hospital

Drugged just like at Burning Man, am I right?

I’ve had my life threatened so often by cowardly cyber assassins, many from the South Side,

Obviously no one needs to get their life threatened, even if that person is a first class troll and is Jay Mariotti, but I can't help but find deep irony in Jay Mariotti calling other people cowardly cyber assassins when he has done quite a hit job on players and managers himself.

Mariotti is a typical bully. He likes to carry out his personal vendettas against others in his columns and then claim himself as the victim when others (like Guillen often did) hit back at him. He can throw a punch, but he doesn't take one too well. You can even see this over the past couple of years. He burns up his goodwill and gets let go by ESPN and AOL once he runs into legal troubles. He doesn't act like he wants another high profile media job, which I don't believe because an ego like Jay Mariotti always wants a high profile media job, and plays the victim by painting himself as an outsider who has no urge to be a part of his mean ol' world of sportswriting anymore. I think Mariotti is still trying to be a bully, but he just lacks the platform to do so on a regular basis. He's lobbing bombs at athletes and teams in Chicago from a safe distance away in Los Angeles. So who is the cowardly cyber assassin again?

Mr. Eig says it sounds like I’m “bragging” about all this. Oh, yeah, the pride is just oozing here. 

I believe Jay Mariotti takes pride in having others threaten his life. Playing the victim is a role he wants. He wants to throw the first punch, but cry foul when someone counter-punches. He can't leave a job, he has to leave a job and then bash as many people while walking out the door. 

This is what Jay Mariotti does. He bashes people as soon as he knows he can stand clear of them. He bashed newspapers as soon as he left the employ of a newspaper, he has somewhat criticized ESPN after they let him go (but not too much because I believe he wants back in), and he consistently bashed Chicago-area athletes and coaches for what he saw as their shortcomings. So yes, I believe he takes pride in someone disliking him. 

Being in the sports media, which included eight years on ESPN TV and 17 at the Sun-Times and a zillion radio shows, has made me a comfortable living for more than a quarter-century. It has paid for my daughters’ college education, allowed me to globetrot on the job like Anthony Bourdain, and given me entree to exceptional people and opportunities.

Plus Burning Man! Don't forget Burning Man! They have naked women there!

But the reason I still like sports writing has nothing to do with money or perks.

"It has nothing to do with the money or perks, but I can review the money and perks I received if you missed the list I just made. Just ask me and I can easily repeat them. Also, let me take this opportunity to say I am really glad I am out of the spotlight. I can write an entire column about how happy I am to be out of the spotlight if you want me to. Just ask."

What would you want me to write about, Obama and Romney? My subjective objectivity would be shot down as biased by rotten political media types with agendas. Music? Yeah, I want to try explaining the Katy Perry phenomenon.

13 year old girls buy records. 13 year old girls are lemmings. Therefore music that 13 year old girls like is going to be popular. There, I started to explain it.

Hollywood? Phonies everywhere.

It's very convenient that Jay moved out to Los Angeles then. Better to be close to his own kind.

Disgustingly, the Internet has spawned more than a few amateurs who write for junk sites emphasizing sleaze and fabrication, such as the dope who put $12,000 in a paper bag for what allegedly were photos of Brett Favre’s penis. Sometimes I cringe as bloggers and snark artists try too hard to get attention in nonsensical ways.

The idea of Jay Mariotti accusing others of seeking attention is too rich for me. I always love it when writers complain about bloggers online who work hard to get attention. It's a good generic villain to use as an example for how the decline of quality sportswriting is not their fault. You read it a lot in these type of columns about how the Internet and idiot bloggers (like me) are ruining everything. I fail to see how those with a smaller forum are the reason for the decline of quality sportswriting, but perhaps that is just me. Deadspin has quite a following, but I wouldn't consider what they do "sportswriting," and they shouldn't hurt the quality of sportswriting any more than "Playboy" hurts the circulation of "Time" magazine.

As Wilbon writes in the anthology:

“Let’s just say that things have changed and rather dramatically. Now anyone who can text or Tweet can be a sportswriter, in a sense, despite never having gotten any closer to ringside, to practice, the star’s locker, or the GM’s office than, say, a cashier at the corner grocery.

I also have enjoyed how some sportswriters, like apparently Michael Wilbon, believe their access to athletes is what sets them apart from bloggers. I can see how this claim would be partly true because access has certain advantages, but in arguing access to athletes is part of what separates Mike Wilbon from me, Mike Wilbon is essentially admitting it's privileges that aren't based on talent as part of what separates him from a really good sports blogger. Give a good sports blogger access, does that make him a good sportswriter?

Just the same, the Internet also remains a forum for premium sports writing—Bill Plaschke in Los Angeles, Rick Reilly at ESPN, Dan Shaughnessy in Boston, S.L. Price at Sports Illustrated, John Branch at The New York Times, and best-selling author Buzz Bissinger among the best. 

I can't fathom how a person could believe Rick Reilly and Dan Shaughnessy are some of the best sportswriters on the Internet. I have to question whether Mariotti is intentionally trolling or has very little grasp on what great sportswriting should be if he thinks Rick Reilly and Dan Shaughnessy is "premium" sportswriting. Believe it or not, I don't hate any certain sportswriter, but from the point of view of a knowledgeable fan (which is where I try to come from) I don't believe Reilly and Shaughnessy are good at all. In fact, I would consider Reilly to be among the worst sportswriters given how many columns over the past two years he has absolutely mailed in or re-written from old columns. He's getting paid a lot to do very little.

Reilly and Shaughnessy are two writers who are employed by companies who mistake notoriety for fame and pageviews for quality writing. Quantity doesn't always equal quality. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Mumford and Sons sell more albums than most other musicians. I don't think many people would argue they are the best band or artist currently making music though.

For every punk hack trying to increase hit totals by ripping an ESPN sportscaster, there thankfully are places such as The New York Times, USA Today and that have moved into the digital era by doing sports journalism the right way.

Shockingly, I have an issue with this statement as well. If this "punk hack" gets more hits ripping an ESPN sportscaster (which again, just seems like a very generalized statement), then doesn't that mean there are others who don't like this ESPN sportscaster? Just like there is a market for a Rick Reilly column, there is a market for those who don't like a certain writer. If the criticism is written well and without excessive vitriol then what's the issue? It's a point of view.

I’ve been consuming the news since I first picked up a paper in our Pittsburgh home and read stories aloud at age 3, stunning a room full of adults.

Jay Mariotti, child prodigy. There's nothing like bragging to your readers about how smart you were as a three year old. That's not pathetic for a middle-aged man to do at all.

"Let me tell you how fast I could throw a baseball at the age of 5! They wanted me on the 7-8 year old coach pitch team!"

Some people think I went away the last two years because of a court case; in truth, after compressing about 50 years of work into 25, I’ve merrily taken two years off in L.A. to recharge for the next 25.

Come on, Jay. So to recap, his absence from sportswriting over the last two years wasn't caused by the fact he was suspended indefinitely from AOL or he was basically fired from ESPN? Not at all. It just so happens Jay Mariotti's inability to work for the two major media outlets he was employed by coincided with the exact time he was looking to take a break and step back. It was all a crazy coincidence. This is what he wants us to believe. His unemployment from any major sports news organization because he wanted to recharge is just a crazy coincidence that just happened to occur as he was let go from two other major sports news organizations.

Someone asked if I prefer to have my old jobs back. Nope. I want my new job—multimedia in nature, commenting at large, dictated by the most important stories instead of each day’s news. Yes, the scandals must be covered, the jerks exposed, and the bad franchises scrutinized.

Jay is VERY happy doing what he is doing right now. Does he need to write another column telling us just how happy he is? He will do it, because he is just super-duper happy and just can't stop talking about it. It's not us he needs to convince though, is it?

But if I still was writing in Chicago, it would be the same five stories swirling in the same monotonous circle—Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein perpetuating the 104-year-and-running Cub sickness, the White Sox staying competitive but not quite achieving what they should, whiny Jay Cutler symbolizing the continuing Bears’ trend of raising hopes and inevitably failing, the Bulls still letting you down in the post-Jordan years by not making bold moves to surround Derrick Rose with the necessary talent, the Blackhawks joyfully winning once and straining to get close again.

Prior to this column, Jay Mariotti had written two other columns for Chicago Side Sports. One column was about how whiny Jay Cutler symbolizes the Bears' trend of raising hopes and inevitably failing. The other column was about the White Sox staying competitive but not quite achieving what they should.

So basically, if Jay Mariotti were still writing in Chicago, he would be writing about the same stories he is currently writing about while living in Los Angeles. So a little research shows that Jay Mariotti is still talking about the same issues he used to talk about when he wrote in Chicago, and this is supposed to represent some sort of progression as a sportswriter. This man is nothing if not completely incapable of being self-aware.

At my count, L.A. has a dozen sports superstars—Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Jared Weaver, David Beckham

I'm guessing Mariotti didn't shock a room full of adults at the age of 3 with his counting abilities because that's 11 sports superstars. I know, I know, these are just details. That's Mariotti for you. The facts are just details. He claims he has grown as a sportswriter and is glad to be away from writing about the same five stories he used to write about, even though he is still writing about those stories, and 11 sports superstars is the same as 12 sports superstars.

and a Stanley Cup-winning hockey team.

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010.

Chicago has…Derrick Rose. (No, Mr. Eig, Brian Urlacher is not a superstar anymore.)

It appears Jay Mariotti wants to be known as a fair weather sportswriter. He goes to the cities where the superstars are at.

What has excited me, since leaving Chicago four years ago, has been the chance to focus on the national picture.

Again, Mariotti's first two columns were about Chicago-based teams and he writes for a Chicago-oriented sports site. Was Mariotti not able to focus on the national picture when he was a regular on "Around the Horn" or writing for AOL? Of course he could talk about these topics, and he did talk about these topics, but for some reason he is acting like he could not. His reality and the world's reality don't seem to fit this claim he can now focus on the national picture, whereas he seems to think he could not do so previously. He could easily focus on the national picture working for AOL or ESPN, which of course he could and did do, but this is irrelevant because he didn't want those jobs back anyway.

As I begin to write this, I’m watching four baseball playoff games in a 12-hour span, also known as Bud Selig’s wet dream. You have Buster Posey proving why he’s MVP. You have Dusty Baker, a postseason flop again, running his team out of a potential big inning and losing another series. You have the Cardinals still carving out late-night miracles without Tony La Russa and Pujols, and the Washington Nationals flopping, in part, because management foolishly shelved Stephen Strasburg. You have Joe Girardi managing hours after his father died, and a night after he showed the wisdom and guts to pinch-hit Raul Ibanez for useless Alex Rodriguez.

All of these topics Jay could talk about 3 times a week on "Around the Horn" or write about when he was a regular columnist for AOL. There was nothing in his previous jobs that said he must talk about Chicago sports, yet Mariotti seems to indicate differently. Quite frankly, he is coming off as somewhat in denial at times in this column. He's claiming he can focus on the national picture now, yet he writes for a Chicago-based site about Chicago sports, and used to write for a national sports site (AOL) and appeared on the largest sports network in the United States (ESPN). He's claiming his legal issues didn't have anything to do with him disappearing for two years, yet it's all too much of a coincidence to be believed.

Out in L.A., every Nash highlight and Howard interview is devoured. The locals have nowhere near the passion of Chicago fans, not surprising in that Chicago sports are generational in scope and more people seem to grow up in Chicago and never leave than we see in any other American city.

This is the "Backhanded Compliment of the Day" everyone! Jay Mariotti moves away from Chicago to Los Angeles for two years and starts calling the entire city of Chicago "townies."

When the Dodgers and Angels missed the playoffs, despite outrageous payrolls that may swell to a combined $400 million next season, the fans complained for an hour or two, and then headed to the beach. They care, but they don’t live and die with every fastball, spiral, jumper, and slapshot as Chicagoans do.

But don't worry Los Angeles citizens, Jay Mariotti will still ruthlessly bunch you into one stereotype and judge you accordingly. Your time to hate him will come.

I hope Mr. Eig now understands why sports writing is a lifelong passion for me, assuming my life lasts much longer. Why do I like it? Because I’m pretty good at it, when others are not.

If he doesn't say so himself. Of course Mariotti needs to say so himself because I'm not sure there are many others who would agree with this statement.

And because I’m willing to argue, swear to Papa Bear, that Lance Briggs also has had a better career than Brian Urlacher.

We all know from the conference tournament column a few years ago that Jay Mariotti doesn't always believe what he writes, so I doubt he believes this statement either. This seems to be typical Mariotti saying something controversial for attention. It's just like something those bloggers do for attention.


JimA said...

What I really want to know is: what is the White Sox record since July 2, 2006?

Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

I find it kind of humorous that jay mariotti of all people would call out bloggers for writing critical, incendiary pieces solely for the purpose of generating pageviews when that's literally EXACLTY what mariotti does. mariotti writes moralistic, inflammatory columns taking cheapshots at sports figures for the sole purpose of generating pageviews. i would estimate that at least 100% of bloggers (including the ones that *actually* live in their moms' basements) are better writers than jay

Bengoodfella said...

Jim, it's not good. In fact, I am surprised Mariotti didn't write another article about Ozzie getting let go by the Marlins. Of course, it isn't like the Marlins are the most stable or smart of MLB organizations.

Arjun, you are exactly right. He flamethrows intentionally and knows exactly what he is doing. Mariotti never relied on the talent he didn't have. He relied on his ability to piss people off and divide his readers into a strongly pro- or con-category.