August 28, 2008


You know how you'll sometimes come upon a really bad highway accident and traffic slows down to rubberneck at the wreckage? It would come to a halt to gape at this, Sox on Mariotti's split: 'It's about time': The self-proclaimed tough-guy columnist never faced his targets, and that's the main reason he was considered a coward in clubhouses (CHRIS DE LUCA, 8/28/08,

And now Mariotti says the printed page is a dinosaur. He has embraced the Internet as his new forum.

We're talking about a columnist who detested bloggers -- mainly because he was easy fodder for their biting humor. He acted as if he stood on a level above bloggers. Most of the better bloggers have the kind of wit he couldn't touch.

Are bloggers bad? Absolutely not.

But those of us who work at newspapers have one edge over the blogging world. We have access to the players, coaches, managers and front-office executives. We can talk to key figures on and off the record to get insight unavailable to others. It's a privilege most of us don't take lightly. To not use it to our advantage is a waste -- of our energy and the readers' time.

''I think people stopped believing what he was writing because we let the fans know what the real situation was and how he was dealing with the athletes,'' Guillen said. ''Not just the White Sox or Cubs, all athletes. He never showed up. He just said what he wanted to say without ever showing up.''

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 said it best.

''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.''

Today, it's a little better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 28, 2008 10:15 AM
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