So, Jay Mariotti's no-seriously-I-have-a-girlfriend-in-Canada-I-met-her-at-summer-camp freelance project? Turned out to be real. ESPN allowed Mariotti to write more than 5,000 unforgivable words on Kobe and the Lakers.
The important thing to remember about Mariotti isn't just that he recently pleaded no contest to misdemeanor stalking and assault-related charges stemming from a hair-tugging fight with an ex-girlfriend. The important thing to remember about him is that he is nearly every bit as awful a writer now as he is a human being. (Awful human was winning by a length at the quarter-pole, but then Mariotti wrote a book.) During his columnizing days, he was the guy who thought it was the height of journalistic truthtelling to write a "fire the coach" column before anyone else, and that was before television turned him into a sort of Hanna-Barbera version of his worst self. This isn't about ESPN giving a talented, troubled guy a second chance. This is about an asshole who thinks in binary and writes in hard-boiled moronese getting a second chance when he didn't deserve the first one.
Several sources said that there's no way Mariotti would have been able to write the piece without getting a green light from ESPN executives, including John Skipper. As Richard Deitsch reported last month, plenty of female writers were less than thrilled with the decision. A spokesman told me that "nothing else is currently planned" from Mariotti. You can read his story here but you'd be far better served by reading this.