Groggy, caffeine-deficient citizens got a jolt of 21st-century reality this morning as Jay Mariotti debuted at his new home, AOL Sports. Yes, he's no longer just Chicago's problem; Jay belongs to the world.
How did the initial effort go? I have to say, I've never before seen The Great Wall of China, Richard M. Daley and animal penis combined so seamlessly in an opening paragraph. But then I don't read as much as I should. I'll sum it up by saying this: Jay is still all class. He wastes no time in lobbing Holy Hand Grenades at his old employers, even taking a swipe at them with the name of his column: Sign of the Times.
Just what were the circumstances of Jay leaving the Chicago Sun-Times, you might ask? In his accounting of events, Jay of course plays the victim, like always. Let's get right to the most interesting portion.
A week into the Olympics, I was inside The Water Cube That Phelps Built when a voice-mail popped in. It was from the sports editor of the ailing Chicago Sun-Times, asking me to accommodate the newspaper's Paleozoic-era deadlines by doing something the readers wouldn't appreciate. He wanted me to write one column that had Michael Phelps winning that day's race and another column that had him losing. Both would be filed long before the event, which, in some quarters, would be considered an editorial directive to cook up fiction.
I would insert blanks for the finishing times, which a copy editor would fill in, and the bulk would be a lot of jibber-jabber that worked regardless of the result. The editors would decide which column ran based on the outcome. In other words, processed lunch meat for your 50 cents — and it wasn't the first time. I usually just dealt with these hideous requests. This time, I balked.
Jay, stop! I must shield my eyes ... I can barely see you through the reflection off your shining armor!
Also there's this; read into it what you will:
I'm working for a company, AOL, that attracted 54 million unique visitors to its programming content sites in November and ranks fourth in traffic among Internet news sites. As established writers keep moving Web-ward, it will cause consternation among a few members of the sports blogosphere, some of whom think they own the Internet when, as everyone knows, Bill Kurtis owns the Internet. I've never bought into this "mainstream media vs. bloggers" blood war because, in my mind, we're all writers. The best young writers provide compelling takes on sports. The losers wake up each day and attack (choose your ESPN target), an approach that can't attract much audience beyond a few neurotic souls in sports media. Now hear this: I'm a bit too busy to hate bloggers or, really, anyone but terrorists and certain Illinois politicians. I just think they should be writing about Steve Smith, not Stephen A. Smith.
Then, later, this horrifying graph:
Know how nutty it got? AOL rated me 14th on its Most Controversial Sports Figures list, between Chad Ocho Cinco and the Steinbrenners. If my eventual new bosses knew about my torrid fling with Madonna, I'd have cracked the top five, I betcha.
I can forgive you for a lot, Jay Mariotti. But for placing that mental image in my brain, may you rot in Hades.
Others mentioned in Jay's first column: Bill Plaschke, Woody Paige, bloggers, Mark Cuban, Glenn Close. Oh, it's a fun read, which includes nothing of the Rick Tealander-Barack Obama controversy. Come on Jay, shouldn't a reporter include all the facts?