It’s been just about three weeks since Jay Mariotti “resigned” from his columnist gig at the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, and they’ve been an odd three weeks for Chicago sports fans. Without Mariotti telling them why all Chicago teams suck, fans are actually enjoying their team’s division races in baseball, and there is even some optimism about the Chicago Bears after the way they beat the Indianapolis Colts in week one of the NFL season.
When Mariotti did leave the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES he did so because he said it was his belief that newspapers were a dying business (though there are conflicting stories going around that Jay threw a hissy fit over Rick Telander getting to write a Barack Obama column and threatened to leave for the millionth time, and this time the SUN-TIMES just called his bluff).
I believe his exact words were: “I’m a competitor and I get the sense this marketplace doesn’t compete. Everyone is hanging on for dear life at both papers. I think 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.”
So that must be why Jay was in negotiations with the CHICAGO TRIBUNE until lawyers from the SUN-TIMES threatened to sue.
Mariotti and Tribune “talked about television, about the Internet, about the newspaper,” he said. Mariotti said that discussions about working for Tribune Co.’s Chicago Tribune newspaper became a stumbling block. “The Sun-Times’ lawyer threatened me with a lawsuit in 64-point type. Things sort of stalled,” he added.
“At one point last week, there were lawyers on both sides looking into this,” Mariotti said. “It’s daunting to put together a deal. This [lawyer’s letter] got thrown out in the middle of everything. We both decided that we can’t do what we wanted to do.”
Considering the way the SUN-TIMES acted after Mariotti’s resignation - having all their columnists slam Jay publicly (Roger Ebert even got in on the act), and even running a front page banner featuring Deadspin commenter Pete Gaines telling people to come back to the paper because Jay was finally gone - it’s not exactly shocking that they would do everything in their power to keep him from joining their main competition.
There’s also the distinct possibility that it wasn’t so much the threat of a lawsuit from the SUN-TIMES that kept the TRIBUNE from hiring Jay as much as it was the rest of the TRIBUNE’s staff now wanting to work with Mariotti. Whatever the case, just because Chicago is now safe from him, Jay does say he’s still having conversations with other national media outlets. Just cross your fingers that one of them isn’t your hometown.