Mariotti Issues Limp Denial, Hasn’t ‘Finalized’ Deal

In response to my report last night on Jay Mariotti joining the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Ted Cox of Chicagoland’s DAILY HERALD has this wonderfully inappropriate, hyperbolic headline:

Chicago Daily Herald Airs Mariotti Tribune Pathetic Denials

(The commenters on the story aren’t buying the FLAT-OUT!!! denials, either)

If you were to read the headline, and not Jay Mariotti’s accompanying comments in Cox’s piece, you would think there’s FLAT-OUT!!! no way Mariotti will be joining the Trib staff when his non-compete with the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES expires.

One problem though, Mariotti did not deny to Cox that he will be joining the Tribune.

Not even close.

From Cox’s story:

Mariotti, while allowing that “the Tribune and I have had discussions about various projects,” quickly added, “but we have not finalized it.” He referred to the item as a “silly blog report.”

“My noncompete clause at the Sun-Times expires in late August,” Mariotti added.

Does that sound like a guy who is FLAT-OUT!!! planning to not join the Tribune?

Cox also notes:

Tribune spokeswoman Kate Mersman issued a terse, “This is not true.”

Obviously Mariotti cannot legally join the Tribune staff until his non-compete clause with the Sun-Times expires, so he’s not about to publicly confirm he’s soon joining the Trib. Likewise the Tribune, which would be in a similar legal quandary if it were revealed that Mariotti had signed a deal with the paper.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Mariotti will soon join the Tribune. It’s going to happen, regardless of the semantical spin from the Trib and Mariotti. (And Cox!)

Calling my post a “silly blog report” is Mariotti’s flaccid attempt to marginalize a blog that blew his cover. Likewise, having been beaten to the story, the Daily Herald and Cox appear to be doing the same thing with headline and defensive rhetoric.

Mariotti is such a touchy topic with the Tribune staff and Chicago media at large that I fully expected this reaction. But the fact remains, Mariotti will soon be back in Chicago, writing for the Tribune. Whether the exact date is Sept. 1, Sept. 2 or Sept. 3, it doesn’t really matter to me.

I can understand why Mariotti and the Trib are spinning his return, but the Chicago media? I’m FLAT-OUT!!! surprised at that one.

*UPDATE*: Mike Kellams, the Tribune’s associate managing editor for sports, to EDITOR & PUBLISHER:

“It is not true,” he said in a message to E&P after being sought for comment on the Sports By Brooks posting. “We are not talking to Jay Mariotti about being a columnist here. I don’t know what their sourcing was, but from where I’m sitting, it is not true.”

So just exactly where is the Tribune’s associate managing editor for sports sitting? Obviously not in any meetings relating to Mariotti’s hire. Does anyone really think that’s a requirement for Mariotti joining the Trib?

All these hedged denials would make Nick Saban blush!

(Will Jay join the Trib? Vote in our poll.)