I’ve never held a fascination for Jay Mariotti, the Chicago-based columnist made infamous by his RPG-inspired ledes. But as I recently received a tip on his next career move, figured I might as well let you in on it.
If you live outside of Chicago, there’s a good chance you only know Mariotti from his surprisingly well-reasoned work on ESPN’s Around The Horn. But if you inhabit Chicagoland, you know him to be a chap quite rightly deserving of a slap.
For 17 years, Mariotti made his bones banging pots and pans as a sports columnist for the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES - a perennial underdog to the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. But after leaving the S-T for AOL Fanhouse under less-than-pleasant circumstances, it was thought his Chicago days might be over.
Fast forward a year after Mariotti’s move and the Tribune is suddenly, as noted here three weeks ago, bleeding readers to newly-launched ESPNChicago.com. Desperate to breathe some life into its flagging on- and off-line circulation, the Tribune has now consumated what was once considered to be unthinkable.
I’ve learned that effective September 1, Mariotti will join the Tribune as a weekly columnist - this the same man who spent nearly two decades mocking the same venerable daily which now extends him a byline. I do expect a seamless transition period though, considering the Trib set up Mariotti’s inbox long ago. (Uh, Jay, I thought ‘newspapers were dying‘?)
Mariotti’s contractual non-compete clause with the Sun-Times officially expires at the end of August, one year after he quit his position. So you can expect his ink-jetted invective to begin emanating from the Tribune in September.
It’s an interesting hire, considering Mariotti and the Tribune have very different motives with the move. The Tribune is bringing in Mariotti to fight off the startlingly advance of ESPN into the Chicago sports media marketplace. (Ironically, Mariotti also happens to be a prominent employee of ESPN.)
Meanwhile though, my source tells me that Mariotti’s primary motivation in taking the Tribune’s offer is to get back at his former employer, the Sun-Times. What that means specifically I have no idea, considering the S-T, like most other second-string major market dailies, is basically road kill already. (Wait, this might have something to do with it - sorry Rick!)
As far as Mariotti’s duties, I hear he will be writing 1-2 columns per week for the Trib while maintaining his current workload at Fanhouse and ESPN-TV.
Mariotti is most definitely a needle-mover for a Chicago outlet but his value to Fanhouse, besides name recognition thanks to his ESPN work, is dubious. His columns seem to be swallowed up by Fanhouse’s free-for-all format, diminishing his impact. With that in mind, I’m guessing Mariotti can’t wait to write something someone is actually going to read.
So for those of you enraptured by the reignition of scads of stories about Hawk Harrelson and Jerry Reinsdorf, happy days are here again!