Goodbye Chicago Princess: An Open Letter to Jay Mariotti

Mordecai BrownerAnalyst IAugust 30, 2008

Dearest Jay:

Since your caustic and abrupt departure from The Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday, many of your former colleagues have willingly turned you into a punching bag.  Granted, you did chose to declare the death of the newspaper industry and your own ascension above it, but the stench you left behind the Sun-Times newsroom was foul.

So much that you provoked Roger Ebert—the sickly film critic Roger Ebert—to lambaste your ethics, journalistic and otherwise, in an open letter, furthermore dubbing you a "rat."  All over northern Illinois, journalists have been opening up about your general failures as a human being.

Frankly, Jay, I don't think it's fair to attack your off-the-record behavior.  Everyone is prone to a bad day again.  According to Mike Nadel, you once told a former friend and colleague at a "lesser" newspaper that he was no better than the dirt on your shoe.  I did the same thing once, going to KFC while wearing my shiny new Applebee's get-up and telling my old pal Guillermo he was like the grease on my pants.

Jay, all those character issues aside, I have one lingering problem with your sudden resignation: It leads me to believe you have absolutely no interest in the sports you've spent your life covering.

You've chosen to leave a major Chicago newspaper with the free press passes and open space to pen your columns in late August of 2008.  The Chicago Cubs have the best record in baseball.  The Cubs winning the World Series would be bigger than Michael Jordan and on par with the Bears winning the Super Bowl given the century we've collectively been waiting. 

Five years ago, enormous crowds gathered outside the stadium during the playoffs in the bitter Chicago cold, just wanting a whiff of the atmosphere and joyousness if they had won.  You probably wouldn't even go with free tickets.

The White Sox, likewise, are deep in a tight playoff race.  The sheer possibility of a Red Line World Series would prevent me from quitting any job in Chicago sports until at least November.

College football started play one day after you quit.  You work in a market that covers Illinois and Notre Dame.  The former is ranked and opening the season against a top ten team in a rivalry game tonight.  The latter is the biggest program in college football starting what I and many others feel will be a resurgence year against a softer schedule.

The Bears—for better or worse the crown jewel of Chicago sports—open the season in eight days.  While they have their share of frustrating problems, the volatility of the NFL dictates that anything could happen.  Besides, it's the Bears!  No true sportswriter could leave that city ten days before the Bears kicked off play.

To top it off, the Bulls just drafted the most exciting point guard prospect the NBA has seen in as long as I can remember.  While I would never anoint anyone the next Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose is a Chicago product who brings more potential at age 19 than Chris Paul or Deron Williams had at the same age.

You see, Jay, Guillermo and I met again in the unemployment line and a few bad puns and a half-assed apology later, he asked me if I wanted to go to a Chicago Fire game.  It's like the man's way of kissing and making up. 

You can't even sit in a sterile, isolated press box without causing a problem with your juvenile tantrums.  While I sat in a crowd of fiery Mexican-Americans hurling insults in a way only the Spanish language allows, you were running to find a security guard to protect you from Rick Telander.

Jay, I just don't understand why you went into sportswriting in the first place.

You see, Jay, on this website and all across the Internet are thousands—literally thousands—of individuals who invest their time and money in writing about sports.  So passionate about the games they love, 98 percent of them do it without receiving a dime in return.  Many of them do it on a daily basis. 

Many have an insight, honesty and biting wit that trumps your whiny, cowardly aspersions and half-truths, and they do it for a morsel of your two-million-a-year salary because they love the game.

If newspapers are in fact dying, Jay, it's because they started hiring people like you: bland whiners whose rote contrariness extends beyond boredom and dives headlong into unadulterated obnoxiousness. 

Virtually no one who writes for the web will ever have a fraction of the opportunity you had, yet you decided to use your time and your space to be a complete terd to an entire city.

It is with these thoughts I look back at my own record on this very site.  While I wasn't always 100 percent correct, more often than not my pot-stirring articles had a perfectly valid and true-to-life point. 

Jim Hendry really did need to fire Dusty Baker as soon as possible; Illinois really did suck last year as a result of not having a bona fide two-guard on the roster (and Bruce Weber's only saviors are currently high school juniors and seniors); Notre Dame really was extremely overrated the last two years; and USA Basketball really did need to make a choice (they did, and they won gold because of it).

Given these articles were written weeks apart, I hesitate to argue I could put out solid ideas and criticisms on a daily basis.  Then again, it wasn't my profession and I was doing it in addition to everything else on my plate. 

Given the time and resources of a sportswriter, there is no doubt in my mind that I—or hundreds of others on this site and elsewhere—could put out a regular column like yours without prompting a more-readable blog that proves you wrong on a daily basis (, which I'm sure you read constantly).

Yet I—we—have continued to pound at our unbearable 9-to-5s and midnight shifts, hoping for tickets and catching highlights on the news, lucky to make 1/30th of what you earned in 2007 for putting your lousy, discredited opinions on paper and avoiding hanging out with athletes in the clubhouse.

While you have declared yourself above newspapers with the humility of a Greek god, thousands of plebeians post away, many anonymously, for absolutely nothing.  Oftentimes, they have to stop doing it because that messy business of making a living in a pseudo-recession gets in the way.  For personal reasons I've twice had to cross this site off my list because my writing time became sucked up by other projects. 

But Jay, had I the opportunity to make so much as forty thousand a year writing about sports for a major newspaper, I would throw away everything else in a heartbeat and sign a lifetime contract.  You threw away a two-million-a-year job writing about sports in the 2nd-best sports market in the country.

Once, I tuned in to your god-awful radio show—a program so pathetic it lost a ratings battle against the brainless banter at WSCR—and you carried on a thirty-minute conversation about high-class food in Chicago. 

I love food, but how much would true fans give to be paid for a two-hour radio show instead of schlepping at their normal job?  And you used your time slot to talk about fine dining!

I don't believe one must be a die-hard Chicago partisan to pen a column in Chicago.  All I ask is for passion about the subject, Jay.  And the timing of your exit could not have drawn a better contrast between you and an educated, true-blue sportswriter like the Rick Telanders of the world.

You, simply put, have no passion for sports, and that is why Chicago sports fans universally hate you in a way the Around the Horn-watching nation now sees.

I wish you the best of luck at your next job, hopefully as food and wine critic for The Sulphuric Lake Times.  Meanwhile, I don't even have much time to edit this letter, as Guillermo and I have mandatory overtime this weekend.

God bless you, Jay Mariotti, you patriot of acerbic stupidity,