Columnist and resident I-love-to-hear-myself-talk sports personality Jay Mariotti has abruptly decided to quit the Chicago Sun-Times.
Mariotti told the Chicago Tribune he decided to quit after covering the Olympics in Beijing because newspapers are in serious trouble, and he did not want to go down with the ship.
“I’m a competitor and I get the sense this marketplace doesn’t compete,” he said in the Tribune story. “Everyone is hanging on for dear life at both papers.
“To see what has happened in this business. … I don’t want to go down with it.”
His comments sparked a pointed response from his former employer.
Sun-Times Editor Michael Cooke said in an e-mail to CBS 2: “That’s Jay’s opinion. He has plenty of them. But the facts, of course, say something different. I’m going with the facts. Well, it’s turning nasty … and that’s typical of Jay to throw a bomb on the way out of a place that cared for him, nurtured him, paid him well for 17 years.
“The reason Mariotti showed up the Sun-Times 17 years ago was because the paper had the best sports pages in town. That was true then, and it’s true now.
“And as in all sports, when the star leaves, some other young star-to-be skates on to the ice. The Sun-Times has a deep bench of talent, and we’ll be using that depth.
“I am not hearing from grief-stricken fans,” Cooke said.
Cooke pointed to e-mails that he received from readers, including this one: “I wish to inform you that due to recent developments on the Jay Mariotti front, I will now read your newspaper. In fact, I picked one up on the way to work this morning. Not a half-bad rag, I must say. Bully on you.”
Mariotti said he plans to pursue opportunities on the Web, and continue his regular appearances as a panelist on ESPN’s “Around the Horn.”
You have to love this comment by Cooke: “That’s Jay’s opinion. He has plenty of them.” The Sun-Times is going to do just fine without him. People read his stuff because they liked to disagree with him and anyone who watches “Around the Horn” knows that he just likes to stoke the fire.
I will say this about Mariotti, however – the guy doesn’t back down from players, coaches or GMs. (In his columns at least. Apparently he never goes into the White Sox clubhouse because he fears for his safety.) Sometimes he hits the nail on the head when he’s criticizing (i.e. Bears’ GM Jerry Angelo).