We’re into the what may be the second week of the post-Jay Mariotti era, and with not a shred of sympathy expressed in any corner for the suspended Fanhouse columnist following his being charged with assaulting his girlfriend, the Chicago Reader’s Whet Moser takes stock of the mascara-fiend’s downfall. “It takes a rare ability to alienate people to the extent that they experience schadenfreude even in the context of a domestic violence accusation,” writes Moser, forgetting of course that at least a few of Mariotti’s targets were well and truly asking for it, regardless of the former Sun-Times scribe being exposed as a colossal hypocrite further down the road.
It’s really fucking sad all around, both that it got to this point, and that Mariotti fed off it to the extent that his last real star turn revolved around an almost citywide hostility. Not surprising”I knew from the minute I heard Mariotti had been arrested that a shitstorm of grim joy would follow”just bottomlessly horrid.
And I think something else is going on. Mariotti’s style”loud, hectoring, and aggressive”is on its way out. There’s a revenge of the nerds happening in the genre. Thoughtful statheads like Nate Silver, Christina Kahrl, and Rob Neyer are ascendant, as baseball fans nerd out over articles like an analysis of Mariano Rivera’s mastery complete with a data-based multimedia presentation. Even a master of traditional, elegiac literary sports journalism like Joe Posnanski is well-versed in the arcane numerology of baseball. The swaggering, two-fisted, TV shouter is burning out, as was probably inevitable. It stopped being fun, if it ever was, and the knives are out.
Mariotti hasn’t just been abandoned by colleagues and readers, he’s been left behind by sportswriting, like the mirror of a Deford or Updike creation, and this story is about as depressing. He spent so long trafficking in joyless, wearying schadenfreude, and is now surrounded by the ghosts of his own spiteful history.
If indeed, Mariotti’s M.O. is truly “on its way out”, the memo has yet to reach most of the nation’s sports talk radio stations. It’s lovely to imagine the likes of Rob Neyer being positioned for as wide a televlsion or internet audience as Mariotti, but the fact remains such gigs are routinely assigned to persons who’ve been in the trenches themselves (ie. a Steve Phillips, a J.P. Ricciardi) or an egoist nearly Mariotti’s equal (eg. Jason Whitlock and his new $2.1 Fox contract. Mariotti’s brand of knee-jerk provocation is sadly very much in vogue ; i’s his (reported) criminal behavior he’s being punished for, not his indefensible prose.