Mariotti reappears with Bears column on Chicago site

If several Chicago-area athletes, coaches and owners woke up with a headache Monday (Jerry Reinsdorf probably had a migraine), here’s the reason: Jay Mariotti is back.

Well, sort of.

The former Chicago Sun-Times columnist reappeared in ChicagoSide, a relatively new site launched by Jonathan Eig. He weighed in from California on the Bears-Packers game.

It was typical Jay. He even professed to want to be positive, but that other Jay (Cutler) spoiled the mood.

Preparing for this article last week, I was hoping the Bears would beat the Packers and allow me to share in some rare warm-and-fuzzy glow. But in my 17 years as a Sun-Times sports columnist, topicality and necessity forced me into the corners of harsh reality way too often. This column is no different. I’ll be accused of Mariotti negativity, and some people will complain just so they can have something to be mad about. But so what?

Besides, it may take the heat off another Jay.

As for how Mariotti wound up writing for ChicagoSide, Eig said, “It is simple.”

“I invited him to submit a story if he ever felt the urge,” said Eig in an email. “He submitted one and I liked it. I don’t know if he’ll write for us again, but if he produces additional stories as good as this one, I’d be pleased to have them.”

Mariotti is pictured in a relaxed pose, an empty beer glass in his hand with the Pacific in the distance.

Life is good, right?

Mariotti has been in relative obscurity ever since a domestic violence incident cost him high-profile jobs with AOL Fanhouse and on ESPN’s Around the Horn.

Here’s what his bio says on ChicagoSide:

He lives in Los Angeles where he works on media projects. His recent e-book about his life and media career, “The System: A Manual on Surviving Liars, Loons, Law, Life,” is available on

Here’s a link to the book. The cover features a sunset, an odd choice considering the hard-hitting title.

Perhaps Mariotti has mellowed out and is enjoying the good life in LA, drinking beers by the ocean. It represents quite a lifestyle change from the columnist who would have written three columns per day if given the chance.

It’ll be interesting to see if Mariotti does more for ChicagoSide. It definitely won’t be for the money, because ChicagoSide doesn’t operate that way.

Rather, I expect Mariotti will do it so he can be heard again. He’s been silent for a long time.





Author Q/A: Is there method to the madness, or is Ozzie just crazy?

I barely finished the question.

“Yes,” said Rick Morrissey quickly in reply to whether he wished his deadline was a few months later for his book, Ozzie’s School of Management?

Morrissey’s last chapter covers Ozzie Guillen’s first spring training with Florida. That was pushing things for a book due out in May.

However, no sooner did the book go to press than Guillen found himself in major trouble for incredibly stupid statements about Fidel Castro. Now that would have been a fun chapter for the book.

“Yes, I wish I could have gotten into that, but that’s life,” Morrissey said. “Frankly, with Ozzie, if the deadline was two months later, there would be something else.”

Morrissey, who covered Guillen first as a columnist for the Tribune and now with the Sun-Times, hardly was lacking in material. He uses the backdrop of Guillen’s final stormy season in Chicago to paint a portrait of a most unusual, complex and compelling man.

Morrissey attempts to explain Guillen’s approach to baseball and life. However, I found this line from him to be telling:

Sometimes there’s not a method to Guillen’s madness. Sometimes, there’s just madness.

Here’s my Q/A with Morrissey.

What does the title say about what you’re trying to accomplish in the book?

The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s like you’d see in one of those bestseller self-help books. Let’s take a crazy manager and see how he does his job. Obviously, there’s the perception that Ozzie is a wild and crazy guy. I think he is a victim of that big personality. People don’t take him seriously.

But there’s more to him. I wanted to see how he does his job.

Is Guillen crazy or is there a method to his madness?

We had several discussions where I said, ‘Ozzie, you’re doing things for effect.’ He said, ‘No, I’m not. I say what I think.’ I do think he likes the attention. He says he doesn’t. However, some of the things he does are borderline ridiculous. You don’t put yourself in that many situations to be criticized if you didn’t want attention.

You didn’t do this book in partnership with Guillen. What kind of cooperation did you get from him?

It’s interesting. He never said, ‘I don’t have time for you.’ If I thought I was bothering him, he’d say, ‘Don’t worry about it.’

Reporters always are looking for the one-on-one interview, but I soon learned he was better in a group situation. The stories were better and he was more engaged. I knew there’s no way writers could write about most of this stuff. I found I got a lot of insights into how he does things when he was talking to a group of us.

Were you surprised about Guillen’s statements about Castro?

I was surprised in the sense that he would go there. He’s a Latin guy and he’s a smart guy. He knows there are things you don’t say when you’re managing in the Cuban capital of America. I don’t think he meant to say what he said. I’m not apologizing for him, but I think it was more along the lines of ‘I can’t believe this guy still is in power.’ But that doesn’t change that he said what he said.

Do you think the harsh reaction will change him?

I thought he looked very contrite. I had never seen him shaken like that. However, I don’t think you can change him. Maybe in the short term, but not in the long term. That’s his personality.

Guillen is the king of F-bombs. You decided to use all of his language in its colorful glory. Why?

I did think about the kids who might pick up this book. But swearing is as much a part of Ozzie as breathing. I thought if I took it out, I wouldn’t be painting a complete portrait of him.

So what kind of portrait did you paint of Guillen?

That’s a good question. I think I painted a portrait of someone who is a lot more than the cartoonish depiction of him in many circles. There’s always a lot of, ‘That’s Ozzie being Ozzie.’ It is him, but there’s more.

It’s about how he handles his players. He’s a better game tactician than people give him credit for.

It’s also about someone who is very needy in terms of attention and affirmation. He wanted that (contract extension) from Jerry Reinsdorf last year, and he didn’t get it. Then he left. That sums up a lot about Ozzie.








Gehrig biographer takes on heavy hitters in Chicago

There probably are easier and perhaps smarter things you can do than try to battle ESPN, Comcast Sports Net, and the major newspapers in Chicago. But that’s the challenge being taken on by Jonathan Eig.

Eig, who wrote bestselling books on Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Al Capone (which one of those three subjects doesn’t fit in with the other two?) has launched Despite several sports site dedicated to covering all things Chicago sports, Eig thinks there is room for another one.

In an interview I did with him for my blog at Crain’s Chicago Business, he said:

“I just felt there’s a great appetite for sports news that isn’t being met on  the Internet. The Tribune and Sun-Times have good sports  coverage, but they haven’t really packaged it for the web. ESPN is the 800-pound  gorilla, but ESPNChicago hasn’t made the effort to make it look Chicago. It  doesn’t look any different than ESPNLA. It’s not something people are talking  about.”

Basically, Eig’s site is running one feature/analysis piece per day. Case in point is a story by former Bulls player Paul Shirley on his realization that his playing career was over. Thursday, Eig and James Finn Garner spoofed the Ozzie Guillen debacle in Miami.

The site also has links to the other Chicago sports site on important stories of the day.

“We’re not looking to replace ESPN and the Tribune for getting the scores,”  Eig said. “We think we can be a road map to tell people what’s out there.”

Here’s why it might work.

Writers will receive a small fee upfront with the chance to receive a portion of  the profits at the end of the year, assuming there are profits. He said  ChicagoSide will be running “a lean operation,” which will help keep it  sustainable.

Given his work as an author, Eig brings a high level of credibility to this endeavor. Can he pull it off? If he does, look for versions of ChicagoSide to pop up in other cities.