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Roger Ebert blasts ESPN's Jay Mariotti

by Allison Waldman, posted Aug 30th 2008 12:03PM
Jay MariottiIf you watch ESPN's daily round table sport talk show, Around the Horn, you know that Jay Mariotti is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. Or I should say, he was a columnist. Right after the Beijing Olympics, Mariotti returned to the show and all the other reporters -- and host Tony Reali -- kept zinging Jay about not being with the Chicago Sun-Times anymore. At no point did they explain that Mariotti was not fired from his post, he quit.

Then I discovered that a fellow Sun-Times employee, and former TV star himself (At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper), film critic Roger Ebert, was ticked off with Mariotti. Specifically, Ebert reviewed the way Jay chose to walk away from his job. Ebert pointed out that Mariotti had screwed his editors at the Sun-Times by signing a new contract, going to China on their dime (which was actually thousands of dollars), then left the job with a cold e-mail that said simply, "I quit."

I guess Mariotti felt like the newspaper could dump him with an equally cold, "You're fired," but common courtesy suggests that he should have given two-week notice. Or maybe that kind of courtesy is as outmoded a concept as saying thank you for service or holding the door for someone else?

Ebert added that Mariotti went on TV -- it must have been locally in Chicago because I didn't see it -- where he claimed that newspapers are a dying media, a fact that hit him in the face in Beijing. Apparently, he saw other reporters instantly getting the news out in the web and determined that his columns for the Sun-Times weren't relevant.

Ebert, who has never given up his perch at the newspaper even though he had many chances to capitalize on his TV success and could have moved on, took offense to Mariotti's action. He called it ugly and and labeled him a "rat."

This is not the first time Mariotti's been called names. He's had an ongoing feud with Chicago White Sox's manager Ozzie Guillen, among others. One of the reasons he's succeeded on Around the Horn is because he is contentious. I've always liked him on the show, even when I disagree with his comments.

Still, this latest episode has incited a lot of anti-Mariotti buzz. While it's true that he may have quit before they fired him, I don't believe that he had an epiphany in Beijing and decided that writing for a newspaper was counterproductive to his career. He made a selfish decision. He showed no respect to people who had treated him well. There's a right way and a wrong way to quit a job; Mariotti's way was wrong. If the situation was reversed, the newspaper would be slammed for being so cold.

Ebert ended his blast with these words, "On the way out, don't let the door bang you on the ass."

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FlagPatrick

One Jay's best strengths is that he really took the Bulls management to task. Yeah he dogged the post-Dynasty Team by calling it a dumpster but it was! Jerry Reinsdorf was completely greedy, and everyone completely turned a blind eye! I give him a little credit for attacking the Reinsdorf who once said he would give up all of his Chicago Bulls rings for one SOX championship.

Also, Jay mentioned the overrated-ness of Ditka. And yeah, calling Ditka overrated in Chicago is asking for trouble, but honestly, the man delivered ONE(not two)championship and that's considering the powerful talent and defense coordinator. But yeah this was a douchebag exit either way but I still give Jay some credit in his columns.

September 01 2008 at 4:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jenny K.

While I do believe Mariotti isn't entirely wrong about the newspaper business, it's funny that he says all these things but hasn't ruled out working for the Chicago Tribune.

He's still a jerk, as any Chicago sports reader/White Sox fan could tell you.

September 01 2008 at 12:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eric J.

Mariotti reported quit in a hissy fit when another sports columnist was allowed to write an "Obama and the Cubs" column before he was. He then tried to get back into the Sun-Times building to film his "Around the Horn" segment and found his badge had been deactivated.

August 31 2008 at 8:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sam

Mariotti's a douche. Nothing more really needs to be said.

August 30 2008 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sam's comment
Mike McNamara

Agreed, Sam.

And whether or not the news industry is dead, (1) Mariotti's actions were the act of a douchebag and (2) not only is Ebert a far superior talent and right on this issue, he also was partially responsible for popularizing the position of the film critic in pop culture and supporting lesser known independent films and cinema in general.

Anyway, here's the haiku I wrote about Mariotti a few months ago. Good riddance.

Mariotti sucks
Like the Sun Times old digs did
Round the horn, douchebag.

August 30 2008 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sophomorecritic

i don't think anyone on "around the horn" is very good anyway. it's far inferior to PTI and is all style without substance. Due to the fact that person going second is forced to take an opinion contrary to the first person on an issue (Have you ever heard anyone say "I agree with you"), it's my belief that none of the commentators have any true opinions of their own, they're more like a high school team holding debate practice than commentators with any actual insight.

August 30 2008 at 2:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RSL

Why does the "courtesy" of giving two weeks notice only happen in one direction? Why do we still treat employers like benevolent masters when we all know by now that we are just another human "resource", expendable and replaceable like any other resource? No employer would extend the same courtesy when firing you, I don't see why employees should have to be held to a higher standard.

August 30 2008 at 2:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to RSL's comment
mayorjimmy

Mariotti is right. Newspaper has one foot in the grave. My guess is, he had always suspected it but the reality of it never hit him in the face until China. The Olmpics were a perfect example of how superior internet reporting/news is compared with newspaper AND regular TV.

Ebert is just mad because his entire career-field is about to be made obsolete by the web. So my guess is that his tirade against Mariotti wasn't so much against Mariotti but more against the web.

August 30 2008 at 1:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mayorjimmy's comment
Brent

I don't really know how true that is considering he's had a very resourceful website for many years.

rogerebert.suntimes.com

August 30 2008 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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