Jay Mariotti’s Arrest Brings Joy To Everyone (Gaffes Of The Year – #6)

  • Dan Fogarty

2010 was a banner year for controversy in the world of sports media. From the usual barrage of accidental profanity, to the fairly untrodden territory of Twitter faux pas, up to and including the cultural phenomenon that was athletes taking pictures of their penises and sending them to everybody, this year really did have it all if you enjoyed watching people make fools of themselves.

From now until December 30th we’ll be going through our favorite oopsies from the year that was. So come and join us, won’t you, as we count down the Top Ten Sports Media Gaffes of the Year! Today’s gaffe: Jay Mariotti’s legal troubles become a source of joy to many.

Nobody likes Jay Mariotti. Whether it’s because of the ugly way he left the Chicago Sun-Times, his ensuing tiff with Roger Ebert, or the constant needling in his sports columns, Mariotti was seemingly put on this planet to rub people the wrong way. And he made a career out of it – a very lucrative one, actually.

Then he was arrested for a domestic disturbance and everything went to shit.

When you think of the stereotypical sports pundit – the constant shouting, the provocative statements, the endless assortment of slightly mismatched sport coats – you’re thinking of Jay Mariotti. He is that guy. And in the ESPN age, where members of the sports media got more camera time if their opinions were louder and more provocative than everyone else’s, he thrived.

Nowhere was this more apparent than on Around the Horn, ESPN’s 5PM collection of arguing sports writers from across the USA, and the basis for 30 Rock’s oft-cited “Sports Shouting” bit. Mariotti was able to transition from inflammatory sports writer to inflammatory TV personality with ease, shouting to the top of “Horn’s” depth chart and increasing his national visibility in the process. His career, already a good one, was now really taking off.

But then, on August 20th, Mariotti was arrested by Los Angeles police officers during a domestic disturbance. An argument with his then-girlfriend at a club in Santa Monica continued at the couple’s apartment in Venice, where “some type of physical altercation occurred.”

Mariotti’s reputation among his peers was never good, and as news of the arrest spread, his many, many detractors openly celebrated on Twitter. With fans, too, his abrasive personality had apparently worn thin: his posts on AOL Fanhouse (the site which employed him as a columnist after he left the Sun-Times) were inundated with taunts referencing the arrest.

He was later released on bail, but the professional backlash began soon after: Fanhouse suspended him, and ESPN ushered him off the air.

Eventually, “Around the Horn,” the show where Mariotti had made a name for himself criticizing athletes for their legal troubles, got around to discussing his legal troubles.

While there was some sympathy for him (not for him being arrested, but for the outpouring of hate that followed) the way said sympathy was conveyed by Mariotti’s former colleagues was telling. Bob Ryan, who himself was once suspended from the Boston Globe, said Mariotti would have to “start rethinking how he goes about his business.”

Which, really, was a nice way of saying that nobody liked Jay Mariotti.

The Top Ten Sports Media Gaffes of 2010

10. Chris McKendry’s Unfortunate Slip-up

9. Tim Cowlishaw’s Darrelle Revis “scoop”

8. Jeremy Roenick Cries on the Air

7. Mike Wise’s Fake Twitter Flap

6. Jay Mariotti’s Arrest Brings Joy To Everyone

5. The Media Vs. Cam Newton

4. Karen Owen and the Duke Sex List