In a move that should only make what goes on behind the scenes at San Francisco Media Company even more entertaining, the Examiner hired controversial sports pundit Jay Mariotti.
On Friday the paper announced that Mariotti would be hired "as sports director and columnist." Although he spent 16 years at the Chicago Sun-Times, he was known to a national audience via ESPN's show Around The Horn where participants were brought on to spout nonsense and get into shouting matches—a role fitting of Mariotti.
Mariotti's firebrand demeanor made him disliked by colleagues and the sports figures he covered. Former Chicago White Sox manager called Mariotti a gay slur, only to later apologize for the word he used but not for insulting Mariotti, adding, "I'm not going to back off of Jay." When Mariotti left the Sun-Times in 2008 to write for AOL, proclaiming that the print industry was dead, his former colleague and usually amicable Roger Ebert wrote a scathing column addressed to Mariotti titled "Jay The Rat." Sports columnist and radio host Dan LeBatard called Mariotti, in a Big Lead column that somewhat defended him, a "cartoon caricature" of sports pundits and said he was "loud, judgmental and wagging a parental, castigating and for-profit finger at the behavior of all those beneath him."
A 2010 domestic abuse incident and accusations of stalking his ex-girlfriend made Mariotti disappear from the sports media grid, leading him to lose his ESPN gig and getting suspended from AOL. He later plead "no contest" and used the opportunity to promote an e-book. His lawyer told the L.A. Times, "The fact that he is an accomplished writer provided him another avenue, in this case a book, to tell his side in an unconventional but progressive manner." Woof.
Regarding his legal issues, he told the Chronicle, "If people take the time to investigate the finality of this case, they will understand what truly happened and not judge me from false, reckless allegations from four years ago."
"A lot of this so-called reputation I have is smear crap from Chicago."
Since then, he's lived a quiet(er) life in Los Angeles and worked for Sports Talk Florida, but will be making the move north to make his Examiner debut in March. He briefly popped his head back up almost a year ago when he wrote The Ultimate Sports Take: a whole column telling President Obama to stick to the Real Issues instead of wasting his time with his NCAA bracket while also blaming himself for getting Obama elected. And to top it all off, he closed with the friendly reminder, "And, yes, the Malaysia Airlines jetliner is still missing."
As for the irony of joining an industry that he slammed the first time left it, how now thinks it's the future. "I am thrilled to develop premier content in a city overflowing with powerful sports stories while designing and planning a 21st-century presentation," he said in the Examiner's announcement.
Mariotti joins the San Francisco Media Company, which owns both the Examiner and SF Weekly, who is not-so-secretly shuffling its deck behind the scenes. They fired SF Weekly editor Brandon Reynolds in January and are now also dealing with the departure of food editor Anna Roth on Friday. Sources tell Eater that the Weekly had become an "increasingly toxic environment." In October, the SFMC shuttered the Bay Guardian after 48 years of publication.