Monday, March 12, 2007

There is nothing short of personal tragedy or getting puddled like a day of watching ESPN and looking for sports stories on the web to turn a good mood into a bad mood quickly. I was happy, or at least as happy as I get when nothing bad has happened to a person I dislike, when I woke up. I am not happy now. But I guess I get what I deserve, in the end, because no one made me watch ESPN or surf the web.

Against my better judgement, I made my way over to the Chicago Sun Times site. Sometimes it pays to keep an eye on what the enemy is doing. Today, one of our favorite bullies has finally found a nice easy target for his aggressions. Finding Ozzie Guillen, Jerry Reinsdorff and even Hawk Harrelson too difficult to push around and being disappointed in his efforts to convince any responsible authorities to fight his battles for him, Jay Mariotti has taken it upon himself to crush the single greatest threat to American sports currently working in Illinois, U of I basketball coach Bruce Weber.

I am tired of the media criticising certain coaches for succeeding with a group of players recruited by his predecessor. Whatever merit the charge may possess is undercut by the selectivity with which reporters use it. I said it this fall when a piece on Page 2 knocked Charlie Weis for taking a team recruited by Ty Willingham to a BCS bowl. I found it all too convenient that the piece failed to mention that Willingham had his best season in South Bend in his first year, with players recruited by Bob Davie. Also, not enough was made of the fact that 22 of the 24 starters on Florida's national championship team were recruited by Ron Zook.

Bruce Weber should be able to draw the best of the best recruits to Champaign. What with the beautiful beaches, perfect climate, vibrant night life and proximity to major cities (Indianapolis is only 120 miles away), it might as well be paradise on Earth. Who doesn't want to live in East Central Illinois? The Orange Crush provides a great home court advantage, but the facilities aren't overwhelmingly better than any of their chief competitors. And while the school has a nice tradition, it doesn't have the basketball pedigree of an Indiana, Kansas or Kentucky (or even Ohio State or Michigan, for that matter). So why is Illinois supposed to surpass the rest of the Big 10?

In the end, if Jay were honest (and that is a monumental if), he'd tell you why Bruce Weber deserves to be picked on by this particular knight of the keyboard. Quite simply, Bruce Weber is a nice, mild-mannered quiet guy. He won't fight back the way Ozzie Guillen did. After all, what fun is there in bullying a person who will stand up to you? Especially when Bud Selig won't step in and fight for the noble newspaper man against the big bad Venezuelan.

The attack on Weber and the Illini is not surprising. Any one who read this piece, written just two days before the attack on Weber, would wonder what happened in the meantime if they didn't know Mariotti. Only he could pronounce a team in the tournament then shred them so viciously when the team hadn't played another game.

Emerson once said that foolish consistencies are the hobgoblins of little minds. Of course there's no guarantee that he had ever met a mind as little as Mariotti's when he said that. I doubt that even Emerson would see a mind large enough to harbor a hobgoblin should he ever meet Jay the Joke through the miracle of time travel. Even the CHB would have had more shame than to drop that once, twice, three times a lady reference from the second piece linked above.

The other story that has me steamed is this one. Apparently, Terrell Owens did not know his playbook. As his last defender, I spend entirely too much of my time responding to stories like this. But I still do it.

Covering football isn't exactly breaking the Watergate story. So whenever I see a piece like this, I don't take it too seriously. An investigative journalist needs to protect his or her sources because these are often matters of life and death. A sports columnist protects his sources so he can get better quotes. Not naming a source makes me think that the player who said TO didn't know the playbook had a particular axe to grind with TO.

Now it could be that the axe is resentment against TO for all the drops. Or it could be a little bit of jealousy. Say you were a wide receiver on the Cowboys who had once been an NFL number one pick, but you hadn't lived up to that potential since your rookie season. Imagine then, that you had little to fall back on after football, since you attended a school notorious for allowing athletes to coast through an academic program that was something short of rigorous.

On top of that, a much more talented receiver with a lot of negative image issues came to town and stole your thunder. Would that make you angry enough to whisper a comment or two to a reporter, knowing that just about every person who knows anything about football will believe the worst about that particular player? It's the preferred weapon of the high school gossip, and just maybe a certain product of the Ohio State University.

I simply can't see how TO could have ended up with 85 catches and 13 TDs in a season if he didn't know at least some of the plays. After all the drama with Jeff Garcia, Greg Knapp, Donovan McNabb, Brad Childress and Andy Reid, almost every fan is automatically going to believe the worst of TO. If some story emerged from Dallas that had TO entering hospitals in the dead of night and juggling newborn babies while the staff looked on in horror, I think people would believe it.

Just once, I'd like to see TO help himself (and me) out by going one week without becoming national news. I don't think it's going to happen, but I can hope.


Anonymous said...

Nice work! Your columns are better articulated trains of thought than what I am accustomed to reading in the Chicago Sun-Times sports page.

Tyrone Briggs
Chicago, IL
Jay the Joke Poster

Anonymous said...

This was a better read than 90% of the crap that is spewed by "professionals". Well done.

Big Bad Bill
Chicago, IL
Jay the Joke Poster

Anonymous said...

A big well done to you sir. Sadly, people like Jay "The Malignant Dwarf Fucktard" Mariotti have dominated the world of sports journalism for far too long. It's a shame that more people like you are not professionally employed in the industry.

Chicago, IL.
Regular contributor to

Anonymous said...

Those of us who have either grown up in Chicago, or have adopted it as their home town, appreciate your insights. You have far more of that than the so-called columnist*.

While you may not realized it, you have joined with many in our efforts to get him to Boise, Idaho.

Thank you for your observations and I hope that you will do more to help us Fire the F***tard.

A regular contributor to JayTheJoke.