In Which Jay Is Accused of Theft

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Jay Mariotti’s laziness and dubious journalistic ethics have been well-documented on this site. As you may recall, during the NBA Playoffs Jay lifted a quote from the Detroit Free Press without properly attributing it. He of course, blamed the frantic deadline crunch for the oversight.

Well, apparently Jay may have once again forgotten to give credit where credit is due. Tom Fornelli, of Foul Balls and AOL Fanhouse, has accused Jay of swiping one of his jokes. Of course, it could be purely coincidental, but the fact that the joke is much funnier than anything Jay normally comes up with is quite suspicious. So is the fact that Fornelli posted the joke an entire day earlier. Judge for yourself.

Thanks to post-machine and longtime Jaythejoke legend Tyrone Briggs for first alerting us to the situation.

In Which Opportunity Knocks

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The two Ricks (Morrissey and Telander) both used their respective columns this morning to note the avalanche of bad news that has buried the sporting landscape in recent weeks.

Morissey wants to know if we can trust what we see anymore. Telander, doing his best Paula Cole impression, wants to know where all the heroes have gone. But a common theme emerges between the two pieces: Sports are not in the best shape right now.

It’s hard to argue with them. The NBA is facing its biggest crisis ever. Usually when sportswriters make such claims they are little more than hyperbole, but in this case its startlingly true. David Stern is probably hoping Stephen Jackson will rob a liquor store just to take him back to the good old days.

The NFL was trying to rid itself of players with a penchant for getting drunk at clubs and getting themselves in trouble. Well, Michael Vick managed to largely stay out of Pacman-Jones style trouble. There’s little time for that kind of shenanigans when you’re busy (allegedly) running the country’s top dogfighting operation.

Ah, but at least we have Barry Bonds’ epic pursuit of 756 to take our minds off things. Just today, with Bonds two home runs shy of the record, reports emerged that chemist Patrick Arnold, creator of the legendary “clear” believes both Bonds and Gary Sheffield knowingly took steroids, something anyone with a brain suspected already.

The Tour de France is once again plagued with doping scandals, not that anyone cares. Apparently cycling only matters when tied to the mass marketing of little yellow bracelets.

What does all this mean? Well, from a business standpoint, not that much since we Americans are so hopelessly addicted to our sports (that’s OUR sports ... we can take or leave those Frenchies and their bikes) I have trouble envisioning many fans actually becoming so fed up as to walk away. I know I won’t.

But the PR crisis for the three major sports does have one possible outcome: This could be hockey’s big chance for a comeback.

The communicationally inept Blackhawks are even capitalizing, getting some headlines out of signing #1 overall pick Patrick Kane. But that is little more than a ripple. The NHL needs to make waves ... of ICE.

That makes absolutely no sense. But if the NHL powers that be have any sense after virtually destroying their league, they’ll enact an aggressive marketing campaign that capitalizes on the trouble.

A few slogan ideas:

“Who bets on hockey anyway?”

“No roids, just drunks”

“The NHL: Not killing puppies since 1924”

You get the idea. Plenty of players within the NHL know how to fight dirty. The marketing department needs to take a cue from them. Otherwise, hockey will die a premature death before global warming kicks in and they all have to go to rollerblades.

In Which We Remember the Good Times

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So Mariotti’s column ran online only today, receiving only a teaser in the print edition.

At any rate, it was about Bonds, so I decided not to read it (scroll down for more info on this.)

Since it’s Friday it seems like an appropriate time to take a little break from Jay to recognize some of the people that have helped make Chicago the best sports town in the country.

Today, we recognize the late Harry Caray.

Part of the reason I tend to be critical of baseball announcing booths is that I came of age watching Harry and Steve Stone on WGN. Between the baseball insight of Stone and the non-stop entertainment that was a Harry Caray broadcast, it just couldn’t be topped.

But it wasn’t just the crazy tangents, the backwards spelling of names or thinking every black player on the Cubs was Shawon Dunston. Harry’s larger-than-life, beer guzzling persona was a major force in creating the festive atmosphere that envelopes the Wrigleyville we know and love (or hate) today.

No matter which side of town you root for (and remember, Harry was a Sox broadcaster for 11 years), you have to respect a man who had his priorities in order: Family, baseball, beer.

I won’t say much more than that. In the nearly 10 years since his passing (hard to believe it’s been that long) he has been more than sufficiently memorialized throughout Chicago and nationally. But I would like to pass along a couple of entertaining YouTube clips to help waste away a Friday afternoon.

Harry was second to perhaps only Mike Ditka in local endorsement power. Here are a couple old commercials. I particularly like the Pizza Hut one with the two blondes flanking Harry.

Actually, this Budweiser ads has two blondes as well. Harry knew what roles to take, I guess.

Ryan Dempster reluctantly does his solid Harry Caray impression:

But the favorite has to be Will Ferrell:

Finally ... Harry doing what made him famous. The Bud Light commercial at the end is also priceless. Beer advertising has really come a long way in the past two decades.

In Which I’m All In

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You know how presidential candidates make a big production out of making the “official” announcement that they are running, even when it’s been abundantly clear to everyone that they were going to run for months?

Well, I am officially declaring my belief in the 2007 Cubs.

I nearly made the declaration two days ago after Aramis Ramirez clubbed a game-winning double for a dramatic 3-2 victory in which Lou Piniella managed like a cross between Sparky Anderson and the Asian clairvoyant from “Heroes”. But I wanted to wait and see how they responded to that first loss after the All Star break.

Today, they responded with a 12-1 victory that featured Koyie Hill, who hits about as well as I do, doing his best Derrek Lee/Aramis Ramirez impression with five huge RBIs. The twelve runs becomes even more significant in light of the fact that Lee and Ramirez spent the day out of the lineup, with Lee finally serving his five-game suspension and Ramirez getting a day to rest.

These are the kinds of things that happen in “those” seasons. Players you expect nothing from give you more than you could have ever hoped for, and unlikely victories become routine. Given that absolutely none of these things were happening in the beginning of the season, seeing them come in bunches is more than a little shocking.

So, I’m buying in.

What does this mean exactly?

It means no holding back. No waiting for the other shoe to drop. No sarcastic backhanded remarks about how they’re going to fall apart at any moment. I’m a believer. If they crumble or fall short, so be it. I’m willing to let myself get hurt.

Don’t confuse this with any kind of “we’re going all the way this year” guarantee. Call it an unapologetic acknowledgement that the Cubs have a legitimate shot. An admission that, good or bad, this is going to be a year to remember.

Even the Joke begrudgingly admitted his presence on the Cubs bandwagon this week on “Around the Horn”.

Of course, he still feels the need to distinguish himself from the stupid, common fan he so openly disdains, as he wrote in a column this week:

“I refuse to get moronic like the bleacher bozos and say the Cubs are bound for their first World Series since Piniella was 2.”

Among all of Jay’s characteristics that make me cringe, his contempt towards Chicago fans for doing what fans do—getting wrapped up in an exciting season—is particularly appalling. No one in his right mind—even the guy printing up the “It’s Gonna Happen” shirts, is sincerely positive that this is the Cubs year.

But when the Cubs give you a legitimate reason to think it COULD be the year, it’s infinitely more rewarding (and risky) to throw yourself into the season with reckless abandon then it is to rise above it, smug and aloof, and wait to see how things play out.

It’s not that Jay ought to be buying slogan shirts and cheerleading—that’s not his job. But it’s also not his job to be hostile towards anyone who dares to actually enjoy being a fan.

Well, I myself am going to enjoy every last bit of this season, no matter how it turns out. Because I know one of these years I’ll say “I have a good feeling” and actually be vindicated.

While I’m waiting, I plan to have the best time I can.

In Which We Couldn’t Be Less Interested

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Barry Bonds comes to Wrigley Field this week for a four game set just four home runs shy of Hank Aaron’s all-time record.

Yawn.

I stopped being interested in Barry Bonds about when the BALCO scandal broke, which feels like decades ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of column inches and hours upon hours of airtime have been devoted to the various issues surrounding Bonds’ pursuit of 756.

Naturally, Mariotti decided to pile it on today, reminding us all that Hank Aaron is the true home run king and encouraging everyone to maintain that perspective even after Bonds passes him.

Is there any rational baseball fan who didn’t come to that conclusion two years ago?

I’d would think Mariotti would actually feel a kinship with Barry Bonds. Both have clawed their way to the top of their respective professions by any means necessary and are about as likable as hepatitis, turning them into outcasts with few friends and little respect for their “achievements”.

But even if Mariotti might identify with Bonds, he also can never pass on an opportunity to get on his high-pony (the horse would be too big). But then he rides the little pony on top of a large bronco, creating a double-decker superhorse from which he can spew his venomous judgment throughout the land.

(Sorry if the double-horse imagery is confusing. I promise you, in my head it is hilarious.)

Given that Bonds makes such easy column fodder and gives Jay great opportunities to grandstand, I’d expect to see at least one, maybe two columns on the subject before Barry leaves town, depending on what happens during the next four games.

Either way, I’ll be much more interested in how the suddenly surging Cubs perform than the actions of some fraud, and what another fraud has to say about it.