RATING: 6/10 CHET BAKERS
"The System" is essentially two books in one. The first half, dealing with his arrest over charges of domestic violence and his plea of no contest, as well as all of his side of that story involving the woman he was involved in, both before and after that event. This section deals with the aftermath of it and how he lost his positions at ESPN and AOL over it (The AOL Fanhouse job, according to Mariotti, was inevitable but it was painted in the press as if it was a result of his plea). Also how the woman, named in the book as "Alison W.", made his life a living hell while fabricating accusations to try to get a civil suit against him for money.
The second half is basically a memoir of his history working for various news organizations and time spent in Denver, Chicago, and at ESPN.
The first half of this is very compelling stuff and is a very good read. It's kind of horrifying and completely believable, the lengths that an unstable person can go to to ruin someone's life in order to be vindictive.
MORE AFTER THE BREAK
Much of the second half is a mess. There is almost no uniformity to it, there's no real order of events, it's all just kind of thrown in as if he's writing it stream of consciousness. He'll be talking about one thing and then veer off into something of an aside, and then end with something else.
As an example he's talking about working in Chicago at the Suns-Times and was dealing with the paper trying to limit what they could talk about. If someone high up that they were trying to do business with got arrested for something, in this case the Public Relations director of the Chicago Bulls who was arrested on charges involving "guns and drugs", they did not want their people talking about it on the radio or writing about it. This didn't go over well with the staff there.
Then he segues into a bit about a rival radio host, Mike North, who was arrested in a "seedy part of town" and how they were ordered hands off as far as reporting on THAT. Mariotti then talks about how, "That didn't stop longtime Chicago radio comedian Kevin Matthews from using his own twist on the station: 'Last night a Chicago sportscaster was arrested on NORTH Avenue.'"
Okay this is fine, he's detailing some inside baseball, as they say, and it's all interesting. But then he doesn't go into the ramifications for Matthews doing that or any blow back, instead it starts the next paragraph with "I was now the enemy." detailing a voice mail he got from a DePaul fan who threatened to "blow your skull to bits", if he ever talked about the DePaul program or their coach again.
Then with a couple lines about how the fans were upset at the DePaul team getting rid of their coach, and then it's on to other stuff about how the city loves it's teams and gets emotionally invested.
Nothing more about the death threat,or fallout from Matthews going after North, nor was there anything prior to the bit about the voice mail about him writing about DePaul, and much of the second half of the book is this type of thing. Little segments of stories that are pieced together to form a long stream of segments, but they don't really connect.
It's like a patchwork quilt of quotes from people who live in a town. All the quotes kind of relate to the same things, and people and locations, but they don't really fit into a coherent story.
It's essentially a half a book of non sequiturs.
And as I said there's no real order, so he bounces around from one time to another. The first half is the late stages of his time at ESPN and the situation with his legal cases. It's presented in a logical manner and is easily followed.
The rest of the book, for the most part, was nowhere close to being like that. It jumps around in time and unlike most memoirs that typically take you from point A to B to C, etc, this one tends to jump around to where you're not sure exactly where you are in the Mariotti timeline when you are reading. First he's in China covering the Olympics in 2008, then it jumps to him in 2004/2005. Then soon after that you're in 2001 getting ready to announce MJ's comeback to Basketball, and the Twin Towers gets hit the next day which throws a wrench into that story taking over the news cycle, and it goes on and on like this for much of the second half of the book, and this pulls you out of the story.
I did like a lot of the stuff in the second half though. The little "inside baseball" type stuff of the goings on in the newsrooms and the politics of the whole thing was intriguing, as was his discussions on the medium of print media and how some publications are hesitant to move on into the internet age. Those things were fascinating, I will say.
In the end I enjoyed thoroughly the first half of the book in which he goes over the story of his downfall at the hands of this woman. I found myself believing virtually everything he said and finding myself shocked at what appears to have been a massive travesty of justice if what he is saying is true. And as I said, it's something I believe.
It reinforces to me what I felt in the beginning before I even read this. When you put yourself out there as a moral judge of people, when you make your living being the controversial jerk, the guy who's going to act as a arbiter of so many athlete's personal morality when it comes to legal issues, then you are going to be held to that exact same standard.
If you jump the gun and make moral judgements before all the facts are in, you're not going to get the benefit of the doubt. And when you have made your life on being antagonistic and confrontational and quite frankly, a dick, then when you fall (whether you are being set up or not) then there will be much rejoicing in the streets at your downfall because it will be perceived as Karma biting you in the ass.
So I think many people didn't care too much whether or not the allegations were true, they just found it deliciously ironic that Mariotti was now tasting the exact same medicine that he had dished out all those years.
And in a recent interview he seemed to get that and realized that you have to wait to let things play out.
That said, the second half of the book is full of typical Mariotti bombing away at those he feels has transgressed him over the years, coming off as an jerk and a petty individual.
Perhaps that is the true Mariotti and while we perceive it as being a jerk or an a-hole, he views it as "keeping it real" or being a "hard nosed journalist" or whatever.
Maybe it's just all in the eye of the beholder.
In summation, I would encourage people to check out this book, if only for the first half. It's a helluva story that should be read. As many problems as I have with Mariotti and as much of a jerk as I think he is, it's a horrible thing to have go to through what he did. Especially when it appears he was innocent of all of that.