Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ditka on White Sox manager: "I like Ozzie"

In Chicago there is no better endorsement to have than that of "Da Coach," Mike Ditka.

Twenty years after he led the Chicago Bears to their only Super Bowl victory, Ditka is still a God-King figure in Chicago.

Ditka spoke to Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lacy J. Banks about White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen:

Mike Ditka and Ozzie Guillen share a bond that stretches from their blue collars to their blue language, endearing them to a working-class city that identifies with their personalities and has celebrated their success.

Guillen seems to be following in the footsteps of Ditka, who parlayed playing and coaching success in Chicago into local icon status. The path also includes the verbal jabs and pitfalls that punctuated Ditka's career.

"I like Ozzie," Ditka said Monday. "I really like the guy. He's real people, he's good for baseball and he's really a nice guy, even though he doesn't always say things that are politically correct. But he says what he thinks. He speaks from the heart. And in this day and age, that can be refreshing when people are honest about what they think and feel."

"But you've got to know what you're getting into when you hire people. And if you can't stand the heat, then maybe it's best to find a job where you won't have to deal with much heat. What people ought to realize -- if they haven't already -- is that Ozzie is going to continue to be himself. That's just the kind of person he is. I don't expect him to change that much. He is who he is."

Last week Ozzie Guillen called Banks' lazy co-worker Jay Mariotti "a (bleeping) fag."

It was wrong for the manager of the World Series champs to say that, he should've said that Mariotti is a hack, who can't even bring his precious ass to teams' clubhouse to meet with players, managers, or coaches. I touched on this theme Sunday night in this post.

Once again, I want to draw upon the talents of Dan Curry of Reverse Spin, who mined these new missives about Mariotti, this time from outside the Chicago area.

Jay Mariotti is an embarrassment to sports journalism. He’s the quintessential weasel nerd who couldn’t play sports and now spews his frustration out in print every day. The Sun-Times should have fired him years ago.

His column Sunday about the Ozzie Guillen incident was too painful to read. (My note: Dan's right) He was moralizing about treating people right after a career of cheap shots.

Here’s what two of the best sports columnists in America have to say about Mariotti’s refusal to face the men he writes about.

Michael Wilbon, Washington Post (from a Washington Post chat board)

I’ve avoided this topic publicly, but no more.

Ozzie shouldn’t have said what he said. He knows better. And I’m glad Kenny Williams, the White Sox GM, has said if he can’t clean up his act he’ll be fired.

But Ozzie owes no apology to Jay, my friend for 16-plus years and someone I like very much. Jay can say all he wants that he’s not welcome in the White Sox clubhouse…Really? He writes hyper-critical pieces and doesn’t go in the clubhouse for years, then thinks he won’t be resented years later?

Anybody who reads my column knows I write critically about athletes and coaches. It’s my job. But I learned from Tony, Dave Kindred, Ken Denlinger, my longtime sports editor George Solomon, and of course, the late Shirley Povich, (My note, Maury Povich's father) that if you’re going to throw punches, you’d better be able to take punches. You show up the next day so that the player/coach/manager can take a shot back at you…even if it means a physical confrontation…And I’ve never had one of those because a player can walk right up to me and say, "I think you’re full of …..!" Or whatever. If you know the player/coach/manager/GM and it’s a local situation, it shouldn’t even be a surprise. I’ve called people I know and said, "Listen, I’ve got to light you up for this in the paper." Sometimes they say nothing. Sometimes they say, "Hold on, let me give you my side." Sometimes they say, "I respect you for telling me."

There are all sorts of ways to deal with this, but not showing up in the clubhouse isn’t one of them. It’s inexcusable.

When you write tough, critical pieces you show up the next day.

And Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (from St. Louis Post chat board):

I do think it is considered honorable to show up soon after writing critical things about a player or a players or a manager. I try to be there the same day the column appears — but at times that isn’t possible, so it may be a day or two later. The point is, the column is still fresh, and as long as you make an appearance, the player or players or the manager have the opportunity to speak to you if they want to.

Columnist who rip and don’t show up are called hit and run drivers in the bizness.

I have been threatened, but never in the Cardinals clubhouse. I’ve been hollered at a little, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

Since Mariotti can't perform his entire job, his editor--assuming he has one--needs to sit him down, point to the White Sox dugout, and say in a fierce Mike Ditka voice, "Get in there and do something."

If Jay says "No," then it should be "buh-bye" for Mariotti.

A final note: In April, a new blog was christened, Jay the Joke, which the Chicago Tribune (free registration required) wrote today:

Lakeview resident and Cubs fan Matt Lynch had two goals in mind when he co-founded the blog.

"We wanted to have an intelligent voice out there to dispute some of the laughable things Jay writes in his columns," Lynch said.

And the second: Find something on which Cubs and Sox fans can agree.

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