Unlike my usual stuff, this is tied directly to Chicago sports, and the early part of the century. It’s a part of my life that’s gone, but which I still take pride in. Even if you don’t get all the references, I hope you enjoy the story.
Jay the Joke was started out by Patrick Dahl (son of Steve & Janet) and his partner in crime, Matt Lynch. It was built exclusively to belittle Jay Mariotti. Yes, I know, low hanging fruit and all that. Still and all, they got a lot of pub, made the site into something fun, and used it, in part, to springboard their careers.
I bought the site in 2008 and turned it into more of a local sports site which still managed to take nasty, and hilarious, swipes at the little man*. With help from MLB.com I was able to get access to stuff no one else had and the site became the guilty go-to stop for real sportswriters, several of whom I am friends with to this day. More than once I had a story days or weeks before the regular media.
At its peak I was cranking in around 100,000 unique visitors a day. Thanks to click through ads it even paid the bills for a while. I got mentioned, or interviewed, by ESPN:The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, WLUP, and many others. I even released an annual cookbook which featured recipes, and stories, from Chicago sportswriters, stars of MTV, and local dominatrixes. Among many others. It was a wild ride.
I can’t neglect to note the cast of regulars who made the blog come alive. Many of them have gone on to respectable lives, so I won’t ruin their reputations here, but people would come every day just to see what the hell was going on at that moment. And they were rarely disappointed.
Also, I’m pretty sure I owe an apology to Gregg Biggio. I’m not going to issue it, but I’m sure I owe it.
Along the way I pissed a lot of people off. At one point I had seven lawyers threatening to sue me. I’m proud to say I told each and every one to fuck off, and nothing ever made it to court.
It was, by any definition of the word, the most punk sports site anyone had ever seen.
Eventually the workload became too much, the income too little, and I had to let it go in 2016. Anyway, a guy named Jay Feliciano has bought the domain and, despite it’s Wisconsin centric vibe, seems to be having fun with it. It’s nowhere near as salacious as it used to be, but I doubt anything could be any more. On the other hand, he’s more of a traditional sports misogynist than I could ever be, so he’s got a different target market. Even so, it’s nice to see the name live on.
Hopefully, someday, someone will remember what was.
Back when I wrote the main blog I often wrote about real people who felt real life ramifications from sports. I, almost, always changed their names since they were not, nor did they have any desire to be, celebrities. The last thing I wanted was to inspire some dickhead to show up at their home or office. This article got me a lot of attention when I posted it, not all of it friendly, and is still one of my faves. So I’ll share it with you here.
In Which We Say “Thanks, Sammy”
One of the cool things about owning this site is that I can come here at any time and put up or erase anything I want. But, one of the reasons I was able to buy this site is that I have learned not to do that. Like Uncle Ben said in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Last night, I couldn’t sleep and I started this missive to you about my friend LoQuisha. How this all ties together will become clear in a bit.
When the baseball strike happened in ‘94, I, and many other baseball fans, decided to do other things with our free time and money. We had put baseball behind us. We were disgusted with everything that had happened to the game.
Around ‘96 LoQuisha, then a young lady, got a summer job at Wrigley Field. What she knew about baseball could fit in a thimble. And leave room for a thumb.
But she, and many other people, became enamored with Sammy. And when, one day, he signed an autograph for her after a game and kissed her on the hand, she was hooked. She had to know everything about this game and the men who played it. She became a Cubs fan and bought into all the lore that is attenuate thereto. She loved the park, she loved the players, she learned the history.
She learned to love the word “dinger” since it was, and is, just like a young woman; innocent, fun, and mildly sexual.
You can thank Sammy for all of that. And, to be fair, you must.
When Sammy ballooned from a size 36 shirt to a 44 in just a few months, she lauded his off-season training program.
When Sammy got caught with the corked bat, she bemoaned his “mistake.”
When Sammy blew off his teammates at the end of the season, she wailed that he was misunderstood.
When Sammy showed up in Baltimore looking like a hollowed out version of his former self, she lauded his off season weight loss as good for his long term health.
When Sammy forgot how to speak English in front of the U.S. Congress, she complained of the undue pressure being put on a man who wasn’t native to the language.
A lot of time has passed since that young girl first traversed the gates of Wrigley. She is married now and has two beautiful children. Both are being raised, over my strenuous objections, to be Cubs’ fans. Well, not too strenuous since I melt every time one of them calls me “Uncle Bill.”
I was thinking about her yesterday and wondering how she was handling the disclosure from the NY Times when I saw her as I was leaving work.
She just stood there for a minute and then she put her head on my shoulder and cried for almost half an hour.
Because inside of her, and many of your fans, is that little kid who fell in love with baseball thanks to you and now has had a part of their soul crushed. All because they trusted and believed in you.
I think I can avoid repeating the cliché. You have tied this all together by now.
In related news, her “loveable, huggable” Cubbies lost 4-1 to those “mean old nasty” White Sox.
I’m sorry LoQuisha, yesterday really just wasn’t your day.
Originally posted on JayTheJoke.com on June 18, 2009
Life has moved on since then. I lost my day gig and ended up making a living writing sci-fi. Not a career path I’d endorse for everyone. But, when all is said and done, my journey has been interesting, often fun, and always enlightening. I’ll get back to science and pop culture soon enough but I hope you enjoyed this stroll down my memory lane.