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Exclusive: FBLA Interview with Jay Mariotti

If “So What Do You Do, Jay Mariotti” wasn’t enough for you, we have more from our exclusive interview with the former Around the Horn contributor and Venice resident.

In Part II, Jay Mariotti discusses in greater detail his relationship with Alison W., his departure from ESPN and what’s next for the opinionated sports columnist.

Did your legal troubles affect your relationship with your daughters? What did they initially think when they found out you were arrested?

The only call they allowed me to make from jail was to my oldest daughter. She kept her cool and she said, “Dad, this isn’t you.” They knew I was living out here now and they didn’t know who this woman was. It saddens me but to this day, the relationship is great. One is still in college at Syracuse. She’s overseas in London on an exchange program. The other one is working at McGraw-Hill. Great relationship and they understand everything. But they trust their dad.

Did they read the book?

Yeah. I told them it was coming. They knew a lot of the book would be about Chicago. This is only 10 chapters out of the 23. I think some of the bits and pieces might have shocked them, especially this last time around.

Since your book has been out, have you heard from Alison W’s attorney, Leonard Levine?

I don’t expect to. No. I think he’s a coward. He’s a man who tried to talk my current attorney into not defending me. I’ve never heard anything like that in my life. Leonard Levine called Shawn Holley and said I don’t think you should be representing this guy. She of course said you don’t know what’s going on here. You don’t know his side of the story. That’s the thing I had a problem with, Marcus. I never had a chance to tell my side of the story. This is unusual. I told it in the book. Take it or leave it, but that’s my side.

When you first met Alison W., did you think she was more interested in you or your money?

I think she had troubles at the time and she latched on to a fun that guy that might take her places and show her a new life. But I realized pretty early that she was abusive. It’s sad because you think someone is interested in you, and you start to realize … no. They’re trying to take advantage of you. I learned a tough lesson.

Looking back at things now, do you regret not paying Alison W. off in order to make this entire situation go away?

No, because I knew in the back of my mind that I was going to tell the story. I’m a writer and I’m a storyteller. I’m going to tell the story in a book. I was shocked a few days after the original plea bargain that I have to deal with situations where she’s calling the police. For instance, you and I might be here in doing this. If she walks in here and my back is to her, she can call the police and they can take me away. That’s how absurd a protective order is. I’m trying to educate people about the LAPD, protective orders and things people never think about unless they’re in the middle of these things. Do I regret it? No, because she didn’t get a penny of mine. I’m very proud of that. I think she was going to ask for a helluva lot of money. While I have lost a lot of money, at least I kept my principals here and didn’t allow her to get it. That meant a lot to me.

If you were so worried about the protective order, why did you continue to hang out in the same community?

She left town, I was told. But while it was happening, I was all over LA. I had gotten to know every restaurant downtown, Hollywood … I go to Mozza once a week. Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach, Malibu. I wasn’t hanging out here that much, but I do live two blocks away. I’ve known people in these places since I use to stay in the Marina when I was in Chicago. So I come to The Other Room. I introduce this girl to these places. She knew that’s where I would be hanging out because I knew people. It’s sad. I would ask the same question of her if you were that afraid of a person, why would you go follow them in? We wrote a letter to the city attorney just a few days after the plea bargain that she’s following me around and trying to get me arrested. He said just pay your bill and leave. They were aware of this for months and yet, they let it happen. I think I’d be critical of the city attorney’s office for not showing a little more care here. It was almost as if they wanted me to get in trouble again. It’s not their job to get me into trouble and generate another headline in the Los Angeles Times. That’s not their job. Their job is to keep the peace. So, I did go out of this area, but she kept the law filled with lies. To the point where I thank God pulled out all my receipts from credit cards that I was using religiously to prove that I wasn’t there that night, I was in Beverly Hills. But she was allowed to lie. The system allows her to lie. The district attorney’s office allows her to lie. I think a lot of people are getting railroaded because law enforcement can be very lazy and they think they can get away with things. They thought they could get away with this with me. Did they? I’m not going to jail. I’m going to do my community service and have fun with it. I’m going to go back to work and I just wrote a book about it. I’m not being defiant, I’m just being a watchdog, which is what I’ve done my whole life. I’m a journalist.

You mentioned Alison W. has since moved away. In the event she does return, are you prepared to handle the situation?

Well, you run out the back door. The owner of The Other Room and I have an Alison plan. Isn’t that awful? All she has to do is tell a bartender or a restaurant owner, “I have a protective order, can you tell that man to leave,” and I would leave. But she’s so bitter apparently that she turns it into a police thing. I want people to know how this went down. Because when people read the headlines and you read the stories, “Jay Mariotti stalks woman.” No, I was stalked. But she entrapped me in a bar and it was too late. I tried to run out and the police were right there because she had seen me before I was able to see her. She was able to call the police before I even knew she was in there. If I move to Westwood, she might see me in Westwood. I think the better idea is for law enforcement to understand that when women feel scorned, when we contact them very early in the process, how about doing something about it and giving her restraining orders so we both stay away from each other. They didn’t seem to be in the mood to do that. They apparently don’t care enough about keeping the peace.

Deadspin.com had a photo of you with a woman in Santa Barbara. How has dating been for you since the initial arrest?

I saw that photo and I was walking by myself. Pictures? Please. Was my hand around the woman? No. There was a woman standing in front of me, maybe 3-4 feet from the picture I saw. I was walking down the street. My daughter was in Santa Barbara and I was visiting her. I was not with a woman in Santa Barbara.

But have you been able to resume your dating life?

Yeah, very early on. A couple of times as I wrote in the book, I was with women and Alison W. would freak out. I’m new at this. I didn’t realize I couldn’t go into places. I didn’t know that. I guess that should have been stated by the court early on. Maybe my suggestion in the future to the court would be if there’s ever a situation like this, find out if these people happen to go to the same places. Don’t try to avoid the situation, because you might have another one and make some more money. Why not and ask each person to stay away from their favorite places. It’s almost like what my first attorney said, it reminds him of divorce. You guys are splitting up restaurants. So do that, then. Put it on the record. For her to be allowed to stalk me all over Venice and Santa Monica it scares me and it scares a lot of guys.

Did ESPN management call after your name was cleared and apologize?

Nope. Zero tolerance there, but for some. Not for Matthew Barnaby. I wish Matthew well. I’m not saying, “Fire Matthew Barnaby.” What I’m saying is I’m glad they are being patient with his life. I’m happy for him and his family that they aren’t going to take away his income. I was on the air for 1,800 shows and probably 200-300 more times. So more than 2,000 times on their air … kind of odd for a show that was maligned early and we had to deal with the criticism. We fought through it and then the show becomes a big hit. I dealt with a couple of good people there but they didn’t really ask any questions. They talked to my agent. I was shocked they took me off the air. I’m not going to name names, but there’s another fella on our show that had a big problem. They let him work through it. I don’t know why they didn’t let me, but I’m not angry or bitter or litigious. I’m just moving on.

Do you think the Matthew Barnaby situation was ESPN learning from the mistake they made with you?

If so, I deserve a phone call. If so, then I would say, “Guys, there’s a lot of things I can do for ESPN that don’t involve being on TV.” I’m not begging for a job because I think I’m going to be fine, but I would love to documentary work. I would love to behind the scenes. I don’t have to be on the air. If they’re worried about that, fine. To me, that’s now the purest form of sports journalism is the 30 for 30 and the HBO shows. Those are the sort of things I want to get into now. That’s the investigate journalism that still exists now. They don’t have to put me back on Around the Horn, but they don’t have to decide that I’m Charles Manson when I’m not. When you’re sleeping with an intern, it’s a fireable offense. When you’re showing your private parts on phones to employees, it’s a fireable offense. But I don’t know about pleading no contest to charges that are all going to be eliminated in due time. I don’t know if that’s a fireable offense. My record is going to be clean at some point, and what are they going to say? What did I do to deserve to have my employment taken away? I’m not suing them; I’m just speaking my mind.

How has the job search been?

It really hasn’t been a search. AOL gave me a generous settlement, including benefits and all sorts of things that allowed me to write this book. Keep in mind, I’ve had a job — it’s been writing that book for the last seven months. That’s a pretty thick book. It’s not really a search … people have approached my agent and me. Some of them might surprise you. I’m talking to one of them tomorrow. It will really surprise you. I think I’m ready to get back into writing more on a regular basis. Not daily. I don’t think that’s healthy — that’s what I was doing and it drove me crazy — but three times a week, four times a week. I think there’s still a hunger for sports writing, but it has to be accompanied by video. There needs to be multimedia. I think that’s where I want go work. If I want to a video commentary, I can do it. If I want to write a column, I can do it. If I want to do a roundtable, I can do that. I’ll be working, I’m sure. Maybe radio.

You mentioned your ESPN Radio deal that fell through in your book. Have you thought about starting a podcast?

Yeah, but … I’ve done three for Jason Whitlock. I did Robert Wuhl the other day. I don’t know. When you’ve been at it for as long as I have, maybe it was good to get away from it for a while and not inundated people with me. People don’t necessarily want to hear my views on sports in the middle of a court case. I think I just need to step back.

When you’re ready to step forward and come back into the public, what do you think the reaction will be from a majority of the people?

I can never gauge that because I don’t know what the majority is. I’m convinced that the people that respond on the Internet might be a little angry or upset. All I know is from traveling the past few months and from being in LA, most people are very, very cool. “Mariotti, miss you on TV.” I haven’t had a single person come up to me and say, “You wife beater!” It hasn’t happened. Maybe it would in Chicago, where I have more of a toxic relationship with teams. But here, I don’t feel it. I’m sure there will be a lot of it and some concern, but I think the book answers a lot of those questions. If people have doubts about me, read the book. If you still have doubts, fine. It’s the truth. It’s a very plausible story. I don’t think men ever have their opportunity to tell their stories about relationships because women are always the ones that do. I don’t meant to be sexist here, but I’m the father of two daughters. I don’t want domestic abuse to occur in households. I can just tell you that I’m going to be working again. Life is very complicated in 2011.

When was the last time you’ve been to Chicago?

On a layover several months ago.

What about before that?

Not since any of this happened. I live here now. I think it would be tough to go back there. I was just too big a part of that community. A lot of people loved reading me, but a lot of people didn’t like me there. White Sox fans to this day think I’m a terrorist or something. It’s scary to go to the south side of Chicago when you’re me. I would say it’s a good idea to stay out of there for a while. Maybe on some road trip or something. Hopefully the intelligent people that read this here what I have to say.

If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently?

When somebody tells you that they like your scarf, say thank you and walk away. Other than that, not much. I’m proud of my career. Proud of withstanding a lot of storms. I’ve always fought to tell my side of the story, against censorship attempts by owners and editors, publishers, networks. I’ve always fought for that. I think that’s what the bloggers want to, so maybe we have something in common. Other than getting involved with the one person I shouldn’t have, I don’t regret anything.

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