Jay Mariotti writes online. With comments enabled. This can only be good...

Former Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti has returned to us as a superhero from a near, but distant future in which newspapers are obsolete. Mariotti made his AOL Sports debut today and spewed from the mouth as if he was the original hero of sports journalism.

To wit: A week into the Olympics, I was inside The Water Cube That Phelps Built when a voice-mail popped in. It was from the sports editor of the ailing Chicago Sun-Times, asking me to accommodate the newspaper's Paleozoic-era deadlines by doing something the readers wouldn't appreciate. He wanted me to write one column that had Michael Phelps winning that day's race and another column that had him losing. Both would be filed long before the event, which, in some quarters, would be considered an editorial directive to cook up fiction.

I would insert blanks for the finishing times, which a copy editor would fill in, and the bulk would be a lot of jibber-jabber that worked regardless of the result. The editors would decide which column ran based on the outcome. In other words, processed lunch meat for your 50 cents -- and it wasn't the first time. I usually just dealt with these hideous requests. This time, I balked.

It looks as if Mariotti took a page from the Eric Gordon media playbook. Let's break yesterday's news tomorrow and see who cares about it. The former Sun-Times blowhard who once believed it would be a good idea to trade Kerry Wood (the Cubs' only productive pitcher at the time) for Ivan Rodriguez (who by that time was probably coming off the juice) continues to wear out the keys on his laptop with more from his hallucination:

Then I looked across the table. Sitting there, relaxed and ready for action, were staff writers from a leading sports Web site. The columnist was flanked by the Phelps beat writer, and, nearby, an editor was leading the coverage. They had the luxury of analyzing the race, reporting afterward, waiting for the news conference, then writing the hell out of the biggest sports story of 2008. By no coincidence, several top national sites, including AOL Sports, all were read by staggering numbers of eyeballs during the Olympics.

It occurred to me, then and there, that this is why so many print stragglers are wheezing -- and why Internet sites such as the one you're reading constitute the new media mainstream and business model. Failing newspapers are a victim of their own stubbornness, stupidity and lack of foresight in moving their news initiatives to the digital world.

Finally, the joker known as Jay firmly plants his lips on the behind of the Trib just in case all the web servers in the world crash at the same time.

The large paper in Chicago, the Tribune, started a digital transition years ago and gave itself a chance. The Sun-Times? The owners became jailbirds, preferring to siphon profits rather than invest in the future.

And while AOL's only redeeming quality is its AOL Instant Messanger feature, the former online titan has attracted one more reader. If only to read the "Mariotti sucks!!!1!!!@!!" comments.