Imagine being in the passenger seat — hopefully, buckled in — as John Rocker plows through Atlanta traffic in his Chevy Tahoe dropping F-bombs, shouting down other drivers with crude hand gestures. He mocks people for their race; spits at machines in anger; and speeds recklessly in and out of lanes.
“I have no patience,” Rocker told Jeff Pearlman, then a fledgling reporter for Sports Illustrated.
Pearlman captured Rocker’s entire meltdown in his notebook and proceeded to share it with the world. As if the rivalry between the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves was not enough to fuel a fire, Rocker took aim at everyone — and seemingly everything — New York, spewing his venom without any indication of a filter:
- On ever playing for a New York team: “I would retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”
- On New York City itself: “The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. I’m not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”
- On Mets manager Bobby Valentine: “The guy is not professional. Could you see [Yankees manager] Joe Torre or Bobby Cox getting thrown out of a game and then putting on a Groucho Marx disguise and sneaking back into the dugout? If a player got kicked out of a game and did that, Joe Torre would probably suspend him for a week. Bobby Cox would probably demand that the player be traded and tell him not to come back to the team. The Mets’ manager did it! That, and his college rah-rah s—? I don’t like it.”
- On Mets fans: “Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you, throw batteries at you and say, ‘Hey, I did your mother last night–she’s a whore.’ I talked about what degenerates they were, and they proved me right. Just by saying something, I could make them mad enough to go home and slap their moms.”
But it’s over, right? Rocker is retired from the game. Pearlman has gone on write a few books.
Err, not quite. In fact, not even close. Last year (2020) marked the 20th anniversary of the story which generated a new wave of interest and controversy.
Pearlman called the Rocker piece, a story that continues to “haunt” him. Rocker, meanwhile, is off the grid. But that doesn’t mean he’s forgiven — or forgot — Pearlman for what he wrote.
LINKS AND RESOURCES
Why I’m Thankful for the Sports Illustrated Hit Piece
04.07.2014 // John Rocker