Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Survivor: Off The Rocker

I want to tell the story about a real pain in my ass from my past. For his sake, I'm calling him Bob. Bob was a recapper on Reality News Online around the same time I was. I don't remember meeting him, but he remains one of the biggest assholes I had ever gotten to know.

Now, I will admit, I am a negative person. It probably can be helped, but I don't do much with it. I was also a wannabe when it came to Television Without Pity, whose recappers I admired and envied at the time, much to the dismay of fellow RNO writers. Still, a lot of the time I felt like I was the only person who was sane, as my opinions were attacked by other recappers on the site. And Bob was right there, getting his licks in. He wasn't so much a bully as he was a toady; somebody who would kick an unconscious man after the main bullies did their thing. After I was booted from the site, he took over my Real World/Road Rules Challenge beat. The first thing he did: disrespected my writing style and made fun of my penchant for looking up last names of contestants. Bob was a real piece of work. When I went to TARCon afterward, I had to explain to people how he got the assignment, because I had fans who knew my work was superior, albeit negative and time-consuming.

Why am I talking about him? Well, back when we were on good terms (or while I was faking it), Bob claimed that he had made headway in the Survivor application process. I can believe it . . . after all, I have tried to get on The Mole with little success. I don't doubt that he caught the eye of a casting director. What bothers me is the notion that he would make it on a reality show . . . because I would feel compelled to rip on Bob every chance I got, purely out of spite. Even if he got on a show like Big Brother, which I don't watch, I'd tell people about my experiences with Bob, and how I felt he did me wrong. Even if nobody would listen, I'd still shout at the top of my (figurative) lungs about what a piece of garbage Bob was, even if the producers would gloss over it in the show's final cut. I don't know what would bother me more . . . Bob being on television on a regular basis, or Bob getting a shot at a six or seven-figure payday. Either one would hurt my soul.

Now . . . I haven't met John Rocker, either, but I know of him. While I consider myself a "lapsed" Mets fan, the fact is that I still remember 1999. I remember how the Mets couldn't get one up over the Atlanta Braves. I remember Larry "Chipper" Jones talking about how Mets fans would put on Yankees merch when their team was no longer in contention, clearly not understanding the differences between Mets and Yankees fans. It hurt that Chipper would hit, like, .400 every time he came to Shea Stadium. And I still hate Kenny Rogers for walking in the series-winning run for the Braves in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

John Rocker was in a class by himself. I have perspective about what it means to be a real Public Enemy of New York City .  . . but back in 1999, the standards were different. All Rocker had to do was say some dumb bullshit about the prospect of pitching in New York, like so:

"I'd retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 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... The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the 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?"

Real charmer, right? He was immediately placed on a pedestal as the worst of the worst in New York . . . worse than Chipper, worse than manager Bobby Cox, who would go on to bring in a pitcher named "Bong" as a pinch-hitter against New York after a Met got into some drug possession trouble. I remember the Mets going down three games to none against the Braves before mounting a comeback. I recall Rocker coming into the game and getting roughed up . . . and as he returned to the dugout afterward, he gestured to the jeering Mets faithful that his team was still up 3-0. The Mets wound up narrowing the gap to 3-2, and they managed to keep things interesting in Game 6, but the Braves prevailed thanks to Kenny Rogers being unable to find the strike zone. Even as a lapsed fan, I'm still bitter . . . especially when NBC decided it would be a good idea to have Rocker interviewed after the game. As if Mets fans weren't butt-hurt enough.

Rocker pitched in relief for seven years, playing for the Braves, Indians, Rangers and Devil Rays. He complied a 13-22 record with 3.42 ERA and 88 saves. He was also implicated in a steroid ring in 2007, admitting that he used the PEDs four years later. To save on droning about how his comments on New Yorkers wasn't an isolated incident, I'm just going to link to his Wikipedia page. Judge for yourself.

When I was in Toronto, I found out that John Rocker would be on Survivor: San Juan del Sur -- Blood Vs. Water, along with his girlfriend, Julie McGee. Putting aside what sort of woman would allow herself to love Rocker, you'd have to wonder why executive producer Mark Burnett would want the bum to be competing for a million bucks. Part of it is because Survivor has been home to athletes . . . most recently Jeff Kent. But even with his right-leaning politics, I still liked Kent, mostly because he probably contemplated taking a baseball bat to the bloated head of ex-teammate Barry Bonds . . . and who wouldn't root for a guy like that? But the biggest reason came from a fellow poster over on Previously.TV (my home after TWoP's forums went under) who called Rocker "the Russell Hantz of MLB!" I don't think that's a fair comparison. For one thing, I don't think Russell was a racist, so much as he probably had a deep contempt for everybody he met regardless of race, creed, color, etc. But I do agree that with Russell's best days behind him, and Burnett shying away from the Hantz family tree after Russell's nephew Brandon lost his mind in two tours of duty, a polarizing figure was needed for an increasingly irrelevant show.

John Rocker is a rectal wart of a human being. I can't see him as a redemption story. As long as he's on the show, I don't want to hear shit about anybody else . . . up to and including the two-time contestants of The Amazing Race, Nadiya and Natalie Anderson. I know, they're shrill, loud, and they once took $100 another team dropped and didn't return it . . . but damn it, they're still considered human beings. And unless somebody else from the show fills the villain role, I can't see Rocker as anything less than the bad guy you have to root against. We're talking Richard Hatch levels of hatred involved. Or Russell Hantz. Or Colton fucking Cumbie. And I'll be rooting for him to fail on every level of the game, not unlike Crystal Cox of the Gabon season (another athlete you can read about here). What I want is for everybody to root against Rocker, not just New Yorkers with long memories. I'd even want him to get booed at the subsequent reunion special, even if it takes away from people whose only crime was not being interesting in the fickle eyes of Jeff Probst. Bottom line: John Rocker can go fuck himself.

And so can Bob.

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