John Rocker’s cultural relevance roughly coincided with that of the Baha Men, but unlike those advocates for Loose Dog Awareness, Rocker never had the sense to recognize his moment was over. The former Atlanta Braves closer still reenters the spotlight periodically to beg the media to write about how the media ruined his life.
Finally, in response to the clamoring of absolutely no one, Rocker has gathered his wit and wisdom into a volume called Scars and Strikes, in which he rails against the press, the Obama administration, immigrants, people who don’t speak English, and the metric system, probably. To give you an idea of the target audience, the book was given a lengthy write-up at WND.com, an insane right-wing news site where Ann Coulter and Jack Abramoff are featured columnists, and a column that labels itself “Voice of Sanity” ponders the question Obama and Stalin: How They're Alike.
Rocker was once a fearsome weapon in the Braves’ bullpen, but he gained infamy after receiving a Sports Illustrated profile by Jeff Pearlman following the 1999 season in which he said appalling things about minorities, gays, and the 7 train. Rocker has never denied a single word that Pearlman reported, only that his words were “taken out of context,” as if a full transcript of their conversation could lend clarifying nuance to calling a black teammate “a fat monkey.” Like a true bully, he also loves to play the aggrieved party, painting himself as a martyr to political correctness.
In terms of what Rocker has to say, WND’s “exclusive interview” contains nothing new. What is eye-opening is how much his tough-guy victimhood jibes with the Pouting Good Ol’ Boy undercurrent of the Fox News set during the Obama era. Take, for example, this stinger, in which the Rocker’s views and the writer’s POV become impossible to discern from one another:
"When, he wonders, will the concern for the offended stop outweighing the concern for those exercising their rights as Americans? Why are the 'offended' always right?"
The terror of having a black president in a non-movie universe has never faded for some Americans, nor has the fear that Obama has secret plans to act out Black Rage revenge fantasies. (Witness the curious return of Jeremiah Wright to the national dialogue.) To people with these kinds of fears, being told that certain words/phrases/jokes are verboten is seen as trampling on their rights, and a dark sign of a dystopian future. Their biggest issue isn’t the economy, or terrorism, or the environment, but “Why can’t I say the N-word, too?”
For more than a decade, Rocker has whined about being “silenced.” In truth, no one has ever prevented Rocker from saying a syllable, nor could anyone. What he actually objects to is dealing with the consequences of free speech—namely, those who object to your free speech exercising their own free speech by calling you human garbage. Getting yelled at by people who have every right to be upset isn’t censorship; telling those who are offended by your hateful shit to just “deal with it” and not be so “sensitive” is. Rocker and his ilk aren’t mad because minorities are too touchy—they’re mad because they have to deal with them as if they have feelings and minds of their own.
But the most hilarious aspect of Rocker’s disposable victimhood is that he insists he was “drummed out” of baseball for his remarks. Of all livelihoods, sports are probably the most forgiving of participants’ sins. Sports have tolerated drunk drivers, dog killers, rapists, and Curt Schilling. As long as you can still perform, transgressions will be forgiven. The ham-fisted sports press will even write glowing pieces about how much you’ve redeemed yourself, even if the only “redemptive” act you’ve done is to play well.
The WND article plays into Rocker’s fantasy by devoting an entire page to his eye-popping stats from 1999. The problem is, he proved to have the Hobbesian career fated for most relievers: nasty, brutish, and short. Conveniently for his own warped narrative, his skills began to diminish immediately following the SI article’s publication. In 2000, Rocker’s WHIP ballooned to an unsightly 1.698, and his strikeout rate fell off a cliff. By 2003, he was out of MLB completely, and an attempted comeback with the independent Long Island Ducks ended after a miserable 23 appearances and a 6.50 ERA.
Rocker is out of baseball because his mouth wrote a check his arm couldn’t cash. Blaming outside influences for your own failings is a loser’s game, but that’s the only game Rocker can play anymore.