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Former Braves closer John Rocker isn’t a fan of New York City, or the 7 train, or the 7 train’s alleged passengers circa 1999, especially that queer with AIDS. Rocker’s racial/homophobic/anti-New York tirade in a 1999 Sports Illustrated interview is absolutely what he is best known for. Personally, my favorite part of the SI piece, a part that goes criminally overlooked, is the intro to the whole thing.
A MINIVAN is rolling slowly down Atlanta’s Route 400, and John Rocker, driving directly behind it in his blue Chevy Tahoe, is pissed. “Stupid bitch! Learn to f—ing drive!” he yells. Rocker honks his horn. Once. Twice. He swerves a lane to the left. There is a toll booth with a tariff of 50 cents. Rocker tosses in two quarters. The gate doesn’t rise. He tosses in another quarter. The gate still doesn’t rise. From behind, a horn blasts. “F— you!” Rocker yells, flashing his left middle finger out the window. Finally, after Rocker has thrown in two dimes and a nickel, the gate rises. Rocker brings up a thick wad of phlegm. Puuuh! He spits at the machine. “Hate this damn toll.”
With one hand on the wheel, the other gripping a cell phone, Rocker tears down the highway, weaving through traffic. In 10 minutes he is due to speak at Lockhart Academy, a school for learning-disabled children. Does Rocker enjoy speaking to children? “No,” he says, “not really.” But of all things big and small he hates — New York Mets fans, sore arms, jock itch — the thing he hates most is traffic. “I have no patience,” he says. The speedometer reads 72. Rocker, in blue-tinted sunglasses and a backward baseball cap, is seething. “So many dumb asses don’t know how to drive in this town,” he says, Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind humming softly from the radio. “They turn from the wrong lane. They go 20 miles per hour. It makes me want — Look! Look at this idiot! I guarantee you she’s a Japanese woman.” A beige Toyota is jerking from lane to lane. The woman at the wheel is white. “How bad are Asian women at driving?”
John, there was a reporter sitting right next to you. Anyone can say what they want about the media, but there was no bias or slant here, just Jeff Pearlman scribbling down pure gold and trying to keep his jaw from breaking as it painfully struggled between dropping to the floor and smiling ear to ear.
Anyway, since that interview, Rocker has been known as a loud-mouthed, ignorant bigot. Actually, he was known as loud-mouthed before the interview. Either way, he’s been vilified for it. Personally, my biggest grudge against him is when he blew that lead against the Rockies on the last game of the regular season in 2000, costing the Braves home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. There might have been a Chipper Jones error in there too, but it’s just so much easier to blame Rocker. Who’s going to disagree? It’s for the aforementioned reasons that people still listen to John Rocker, and that the show Eastbound and Down was essentially based on him. Thank you for that by the way, John Rocker. Truly.
“What’s he gonna say next?” and, “What’s he gonna do?” The world, for some reason, wants to know, at least when there’s nothing more interesting going on. Watching John Rocker implode the first time was like watching a magnificent and unbelievable train wreck. Now though? Watching John Rocker is more like nostalgically watching YouTube clips of that train wreck. Rocker’s Reddit AMA yesterday, of which I have compiled some highlights, was basically that. You can read the full AMA here.
Here are my favorite Rocker answers:
And here are some of the best troll questions, which unfortunately, went unanswered:
As entertaining as Rocker’s SI interview was, as great as Eastbound and Down is, and as amusing as yesterday’s AMA turned out to be, nothing will ever top Will Ferrell’s portrayal of John Rocker on Saturday Night Live. It might be one of the funniest things the show, or Will Ferrell, has ever done.